Shooting In Manual Mode: Conclusion (Exposure Triangle)

Note: This is part 5 of a 5-part tutorial series for beginners. Articles are as follows:

All three of these factors (ISO, Shutter Speed, Aperture) work together to make your final product. Each one plays off the other in some way. This is why it is commonly referred to as the Exposure Triangle. Each is a piece of the triangle–they are separate but they can not stand on their own.

First try taking some photos in Manual Exposure Mode (turn the ‘wheel’ on your camera to M). You may have to consult your manual to find out how to affect each setting, but you can just try turning all the different wheels on your camera and seeing which setting they affect. On my camera, I can change the shutter speed with a wheel on the top of my camera (close to where my right index finger naturally sits) and I can change the aperture with a wheel on the back of the camera (close to where my right thumb naturally sits). I have to push the ISO button on the top of the camera and spin one of the wheels to change the ISO. (Tip: never use AUTO for ISO setting). So first try setting the shutter speed to 1/100s and the f-number as low as your lens will allow. Take some pictures and see if they are bright enough. If they are not bright enough, you will have to raise the ISO. If they are too bright, then you are in good shape; you can increase the aperture’s f-number or decrease the shutter speed. At first it can be deceiving that the shutter speed displays simply as “100” for 1/100s and “200” for 1/200s. Essentially, the higher the number, the shorter the exposure time, because the actual exposure time is the inverse of the number displayed on your camera’s display.

My suggestion is to force yourself to use the Manual Exposure Program for a while until you get used to it. It’s only three settings, so it becomes second nature pretty quickly. While I can make that suggestion for you, I also have to admit that I did a photography job yesterday, mostly candid photos of a family as they walked down a wooded path, and I did not use Manual Exposure mode one time. I set my ISO to 200 and used the Aperture Priority shooting mode. My reasoning for this was that I was trying to take candid pictures of a family that included both a dog and a two-and-a-half year old child, and I needed to be quick on my feet.

So, I’m not really saying that you have to use Manual Exposure Mode all the time; it does have its disadvantages. I will, however, go so far as to say that if you have a DSLR, you should never use the fully automatic setting. Become familiar with the priority shooting modes (Av, Tv) as well.

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