This in-depth beginners guide shows everything you need to know about manual exposure
Manual exposure. It’s probably the scariest term out there for new camera owners. Stepping out of automatic or semi-automatic exposure modes for the first time can be a daunting task. When you’ve only ever shot in the automatic modes, understanding the manual and the exposure triangle can be difficult to wrap your head around.
Well, this 26-minute video from photographer Sean Tucker should help to demystify it for you. He goes in-depth to break everything down to the basic fundamental principles. He explains what each of the three settings means, how they function, and how they all work together to create a good exposure.
Sean begins by explaining, in the simplest terms possible what the three variables in manual exposure mode are. That’s your ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. He then follows this up with a breakdown of the exposure triangle and how things balance out with each other.
Of course, each of the three variables has a trade-off. Changing your shutter speed determines whether you freeze your subject or see motion blur. Adjusting your aperture changes your depth of field (how much of your scene is in focus from front-to-back). So, Sean talks about the implications changing each of these options, and what it can mean for your images.
He then goes through some examples of how photographers shooting different genres or subject matter might choose a particular set of settings. Why they might give priority to one variable over another when they shoot.
And then, Sean takes us out into the real world, shooting street photography, to demonstrate how to apply these principles to our images. He also explains the thought process going through his head as he composes and exposes for each shot.
Ultimately, shooting manual is about having absolute control over every creative aspect of your exposure. But in order to exercise that control, you need to understand how it works. And Sean goes into some depth to help explain things in a way, sometimes explaining the same thing multiple ways, that is easy to understand.
And these principles are universal to photography. It doesn’t matter what camera you’re using, or even if it’s digital. Whether it’s a Micro Four Thirds mirrorless or a 4×5 large format sheet film camera, the exposure triangle and the thought process behind manual exposure is the same.
If you already understand the basics of exposure, then this video might not be all that useful to you. But if you’re very new to photography, and haven’t shot in manual mode before, then it’s going to be a valuable video for you to watch.
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.