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M: Manual Mode


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 dialing in these settings yourself. However, today, with the advancement of camera technology, many new photographers never give this mode a second thought. That's a shame, as not only is it an excellent way to learn your photography basics, but it's also an essential tool to have in your photographic bag of tricks.

In Manual (M) mode, the camera meter gives you a reading of the scene. 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. When shooting in Tv or Av mode, you only need to worry about one of these changes, but Manual mode means you have to do it all yourself. This can be 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 learning how each exposure element interacts with the others (Figure 4.9)
    Figure 4.9

    Figure 4.9 Beaches and snow are always a challenge for light meters. Instead of fighting the light meter, switch to Manual mode and dial in a good exposure yourself.[Photo: Michael Gerpe]

  • When shooting silhouetted subjects, which requires overriding the camera's meter readings (Figure 4.10)
    Figure 4.10

    Figure 4.10 Although the meter can do a pretty good job of exposing for the sky, you can use the Manual mode to make creative adjustments, such as pushing the skyline elements into complete black silhouette.[Photo: Scott Christie]

  • When your environment is fooling your light meter and you need to maintain a certain exposure setting


  1. Turn your camera on and turn the Mode dial to M.
  2. Select your ISO by rotating the ISO dial.
  3. Rotate the Control dial to choose a shutter speed, which appears at the bottom of the LCD. (The green curved arrows indicate which setting is active.) The exposure information is displayed by a scale with marks that run from –2 to +2 stops. A proper exposure (according to the camera meter) will line up with the arrow mark in the middle. As the indicator moves down, it is a sign that you will be underexposing (there is not enough light on the sensor to provide adequate exposure). If the indicator is above the middle mark, you will be providing more exposure than the camera meter calls for (overexposure).
  4. Switch to the aperture control by pressing the Metering Light button; the green arrows switch to the aperture setting.
  5. Rotate the Control dial to choose an aperture value, keeping the light meter in mind as you change the f-stop.
  6. Point the camera at your subject and then press the shutter button halfway to preview the exposure. As with the Tv and Av modes, the orange light by the viewfinder will blink if the image is underexposed or overexposed.
  7. Release the button and adjust the Control dial to change the setting.
  8. Press the shutter button fully when you're ready to shoot.
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