Happy Monday everybody! This week I wanted to share how I grasped the basic concepts of shooting in manual mode with my DSLR camera. This semester of college I decided to take a studio level photography course in addition to my architecture classes. Two of my really good friends who are just getting into photography are also in this class with me. We have gone out to shoot a few times together already and I found myself really helping them understand the basics of their cameras as they were trying to have more control over the final colors and light in their images. Because I felt like I was able to put manual mode into relatable terms for them, I thought I would share the little bit I know for anyone reading who is just trying to understand the basics of their camera too!
There are three settings of a DSLR camera critical to manual mode: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. The rest of this blog breaks down the what works for me in thinking about each of these settings.
1. Shutter speed –
Shutter speed is exactly what it sounds like; the speed of your shutter. This is how fast your lens opens and closes when taking a picture. Shutter speed is a huge factor in how much light is let into your picture. A faster shutter speed results in less light entering the frame because the shutter stays open for less amount of time. Likewise, a slower shutter speed results in more light entering the frame because the shutter stays open longer. You can see what your shutter speed is by the fraction displayed on your camera. The higher the bottom number of the fraction (for example 1/320) the faster your lens is opening/ closing and vice versa. Shutter speed also affects sharpness of an image. A faster shutter speed results in a sharper image while a slower shutter speed results in a less sharp image. Faster shutter speed is also necessary when photographing subjects in motion such as cars, sports, etc.,.
Faster shutter speed – sharper image/ less light entry
Slower shutter speed – less sharp image/ more light entry
2. Aperture –
Aperture, measured in f/stops, is ultimately the size of the opening of your lens. I think of it this way: if your lens opening is smaller, less light is coming into your picture and your image is sharper. If your lens opening is bigger, more light is coming into your picture and your image is less sharp. F/stop numbers generally range from 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11 and 16. The lower f/stops result in larger openings and the higher f/stops result in a smaller openings. The other thing prominently determined by aperture is depth of field. Simply stated, depth of field is how sharp or blurry the background of your image is. Lower f/stop numbers result in less depth of field blurring the background. Higher f/stop numbers result in more depth of field sharpening the background.
Lower f/stop – bigger opening/ more light entry/ more background blur
Higher f/stop – smaller opening/ less light entry/ less background blur
3. ISO –
ISO is a setting that will not be used in every picture you take. Essentially, ISO is artificial light supplied to a photo by your camera. ISO is really helpful in low-light conditions and is crucial to night photography. However, improper ISO settings result in major noise and grain issues. You may take a photo that used a high ISO setting and the image looks fine on the screen of your camera. Well, the second you try to edit that photo in post, you are going to find out quickly that noise and grain is inevitable. The lower you can keep your ISO number the better. I leave my default at ISO 200 and adjust it gradually until I get something I feel like I can work with. When adjusting ISO, just take it slow. Up it a number, take a photo, check it, and repeat until you get comfortable with how ISO affects an image. This way, you will have a range of photos to compare and contrast when you sit down at your computer to begin editing.
Lower ISO – less artificial light/ less susceptible noise and grain
Higher ISO – more artificial light/ more susceptible to noise and grain
The more you shoot manually, the easier it gets and these settings start to come to you naturally. It’s really just a matter of understanding what each of these settings do specifically and then figuring out a combination of their numbers that work for you as photographer! I would definitely recommend learning manual mode because it just gives you so much more control over your photos for any situation you might be photographing!
If this post was helpful and you liked it let me know! Leave a comment, like, subscribe, or get in touch through social media. I would love to hear your thoughts on how you think about these settings too!