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M: Manual Mode

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Manual mode is all about control. Keep in mind that this mode was not designed for those of us who want to go on autopilot and shoot to our heart’s content. It was designed to allow the photographer to take complete control of shutter speed and aperture (Figure 4.17). The camera doesn’t do any of the work for you.

Figure 4.17

Figure 4.17 For ultimate control of shutter speed and aperture, use Manual mode.

ISO 400 • 1/100 sec. • f/5.6 • 85mm lens

When you have your camera 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 Shutter Priority or Aperture Priority, 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.

When to use Manual (M) mode

  • When lighting and exposure get tricky (Figure 4.18). Shooting lit-up architecture at nighttime can often confuse the meter, for example. The wonderful thing about your D7200 is that it has an incredible ISO range with relatively low digital noise.

    Figure 4.18

    Figure 4.18 For this shot of a Spanish train terminal, I increased my ISO and metered where the light was hitting below. I left my aperture fairly open to draw in as much light as possible for a quick handheld exposure.

    ISO 1600 • 1/50 sec. • f/4 • 24mm lens

  • When your environment is fooling your light meter and you need to maintain a certain exposure setting (Figure 4.19). Beaches and snow are always a challenge for light meters. Whenever I’m shooting something in snow I find myself switching over to Manual mode.

    Figure 4.19

    Figure 4.19 A good rule of thumb in snow is to bump your exposure up one stop in exposure, two if it’s really sunny. That should get you closer to the correct exposure.

    ISO 200 • 1/500 sec. • f/8 • 150mm lens

  • When shooting silhouetted subjects, which requires overriding the camera’s meter readings (Figure 4.20).

    Figure 4.20

    Figure 4.20 I used Manual mode to expose for the bright sky, silhouetting the mountain layers below and avoiding overexposing the orange clouds.

    ISO 200 • 1/250 sec. • f/4 • 200mm lens

Setting up and shooting in Manual mode

  1. Turn your camera on, and then turn the Mode dial to align the M with the indicator line.
  2. Select your ISO by pressing and holding the ISO button on the back left of the camera while rotating the main Command dial with your thumb.
  3. The ISO will appear on the top display. Choose your desired ISO, and release the ISO button on the left to lock in the change.
  4. Point the camera at your subject, and then activate the camera meter by depressing the shutter button halfway.
  5. View the exposure information in the bottom area of the viewfinder or by looking at the top display panel.
  6. To set your exposure using shutter speed, while the meter is activated, use your thumb to roll the main Command dial left and right to change your shutter speed value until the exposure mark is lined up with the zero mark. The exposure information is displayed in the viewfinder using a scale with marks that run from –2 to +2 stops with 0 indicating proper exposure. As the indicator moves to the left, the image is being underexposed, or getting darker. Move the indicator to the right and the image is being overexposed, or getting brighter.
  7. To set your exposure using the aperture, while the meter is activated, use your finger to roll the Sub-command dial left and right to see the changed exposure values. Roll the dial to the right for a smaller aperture (higher f-stop number) and to the left for a larger aperture (lower f-stop number).
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