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M: Manual Mode

common03.jpg Once upon a time, long before digital cameras and programmed 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. 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. 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 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 to set the f-stop (aperture), the shutter speed, and the ISO to achieve a correct exposure. If you need a faster shutter speed, you will have to make the reciprocal change to your f-stop or ISO to get the correct exposure. Using any other mode, such as S or A, 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 your environment is fooling your camera’s light meter and you need to maintain a certain exposure setting (Figure 4.9)
    Figure 4.9

    Figure 4.9 The bright costumes and dark background can fool your camera’s meter. Even though the light falling on the dancers isn’t changing, the camera might make different exposure decisions based on what is in the frame at the time.

    ISO 200 • 1/500 sec. • f/11 • 24–70mm lens

  • When shooting with flash, LEDs, or strobes (Figure 4.10 on the next page)

    Figure 4.10

    Figure 4.10 Shooting in Manual exposure mode makes it relatively easy to balance ambient light with strobes or (in this case) Speedlights.

    ISO 1000 • 1/1000 sec. • f/8 • 24–70mm lens

  • When you need to maintain exposures between different frames for a panorama (Figure 4.11 on the next page)

    Figure 4.11

    Figure 4.11 I combined six individual images to make this panorama. Manual exposure mode is essential to keep the exposure consistent between frames.

    ISO 200 • 1/80 sec. • f/8 • 70–200mm lens

Setting up and shooting in Manual mode

  1. Turn the Mode dial to align the M with the indicator line.
  2. To select your ISO on the GX7, press the ISO button (arr-u.jpg), rotate the Rear dial to the desired setting, and press the Rear dial to select (the ISO selection will appear in the electronic viewfinder and the rear LCD panel).

    On the GM1, press the Fn1 button we assigned to ISO in Chapter 1. Rotate the Control dial to the desired setting and press MENU/SET.

  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 electronic viewfinder (GX7 only) or on the rear LCD display.
  5. The exposure is displayed on a scale with marks that run from –3 to +3 stops, with a 0 mark in the center. Adjust your aperture value, shutter speed, and ISO to move the exposure indicator along the scale. A “proper” exposure will line up the indicator with the 0 mark in the middle of the scale. 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 overexposing (allowing too much light for a proper exposure).
  6. (GX7) Use the Front dial to change the aperture value. Turn the dial left for a larger aperture (small f-stop number), and right for a smaller aperture (large f-stop number).
  7. (GX7) Use the Rear dial to change the shutter speed. Turn the Rear dial left for a slower shutter speed, and right for a faster shutter speed.
  8. (GM1) Use the Control dial to adjust both the aperture value and shutter speed. Use the arr-u.jpg cursor button to switch between the two.
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