Use Manual Mode!! and I’m not talking about a Pagani Zonda

Manual mode in photography can be a daunting leap for most photographers, be it manual mode on a really good compact camera or a DSLR.

Bouncing from a comment left by Paul from my last post (Photography is not a race…just slow down!!) he said that he was one of those users that machine gun through their memory cards and would like to know how to best use manual mode on his camera.

Before I got into Manual Mode

In 2008 I bought my first DSLR a Canon 400D with a kit lens of 18-55 f4. Great camera for a beginner. I started immediately in AV, Aperture Priority mode. This allows the camera to control the shutter speed it self and all I need to focus on is the Aperture and ISO.

This, in my opinion is the best starting point on a DSLR. It allows you to really see down the viewfinder what is happening to the shutter speed when you adjust the other settings. For years and even now I will prefer to shoot in this mode but it depends on the moment, which I will tell you about later in this post.

Most people buy a DSLR and because they are used to the compact cameras they turn that little dial to P, (Programme Mode). In this mode the camera will do all the hard work and even pop up that beautiful flash if needed giving the user, in most cases, beautiful pictures. Now I won’t go into the limitations of this mode but I can say your camera could produce much better imagery if you come out of that mode ASAP.

Manual mode

When in Manual mode all the functions of the camera can be adjusted and manipulated by the photographer. You have complete control on the shutter, aperture and ISO settings.

In the scenario that Paul has encountered it can be very difficult to shoot in manual mode, especially with the subject being kids moving (non stop running) around a lot.

To overcome this there is something you can try but it does require you having to actively adjust your shutter speed if the sun goes behind a cloud suddenly.

I would set my camera to AI Servo focus mode. This will track the subject and keep it in focus while they move around. Now you have to really trust this focus mode cause it does work. I used it on this shot of an F1 car at Silverstone last year.

Manual Mode

AI Servo

Next I would set my shutterspeed above 250th. Now to determine what that should be you will have to keep an eye on the exposure bar in your viewfinder don’t be surprised if your up in the 1000th area just try to get the meter bar to be just a little in the over exposed area.

Exposure Meter Bar

Exposure Meter Bar

The reason why I say this is because if you loose a little light it is possible you will still be in a comfortable exposure area and those images that are a little bright will need only the slightest tweak in Lightroom or any other application. As you may have guessed, I shoot RAW (Fro Knows Photo) and I recommend you shoot RAW too.

Your ISO is what will determine the sensitivity of your sensor, if it’s an exceptionally bright day then wack that into ISO100 and get the best quality otherwise you shouldn’t need to have it any higher than ISO400. One thing to know is that the higher your ISO then the higher the aperture you will require to cut down some of the sunlight or you will over expose your image.

Now Aperture this will be totally dependant on the last two settings and will need to be set on trial and error to let in the right amount of light vs the ISO. I would go for about f3.5 for a really nice depth of field in the background.

With everything set you can now just focus on the fun bit of composing and zooming since the only thing you should need to tweak is your shutter speed briefly and or aperture.

So have fun and get out there this weekend and snap away!!

Photography is not a race…just slow down!!

As the title suggests Photography isn’t a race and at times you need to slow down.  What I mean about this I will explain.

I have had a passion for photography ever since I was a little boy and had my first Hanimex film camera (i so had to look that up) As you do when your a kid you take photos of everything but my particular memory goes back to school trips and taking close ups of Sheep faces. (I wonder where those photos are now).  But the true passion and eye opener for me was when I saw a DSLR for the first time.

I was at the summer school Play Centre; Hackney City Farm, I must have been about 10 years old.  On this particular day a photographer came in to show us kids how to take photos of flowers with a DSLR.  I will never forget looking down that viewfinder and seeing that image focus manually in front off me eyes, I just remember having to turn the lens until the centre ring was in focus/lined up.

Fast forward to today and I have the new Canon 5DMK3 and it just blows my mind.

Now the point of this blog post is a thing I discovered in myself during the early years (like 5 years ago) of photography.  You pick up a camera and you machine gun your way through the Compact Flash card.  Now not saying anything is wrong with that unless your shooting sports, but I want to share with you my mental process of slowing this down and how it made me achieve better pictures over the years.

On my first weddings and model shoots, I would come home with a total of 16GB worth of data and all cards would be full.  Now this is normal for beginners in a field as you want to make sure that you have taken every possible aspect of the event in front of you.  But this mind set is not good as it can physically and mentally drain you.  Before you know it you miss things or you make mistakes

To name a couple you find that some pictures are not in focus, the exposure is blown out etc. But because you took to much images you have more than enough pictures to choose from.

Well good for you cause now you spend the next 8-16hrs behind your computer going through them and picking out the good ones. (face palm).  We have all been their or you are their now.

So what do you do about it? “Slow Down!!”

One thing I did to really “Slow Down” was to assign myself a project that would only allow me to use very limited resources.

I called it the “One Lens One Prop” project and you can see it here.  This project allowed me to really pace myself.  By only allowing myself the limit of one photo per person I had to ensure that everything was spot on.  Not to mention that I am stopping people on the street that possibly have far more better things to do than stop and chat with me for a couple of minutes.

This was my way of trying to simulate having a film camera and having to watch those pennies with every shot I take.  The outcome wasn’t amazing in this project as only about four people could be bothered to spare me their time, however the lesson was learnt.

I took this simple personal project and adapted this to everything I do now especially at weddings.

Just take that little extra time to view your surroundings, compose your image double check those settings and then press that shutter button.

You will see your work progress in leaps and bounds as you realize more quickly what it is you want from this picture and although you still have Gigs worth of space on your memory cards you now have 100 pictures you want to keep instead of the possibly 2000 you have to throw away or delete I should say.

If you decide to undertake this personal challenge with yourself share your experience here as others can learn from you also.

And remember “Photography is not a race…just slow down!!”

Slow Down!!

The last roll of Kodachrome

Kodachrome was and still is a highly respected form of camera film for DSLR for many many years and now it has come to the end of its life.

In this documentary by the National Geographic, a well respected photographer Steve McCurry gets the honor of shooting some more images on this last roll of Kodachrome.

I was not fortunate to ever shoot film in a professional way on a DSLR.  Although I grew up wishing I could afford one of those camera’s.  By the time I was able to afford a DSLR it was well into the Digital era and film was not the first choice of purchase.

I felt that during the learning process of my own photography that I had missed out on something.  This something is discipline in taking photos.  Were so used to pressing that shutter button and firing off hundreds of pictures with no true concern or focus in the art of what we are shooting.  Try doing that with Kodachrome and your empty pockets will soon slow you down due to the expense of developing your film.  But anyway I will put up another post on my points of view on digital vs film and how to overcome the urge to click too much.

Right now I want you to watch this video of a masterful artist in his field.  This documentary will show you the essence of slowing down and taking in your surroundings before taking that all important picture.  Besides when you only have 36frames and you cant see the first image until you have completed taking the other 35frames, you will slow down.

Enjoy the documentary.

Video Source: YouTube.com
Duration: 00:30:55