When should you use Manual Mode? Always!

O.K., almost always!

Whether you are shooting in full manual mode or a programmed mode, there are three interdependent variables in digital photography.

Shutter Speed


Film Speed

Throughout the pages of this site I talk about how these three interrelate. For now just remember each will affect the other two. When you understand and find the correct balance your snapshots will transform into photographs. On this page you will learn how to use all three of them in conjunction.

This is about the most important page you will read on my site.

That's because those three interdependent variables determine the outcome of your photographs. You have to control all three in order to be sure they are all correct. Manual mode is the only place you control all three.

Shooting in a program mode the camera makes the decisions and the camera does not have cognitive abilities. What that means is the camera only guesses according to what it is programmed to do.

I carry my camera in aperture priority mode.

I prefer manual mode but in aperture priority the camera is always set for a split second shot. I get a lot of beautiful pictures that way.

If I have enough time, I switch to manual mode. Take a look at this picture.

What a waste of a beautiful opportunity to shoot a Great Blue Heron at take off. This Great Blue Heron was in the shade, against dark rocks. I shot the flight in Aperture priority. I used all the right settings, BUT, the little guy is all washed out!! Why?

See the X on the rock? That is where she landed. Less than one minute later I shot this picture.

I changed nothing except I zoomed in on the bird. So - - - what is the difference? When she filled the viewfinder the camera was able to more correctly identify the necessary settings.

The settings are still wrong because the Heron is much lighter in color than the rocks behind her. So the camera split the difference. A little post edit work and, unlike the un-salvageable first shot, my Great Blue Heron looks pretty good.

In program mode the camera... balances out the lighting throughout the viewfinder. In program mode the camera does the best it can but it is not like our eyes and it does not have a brain like ours.

When we see a scene such as this our brain simultaneously processes both the Heron and the rocks in a properly exposed way. That is pretty amazing when you think about it.

The camera does not have that ability. The camera can process the Heron, the rocks or some happy medium. Not the entire scene.

The camera doesn’t know the Heron is our subject. In the first picture the Heron takes up only a small portion of the screen. The camera thinks the majority of the screen is our subject. So, the camera does not know to properly expose the Heron unless we tell it to.

There is an adjustment that is supposed to take care of this problem. It is the light metering adjustment. There is “Matrix”, “Center Weighted” and “Spot” metering settings.

Matrix metering utilizes the entire viewfinder. As for the other two settings, you have to keep your subject directly in the center of the screen for them to work. Otherwise it can make things even worse.

Photographing a still subject is O.K. using this method. Only O.K. In my opinion it still lacks due to inconsistency of exposure. Needless to say perfectly centering any moving subject ain’t happenin’! So these settings become useless.

"Manual Mode" is 4 pages.

Continue here.