This is page 3 of 4. "Manual Mode" begins here.
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The answer is to shoot in full manual mode. People shy away from manual mode like it’s the plague. I can’t blame you. It seems so elusive. Practice is the key. Go here for some recommendations on practicing using manual mode.
"But," you say, "only professional photographers would ever consider delving into manual mode!? There is so much to learn! Well; I NEVER! Just think of the germs!!!"
O.K., if that’s your approach, so be it. But! Know this.
There is a way to use manual mode that is not so ever elusive as you think. That way is by using the camera as a light meter and using the resultant settings to shoot in manual mode. The camera does the work and you receive the glory!
Don’t make fun of my English or I’ll have to send the thought police to your house! This ain’t English class. It’s how to git pixchers an’ git ones what’s good!
From reading other pages on my site you already have a good start. And you have some of the basics committed to memory. By now I imagine you are pretty comfortable with the settings we have spoken about on your camera.
If not, go to best camera settings.
If you haven’t read that and you like a real challenge, continue on this page. Otherwise, start there. Familiarize yourself with your camera and the settings we discuss. Then return and continue learning the easy way to use manual mode.
When a camera program decides what settings to use, it does so generically. One thing the camera can never know for sure is what you have chosen as your subject. Therefore the camera has to “guess” so to speak.
If your subject does not fill or nearly fill the frame, the camera does not know it is your subject. Hence the above pictures. How dare the camera not know that my subject was that little, tiny thing on the right in my viewfinder.
When in any of the program modes the camera exposes according to the built in program. What you have to do is set the camera to expose according to your chosen subject.
Step one; Find the right settings. In aperture priority set the camera to Spot Metering. You will have to consult your users’ manual or figure out how. Now zoom in on your subject. Have your film speed preset.
As you are focused on your subject notice what the camera shows for correct shutter speed at your chosen aperture. Now switch to manual mode and set the shutter speed to that setting. Verify the aperture is still the same as when in aperture priority mode.
In essence what you are doing is using the camera as a light meter. Just like a professional photographer you are checking the light absorption of your subject. And just like a light meter, your camera can be set for matrix (the whole viewfinder area) center weighted (approximately the center third) or spot metering (the very center).
For the purposes of this page the only settings you will ever use is center or spot depending upon the size of your subject when you are zoomed in as closely as you can. Also, don’t change film speed as that will affect your other settings.
Take a test shot. Go into playback mode. Zoom in so your subject fills the display screen. Make sure it looks right. If it is too dark or too light adjust the shutter speed accordingly. A higher shutter speed will darken the picture a little. A lower shutter speed will brighten the picture a little.
Knowing what you are looking at on the display screen will take a little experience. It will look drastically underexposed in bright sunlight. You will feel like you have to change the settings.
I always try to view in the shade or indoors in order to check the exposure. There are anti glare screen covers that help with this problem.
At first it will be hard to gauge exposure on your little screen. But if you protect the screen from direct sunlight and zoom in until your subject fills the screen completely you will get a good idea of whether it exposed correctly. After you do this a few times it will be fairly easy to determine whether you have the right settings.
Once set, as you shoot, you can zoom... in and out on your subject as you please. Every shot will have the same exposure regardless of background changes or how big your subject is compared to the scene.
In any program mode the exposure, therefore the brightness of each shot will vary according to how the camera senses the particular shot. You will think you are shooting the same thing 5 times in a row.
The camera sees it differently. With the slightest movement the camera will literally see it 5 different ways and may expose it 5 different ways. This does not happen in manual mode.
The only limit in manual mode... is where your subject is when you meter on it. If it is in the shade, these settings will only be good in the shade. Once your subject hits direct sunlight the needs change drastically. The same is true when you meter in the sunlight.
This time, with a super bright background, the Heron is correctly exposed. The background leaves a little to be desired but at least my Heron is good. She can be lifted in post edit while the boat is darkened. Or if that proves unsatisfactory she can be transplanted into a background where she looks great.
In a medium background the Heron is still correct.
As is she in a background that has some dark as well as some very bright spots. Notice the foreground is very dark, midway is medium dark and the center, background is extremely bright.
Is this challenging? Not with the system I use. I expose for the Heron and everything else is incidental. It always works!
It worked on this old boat.
And remember the Heron against the dark rocks? Well here she is in another flight that I didn’t waste.
Quite a difference, huh!? I have so many more. Here are two more examples.
This little walkway was easy. All I had to do was set the exposure for one of the walls. Then the bright sunlight throughout the picture had no affect on the outcome.
While in aperture priority, I simply pointed toward a wall making sure only the wall was in my viewfinder. I noticed the settings, then switched to manual mode and set the shutter speed. Then I shot the picture.
In the next picture, however, the background is so extremely bright that the kayaks actually took on somewhat of a glow. While it is normally less than desirable, I think it adds a certain artistic quality to this particular photo.
You’ll notice that the background is so bright that everything in it is completely washed out. There are boats, piers and a building behind the kayaks. It turned out this way because it was a bright, sunny day and the kayaks were in the shade.
Had I used a program mode the kayaks would be ugly and underexposed while the background would be ugly and overexposed. I like it better this way. Whadaya think?