As someone who has had a DSLR for more than a decade I would say only within the last two months have the majority of my photos been taken on manual mode. Embarrassing, yes I know, but you have to start somewhere. For me auto was just so easy and the pictures always turned out well so why mess with it? Well the answer is because that good picture could be great if you spent a minute making it better. It started with my trip to LA where my friend Dave not only gave me crap but then also encouraged me to start shooting on manual and taught me a few tricks. Well since then I have read up on the subject and today want to share a few of my key findings with all of you:
(1) Chose a Focal Point: What is the point of this photo? A human? A tree? A flower? Decide what you want to be the main focus and don’t try and have two.
(2) Pick an Aperture. The aperture is the hole at the center of your camera’s shutter, also known as your f-stop, and it is your way of adjusting the amount of your picture that is in focus. As a rule of thumb the lower the f number the more of your background is blurred and the higher the number, the more is in focus.
(3) Adjust the Shutter Speed. This is the amount of time you are asking your camera to pick up light and measured in fraction of a second. A lower shutter speeds let in more light, but make your image susceptible to blur which usually requires a tripod (think the Northern Lights) and a faster shutter speeds let in less light but often results in a sharper photo.
(4) Pick an ISO setting: I like to think of ISO as your camera’s reaction to light – most DSLR’s have a range of 200 to 1,600. As a general guideline, if you are shooting outside on a sunny day a good ISO range would be 100-200 is and if you are indoors with dim lighting 800-1600 range is a good range for your ISO. For low light, be careful though the higher the ISO the better the quality of the photo but also the higher chance the background will be grainy.
And a few notes:
- When starting out try to shoot an inanimate object, for a beginner shooting a moving subject can be quite frustrating!
- Plan on taking multiple shots – part of the reason i advise people get large memory cards
- Try on shoot during golden hour (see below)
- Think about the triangle at all times; aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, they all play off of each other.
- A good tripod is key – I bought this 57” Ultra Compact and Lightweight Aluminum Tripod for Paris and it is the best one I’ve ever used.
- Remember the rule of thirds – divide your view into three sections horizontally and three sections vertically, from there decide where you want the focal point to be, ideally along one of the lines or intersections of those lines.
Then to get it just right it was not just changing the ISO but every other setting too and as the sun began to rise it was hard with the shifting light but ultimately I am really glad with how it came out (Final Settings: ISO 200, 27 mm, F 5.6, 1/80) which resulted in my changing both my ISO and my shutter speed:
To sum up all these tricks and since I know many people are visual learners take a look at these two cheat sheets / diagrams from the Digital Photography School do a great job of visualizing what you are trying to go for!
Do you shoot in manual?