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M: Manual Mode

089fig01.jpg Once upon a time, long before digital cameras and program modes, there was manual mode. In those days it wasn’t called “manual mode” because there were no other modes. It was just photography. In fact, many photographers cut their teeth on completely manual cameras. Let’s face it—if you want to learn the effects of aperture and shutter speed on your photography, there is no better way to learn than by setting these adjustments yourself. But today, with the advancement of camera technology, many new photographers never give this mode a second thought. That’s truly a shame, as not only is it an excellent way to learn your photography basics, it’s also an essential tool to have in your photographic bag of tricks.

When your camera is set to Manual (M) mode, the camera meter will give you a reading of the scene you are photographing. It’s your job, though, to set both the f-stop (aperture) and the shutter speed to achieve a correct exposure. If you need a faster shutter speed, you will have to make the reciprocal change to your f-stop. Using any other mode, such as Tv or Av, would mean that you just have to worry about one of these changes, but Manual mode means you have to do it all yourself. This can be a little challenging at first, but after a while you will have a complete understanding of how each change affects your exposure, which will, in turn, improve the way that you use the other modes. (It also helps that the LCD does its best to preview the exposure before you take the shot.)

When to Use Manual (M) Mode

  • When you need to maintain exposures between different frames for a panorama
  • When your environment is fooling your light meter and you need to maintain a certain exposure setting (Figure 4.11)
    Figure 4.11

    Figure 4.11. Bright scenes, such as this white dog in snow, can present a challenge to your light meter.

  • When shooting silhouetted subjects, which requires overriding the camera’s meter readings (Figure 4.12)
    Figure 4.11

    Figure 4.12. I really wanted to catch the sunset reflected in these train tracks, so I placed my camera in Manual mode and underexposed the shot.

Setting Up and Shooting in Manual Mode

  1. Tap the Mode button on the LCD, choose Av, and tap the Return button (return-button.jpg).
  2. Select your ISO: Tap the ISO button in the lower-right corner of the screen, turn the Main dial or drag to the desired setting, and tap the Return button.
  3. Point the camera at your subject and then activate the camera meter by depressing the shutter button halfway.
  4. View the exposure information in the bottom area of the LCD; notice that the Exposure Compensation display is no longer a button.
  5. While the meter is activated, roll the Main dial left and right to change your shutter speed value until the mark at the bottom of the Exposure Compensation scale is lined up with the zero mark. The exposure information is displayed by a scale with marks that run from –3 to +3 stops. A “proper” exposure will line up with the arrow mark in the middle. As the indicator moves to the left, it is a sign that you will be underexposing (there is not enough light hitting the sensor to provide adequate exposure). Move the indicator to the right and you will be providing more exposure than the camera meter calls for; this is overexposure.
  6. To set your exposure using the aperture, depress the shutter release button until the meter is activated. Then, using your thumb, press the physical Exposure Compensation button to highlight the aperture value, and then turn the Main dial right for a smaller aperture (large f-stop number) or left for a larger aperture (small f-stop number).
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