Photography Tip: Understanding MANUAL EXPOSURE MODE (Part 4 of Manual Mode De-Mystified)

February 22, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

This series will be in parts. The overall goal will be to show you how to use your camera in manual mode to get the most control out of your camera. This is Part 4.  Please be sure to read Part 1 , Part 2 and Part 3 to get a full understanding of this part.

 
Understanding Manual Exposure Mode in Digital SLR Photography:
This quick photo tip will help you understand how to set your camera up to shoot in Manual mode. 
 
What Is Manual Exposure Mode? 
Your camera has many modes. These are usually accessed by a dial on the top of the camera or by a menu on the rear screen: 
camera exposure mode dialcanonmodedial
 
Other modes on the dial could be for Aperture Priority Value Mode ("A" on a Nikon), Time Value Mode ("S" for Shutter Priority on a Nikon), Program Mode "P", and Auto Mode among some others you may have on your dial.
 
Obviously the purpose of these tips is to get you away from using any of the "Auto" settings on that dial.
 
After you have learned what to set your ISO and APERTURE at, we can now use the camera's built in meter to get a good basis to set the camera up for a completely Manual photo shoot.
 
How?
So let's say we have set up a shot for a nice landscape photo in the Golden Hour just before sunset (you may need to use a tripod). Let's set the camera to Manual with ISO 200 (I usually use 200 as my starting point).  And let's use f/11 or f/16 for our Aperture. Next, you may need to check your camera's manual, but on the Canon if you press the shutter half way down and look in the viewfinder or if your camera has Live View (on the LCD display at the back of the camera), you will see the meter. In your camera it will appear in the viewfinder below the frame as a scale going from -3 to +3. When the indicator is exactly in the middle (at zero), the exposure you set matches exactly the camera's metered value. You will now change the shutter speed up or down to balance that meter to center. On my Canon cameras there is a wheel behind the shutter release that I turn that will do that for me. There are many other factors involved (such as what you are actually metering on, lighting and more) but this is covering just a basic function of metering.
 
Camera meterCamera Meter
The closest to center is the proper exposure for the shot.
 
You may need to make a minor adjustment up or down to fine tune your photo to your taste, but this will give you a rough idea of how to take a shot in full Manual mode, where you control all aspects of your shot.
 
Everything learned in the first 3 lessons all figure into this final step. You need to know your starting ISO and your Aperture (f/stop) and you need to know about Shutter Speed before you can properly use this step.
 
Once you master these steps you are on your way to getting the most out of your DSLR camera.
 
Feel free to share this on your Facebook page.
 
Any questions so far? I encourage you to ask questions and comment here please. If you can add to the conversation, please do.

Feel free to comment and ask questions. I am giving this information which I hope you will find useful. This is not the end-all of photography information and I am not going into any real technical detail for advanced photographers. I'm trying to present this in a "plain-English" format for the beginner that wants to understand and improve their photographic skills. I am not a teacher. I am just trying to help. The steps here are how I learned and what opened the door to the world of photography for me. The more you know how your camera works, the better photographer you will become.

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