Shooting in Manual – Part 1 – Back to the Basics by Christine Lee Smith

Photography is one of those weird arts, like music, that requires both creative talent and the ability to understand some math (ugh!). Don’t be discouraged just yet, because if this dyslexic can figure out how to shoot in manual, I know you can do it, too.

We ought to learn to shoot in manual and control the camera’s settings, because we can discern things like the difference between backlit scenes, a run away toddler, and a race car but the camera (or Program Mode) cannot.

Since our goal is a creatively composed photograph with appropriate exposure, there are three primary settings we must master. We’ll cover additional settings at another time. What follows is a quick start guide to demystify the complex settings of shooting in manual.

Let’s think of exposure like this triangle.

The big three are: shutter, aperture and ISO.

Good exposure is generally defined as maintaining details in both the highlight and shadow areas of the photograph. It’s achieved by learning to manipulate each element based on your subject and surroundings (which we’ll look at next time).

Let’s take a brief look at each element.

Shutter – controls “how long” light is allowed in your sensor. Shutter speed is determined based on two things: 1) how much movement you want to be visible in the photograph, and 2) how much available light is present.

Aperture – controls “how much” light is allowed in to reach your camera’s sensor. It is determined by, again 1) how much available light you have, and 2) how much of your photograph you want in focus and sharp.

ISO – controls how sensitive your sensor is to all this light coming in. You can loosely relate it to your eyes when putting on, or taking off, sunglasses.

Next time we’ll look more in-depth at how these elements and how they give you amazing control over your exposure!

I hope you can join us at PartnerCon this November, where we’ll practice shooting in manual together on Thursday from 9am-11am with a couple of live models in New Orleans! I will also be available for scheduling private one-on-one learning sessions. You can contact me at christine@clsphotography.com for rates and details.

Written by Christine Lee Smith

Christine Lee Smith is the owner and principal photographer of Christine Lee Smith Photography in Long Beach, California. Christine not only has a passion for her clients but also for the photographer community, as the Long Beach PUG Leader and an upcoming presenter at PartnerCon 2010. Click here to learn more about Christine and her PartnerCon shooting workshop.

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