Friday, September 10, 2010

How to Shoot In Manual With A DSLR


So you've made the jump from a Point and Shoot to a Digital SLR. Congratulations. You now have a great tool for taking outstanding photos. What!?!? You're not really going to leave that mode dial stuck in the Auto position are you? You've spent the money for a nice camera, it's time to learn how to use it to its full potential. Otherwise you've just bought yourself another point and shoot. An expensive one. Using your DSLR in manual can be intimidating but it's going to be easier than you think.


Difficulty: Moderate


Things You'll Need:
  • Digital SLR
  • Willingness To Practice
A Crash Course in Exposure. When you use your camera in the Auto exposure mode or any of the scene settings, the camera looks at the scene (meters it actually, more on that in a little while) and adjusts settings in the camera to try to get a properly exposed photo. Properly exposed, meaning that the photo is not too dark or too bright. When you shoot in Manual exposure mode, you take control of those settings. To do this you need to know what you are controlling and why. There are 3 settings you need to take control of to shoot manually. The first is Aperture. Now this is a crash course so we won't get to deep here. All you need to know is that aperture refers to how big or small the opening in the lens is; or better yet, how much light is being let through the lens. Aperture is expressed in numbers called f/ stops. This number should be displayed inside your viewfinder. Remember this: The Numbers Are The Opposite Of What Makes Sense! Smaller number, i.e. f/5.6 means bigger opening and more light coming through. Conversely, a larger number i.e. f/22 means a smaller opening and less light coming through. I started with Aperture because light is the key to a good exposure. Not enough=dark, too much=too bright. The second setting you are going to control is Shutter Speed. The shutter speed is a measure of how long we are going to leave that opening (our aperture) open. Shutter speed is usually expressed in fractions of a second i.e. 1/250. Now think about this. If you use a fast shutter speed, light has less time to enter the lens. A good exposure is all about enough (but not too much) light. So if you are giving light less time to get through the lens you might need to give it a bigger opening to work with; lower numbered f/ stop. The opposite is also true. Slower shutter speeds usually mean using smaller apertures; higher numbered f/ stops. But slow speeds can also lead to blurry photos. Make sure to check the tips section at the end of this article for a heads up on slow shutter speeds. The last setting we want to take control of is ISO. Are you thinking this setting might also have something to do with light? Of course it does. Our digital SLR has a sensor, which acts like a piece of film, and captures our image. ISO is a measure of how sensitive the sensor is to light or how fast it will capture the light/exposure.


Step 1 continued. A lower ISO, i.e. 100 or 200 will capture the light/exposure a little slower than a higher ISO, i.e. 400 or 800 or higher. In low light, like an auditorium, with a lower ISO, you might have to use a long shutter speed that may cause everything in the exposure to come out blurry. Setting the ISO higher lets the sensor collect the light faster, which in turn allows us to speed up the shutter and hopefully "freeze" our subject and avoid the blurring. A quick summary about exposure. It's all about controlling light. How wide or narrow the lens opens, how long or short the lens stays open and the sensors speed in collecting the light.


Setting the ISO. I'm just going to give you some basic guidelines for setting your ISO. These are not set-in-stone rules and won't always apply. Generally when shooting outdoors during daytime, full light hours (mid morning to late afternoon) you will use a setting between 100 and 200. Indoors in normally lit rooms or outdoors in lower light (dawn to mid morning or late afternoon to dusk) you will use a setting between 200 and 400. In very low light situations indoors and outdoors you will use a setting between 400 and 800 or beyond. Remember, the higher ISO settings let the camera sensor capture the light, or your image, faster. This affords you usable shutter speeds in low light situations. So why not just crank the ISO setting way up and just leave it? When you use high ISO settings you will start to see grain in your photo. On a small print this will cause the photo to look somewhat blurry. On a larger print you can actually see what looks like little grains of sand in the photo. So here is the summary for ISO. Use the lowest setting you can to get the exposure (combination of Aperture and Shutter Speed) you want. You'll know what you want when you start practicing what you learn here. You are going to love this once you get comfortable with it!


