How to photograph in manual mode
So, you want to get more out of your photography by shooting in manual mode? Great! You are on the right track. Shooting in manual mode will help you get much more out of your photography. Don’t worry, it’s not hard and before long you’ll be mastering it. In fact, there are only a few things you need to know.
Photos are created by light hitting the sensor on your digital camera (film in the old days). There are 3 settings, often referred to as the exposure triangle, that interact to determine how the photo will look. To successfully shoot in manual mode you must understand and correctly set up these three settings:
Setting the aperture determines how much light enters the camera. Aperture is denoted by the f-stop numbers you see on your camera when you shoot and is also written on your lens. Each lens has a minimum and maximum aperture. They are typically preceded by f/ e.g. f/2.8, f/5.6, f/8, etc. Oddly enough, a smaller number means a larger aperture and a larger number means a smaller aperture i.e. f/1.8 allows more light in than f/22. Apart from determining the amount of light that enters your camera, aperture also plays a crucial role in determining the depth of field of your photo. A wide (large) aperture of f/1.8 with a 50 mm lens will result in a very shallow depth of field, creating a strongly blurred foreground and background with just your subject in focus. The same photo taken at f/22 will have everything in focus.
2. Shutter speed
Shutter speed determines for how long the light coming through the aperture will be allowed to hit the sensor, in other words, how long the shutter is open. Importantly, you need to understand that a fast shutter speed will freeze motion, and a slow shutter will blur motion. Setting the correct shutter speed is important to prevent blurred photos (insert link to other article here).
Setting your ISO determines how sensitive the sensor is to the incoming light. A low ISO of 100 will require a lot of light to expose the image correctly while a high ISO of 1600 will need less light. The caveat is, the higher the ISO setting, the more noise will appear in your photo. Some cameras are better at dealing with this noise than others, but suffice to say anything over ISO 800 is rarely usable without extra editing.
So how do you put all of this together? Your photo must be correctly exposed. To do this your camera measures the light in the scene you are about to shoot and outputs it to the viewfinder or LCD. If you look through the viewfinder or on the LCD display you will see something that looks similar to this, -2…1…0…1…2+. How it actually looks varies on the model and make of your camera.