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.
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.
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.
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!!