Shooting in A (Av) & S (Tv) Modes. There are two modes that act as a good learning bridge between Auto and Manual. They are Aperture Priority (shown as "A" on Nikon dials, "Av" on Canon dials) and Shutter Priority (shown as "S" on Nikon dials, "Tv" on Canon dials). We can think of these as semi-auto settings. We control the priority setting, A or S, and the camera adjusts the other setting to give us a proper exposure. These settings are typically changed using a dial or two located on the front/rear of the camera body near the shutter release button. Most of the time you will have 4-6 combinations of Apertures and Shutter Speeds that will result in a proper exposure. Your camera may let you continue to adjust the priority setting, past a point where it can compensate the other setting, to achieve a proper exposure. On Nikon cameras, you will see a "Hi" or "Lo" message in your viewfinder. This is to let you know that if you take the photo, it may be over exposed (Hi) or underexposed (Lo). Remember, getting a good exposure is all about light. If we select a very fast shutter speed in Shutter Priority, our camera may want to use a very large Aperture (small f/number) to get enough light in. The lens may not physically be able to open far enough to achieve a proper exposure at the shutter speed you selected. These two priority settings are a good place to learn how the Aperture and Shutter speed work together to make a good exposure. Don't forget, you are also in control of the ISO now. I frequently forgot to adjust ISO when I first started using the A and S settings. Don't worry if you do too. Soon it will be second nature. Be sure to check out the tips section at the end of the article for help on selecting Apertures and Shutter Speeds.


Using The in Camera Meter. In step 1 I mentioned that your camera meters the scene in front of the camera. Your camera doesn't actually "see" what you're looking at. It sees tones. Areas of light and dark and in between. This topic can get complicated but I'm not going to let it here. All we need to know is that our cameras are looking for a specific ratio of light and dark that in most cases will result in a proper exposure. Because we are going to be shooting in manual, WE will be making the adjustments to ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed. Not the camera. How do we know if we have the settings right? Some of the old school photographers just know. They have done this so much, they just know. We aren't there yet. Never fear. We have a display in our viewfinder of what the cameras meter is seeing. On Nikon cameras it will look like the one displayed at the beginning of this step. On other cameras it will be similar. There will be a center mark (usually marked by 0) with space to either side. One side having a (+) at the end and a (-) at the other. Some cameras have this display up and down. The display will indicate over exposure (+) or underexposure (-) using bars to either side of the 0. Our meter in this step shows a reading of over exposed. The bars are towards the (+) side of 0. Over exposed tells us there is too much light in the exposure. We can correct this by.....Bueller....Bueller. Don't worry if you don't have this down yet. You will get it. We can correct over exposure by closing up our Aperture (going to a larger number f/stop) which would restrict the amount of light entering the camera or we could use a faster Shutter Speed giving the light less time to come in. One more note about the photo of our meter. To the left we see 15 and f22. This is telling us that our Shutter Speed is 1/15th of a second and our f/stop is f/22. Shutter Speeds on most cameras will be displayed as a whole number but it refers to a fraction of a second. 250 being 1/250. 60 being 1/60 and so on. At 1 second and longer the display will usually show the number followed by " So 2 seconds would be 2".

Shooting in Manual. In step 3 I mentioned that there may be 6 or more combinations of Aperture and Shutter Speed that give us a good exposure. In auto, the camera arbitrarily selects one of these combinations and that's what you get. This is why we want to shoot in manual. You know what you're trying to achieve when you depress the shutter, the camera does not. Ok. Ready. Turn that dial to M. Check your ISO. Change it if you need to. Bring the viewfinder up to your eye. Still looks the same right. Except for the meter. What is the meter telling you? Underexposed? Try a lower f/stop to let in more light or a slower speed to give the light more time to get in. This is where you start learning to shoot in manual. Remember that there are a few different combinations of settings that will turn out a good exposure. Try a few. See how different f/stops affect the photo. You may notice the meter change as you zoom in or out. Most consumer level lenses have a range for the largest aperture (small number) that changes with the focal length. You can look this up on your own. Just know that zooming in my change your exposure and require you to make an adjustment. Some cameras may have only one adjustment dial and require you to depress a button while turning that dial to adjust one of the settings. It will take a little time and you will forget some things at first. Stick with it. You will see a difference in your photos in the end.

Recommended Learning. Hopefully this article has given you enough information to try using your DSLR in manual and taken away some of the confusion. If not I have failed and will punish myself accordingly. To really fully utilize your DSLR there are a few more things you should read up on. You should be able to find most of this online. Depth Of Field. White Balance. Three Types of Metering. Aperture. Shutter Speed. How the Camera Meter Works. Exposure Compensation. There is an outstanding book out there to take this article to a whole new level. Understanding Exposure. Pick it up if you're serious about going manual and want more help.

notes: the articles and picture in this post is not belong to me. i copied it from website for my readers knowledge.
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