Shooting In Manual Mode: Intro
Note: This is part 1 of a 5-part tutorial series for beginners. Articles are as follows:
- Part I: Shooting In Manual Mode: Intro
Part II: Shooting In Manual Mode: ISO
Part III: Shooting In Manual Mode: Shutter Speed / Exposure Time
Part IV: Shooting In Manual Mode: Aperture
Part V: Shooting In Manual Mode: Conclusion (Exposure Triangle)
I had a longtime fear of mastering my own songs. What is commonly referred to as “audio mastering” usually involves only a few subtle changes to the final recorded version of a song. These are things like evening out the amounts of bass and treble with the rest of the frequencies, making sure the volumes are consistent throughout your songs, and lowering the levels of some problem frequencies like noise and hiss. If something is properly mastered, it will sound good in laptop speakers and expensive studio monitors alike. To a guy like me, this was always daunting and intimidating until I actually sat down and attempted to teach myself. Just like with most things in life, it was only intimidating because people who are “in the know” want it to be intimidating. If everyone realized that most mastering technicians are just following a few rules to make all songs sound alike, then those guys would no longer be able to charge a thousand bucks to master an album. Of course there are a lot of people who actually stand out from the rest… people who are very good at it and deserve to get paid for what they do.
Many things in life are like that–shrouded in mystery for no good reason. Photography is no exception; it is made out to be something that’s very difficult to do without the aid of your camera’s built-in shooting modes. People who know how to take photos without the “assistance” of their camera’s auto/priority modes are partly responsible for keeping it shrouded in mystery. I have no problem coming out and saying that taking photos in Full Manual mode is very easy and it can be reduced to three variables: aperture, ISO (film speed), and exposure time. Together, these are commonly referred to as the exposure triangle. And each of those variables all has to do with “brightness” of an image. Unless lighting conditions are absolutely ideal, then you have to make sacrifices to get your pictures looking the way you want. There are certainly other things that separate some photographers from the pack. Style, attention to detail, and lighting are all very important and have nothing to do with your camera or camera settings.
Too much emphasis is placed on the camera that a photographer owns. If you take good pictures, people say “you must have a very nice camera.” Photographers do not like this at all–the idea being that the camera is responsible for the pictures and not the person taking them. Imagine eating dinner at someone’s house and saying “That was a delicious meal. You must have a very nice oven.” Or telling a painter “What a nice painting; you must have very nice brushes.” At that point you are transferring the compliment away from the cook/artist and crediting the tools they used to make the meal/painting. A camera is just that: a tool. No camera automatically takes beautiful pictures. If you play the piano very well, people don’t say that you were just playing on a nice piano; they are inclined to give the instrumentalist 100% of the credit. People realize that it takes a lot of time, practice, and effort to play an instrument well or make a masterful painting. This emphasis on someone’s camera leads to an unnecessary mystique about people’s cameras and the way they go about shooting images. It’s just like anything else: it takes patience, knowledge, and experience to do it well.
Most people who know how to shoot in Manual mode keep their camera parked on the M. This isn’t because you can take better pictures with Manual mode; it’s just because it allows you more control and knowledge of the situation. If you don’t quite have enough light, then you will quickly find out in Manual mode, whereas using one of your camera’s shooting modes will oftentimes give you a false sense that your camera is taking good photos.