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Where I Started
I haven’t always shot in manual mode. In fact I was unsure what that was when I purchased my first DSLR. All I knew was I wanted a great camera to take the best pictures of my daughter. Boy was I disappointed with the very first picture I took with it! I was use to my Kodak point-and-shoot camera where I just pointed….clicked….and got a decent picture. I immediately picked up my camera manual and began to read it and became more confused than ever!! Can you relate?
This tutorial is written in the most simple way possible for me to explain this to you without feeding you all the technical vocabulary and leaving you just as lost as before. I will describe the way I remember each setting and what works for me.
Three Things to Learn
The three most important things to learn about in manual mode are ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed. Put these three things together and you will be capturing great portraits every time.
ISO– Think of this as sensitivity to light. The brighter the location of your subject, the lower your ISO should be set. The darker the location of your subject, the higher it should be set. But keep in mind, the higher you set your ISO the grainier your portrait will be. You do not want a lot of grain. If at all possible, try moving your subject to a better lit location.
Aperture- This controls the depth of field in your images. Depth of field is how shallow your subject is to your background or its surroundings. The all sought after blurred background everyone loves. A blurred background is more pleasing to the eye and it draws more attention on your subject. This is also referred to as the f stop on your camera. The smaller the f stop setting the more shallow depth of field will be produced. example: f 1.4 While focusing on the subjects nose, the subjects nose may be in more focus than his eyes. The higher the f stop, the more everything within your frame will be in focus. example: f 18 While shooting a large group of people using this setting, more likely all of them will be in focus.
Shutter- This controls the length of light into your camera. of course the bigger the number, the longer light is let into the camera. And the smaller the number the faster and less light is let in. Confused yet? I promise this will all makes sense in just a minute. Longer exposures will capture blurred motion. Shorter exposures will capture stopped motion. A rule I once read was to never let your shutter speed fall below the mm of your lens. Works for me.
Light Metering Will Change Your LIFE…
When you look through the view finder on your camera, you should see something similar to the picture below. This is what mine looks like and I have a Nikon camera. Canon may look some different. The first number is my ISO setting. Next is my aperture. Then there is the light meter. You want your setting to be in the center on “0”.
The very first thing I always adjust is my ISO. If I am in direct sunlight I set my ISO to 100. If I am in the shade I will up my ISO somewhere around 400. Then I adjust my aperture ( depth of field) to my liking. Now this is where the meter comes in handy. Look through your view finder after you have your ISO and aperture adjusted and focus on your subject. It is important to make sure your focal point is on your subject so you can get the correct meter reading.
Now adjust your shutter speed until your meter is reading “0”. That’s it! It is that simple. Now you can shoot in manual mode and take control over your images without feeling overwhelmed by all the technical mumbo jumbo.
Below is a cheat sheet for you to print out. Remember, adjust your ISO first, then your aperture. Next meter your light from your subject and then adjust your shutter speed until your meter is reading “0”.