The three things you need to know if you’re new to shooting in manual mode
Shooting in manual isn’t some magic bullet that will make all your shots perfect, no matter what some photographers might want you to believe. But there are things you need to understand in order to be able to use it effectively. Those three things are ISO, aperture and shutter speed.
In this video, photographer JoshinCincinnati walks us through the three basics of manual mode exposure, what they mean, and the implications of changing each.
Josh shows a number of examples of how changing each setting affects the image. Ultimately, all three things control how bright or dark your image is, but they come with side effects.
- The aperture determines the depth of field in your shot, how much of the scene is in focus from front-to-back.
- Shutter speed controls the amount of motion blur captured in your shot. This can be anywhere from a lot to none at all.
- ISO largely controls how much noise is in your shot. The lower the number, the less noise, but sometimes you need to raise it up to get a bright enough exposure.
The first two are mostly creative tools to let you create the image you saw in your head. The latter is simply a matter of function with a downside the more you ramp it up. There’s really no right or wrong way to use any of these, but they are important to understand if you want to improve your photography.
Josh does say that he’s not a manual exposure elitist and that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with shooting in auto modes. You don’t need to shoot in manual all the time, or even ever. But even when your camera is in one of the automatic modes, it’s using these principles. So, if you spot problems in your images, then understanding the exposure basics will help you to figure out what your camera’s doing, and how you can correct it.
And if you do decide to shoot in manual mode, you’ll have some idea of what you’re doing.
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.