Starting to shoot in manual mode
April 11, 2015 6:24 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for, ideally podcasts, but websites will do too, that give advice for starting to use a dslr in full manual mode. I have reasonable familiarity with the various settings on the camera so looking for advice on bringing them together. Guides on 'what to do on you first day shooting in manual' and the like especially welcome. As are any tips you might have.
posted by roolya_boolya to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
If you haven't visited some of the great stuff at Digital Photography School, I highly recommend it. There are some fantastic tutorials there, written for all levels of expertise.
posted by jquinby at 7:04 AM on April 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'd say don't. Work with one element at a time. Leave exposure on auto and practice manual focusing. Then set to locked aperture but let the camera choose the shutter speed. Get to know the situations where locking a setting is important. Do you have a manual incidence light meter? That will be handy/essential for some fully manual projects.
posted by sammyo at 7:04 AM on April 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

There are no rules, there is no right or wrong way to shoot manual. You just have to go out and shoot until you find a way of working that is comfortable for you. It really didn’t click for me until I used a 1970s-vintage film SLR that forced me to shoot manual.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 7:46 AM on April 11, 2015

1. Choose your image size, shoot raw.
2. Look at time of day and brightness, set the ISO, 125-midday, bright still scenes, 200, bright-moving items water, slow kids, higher ISO, fast things rapids, runners, groups or low light.
3. Aperture, how much do you want in focus? Low number=narrow depth of field, F7 and above- landscape,
4, The longer the barrel of the lens the less light, less items in motion are in focus, broader depth of field, images flatten as more of the image is simultaneously in focus.

The two last things to use on automatic are focus, as your camera settings will determine the area of focus them you aim at it, but focus if you want to, and then shutter speed. Shutter speed beause sometimes if you are reaching to the edge of the camera's ability to collect light for the sensor, then respect the art of the camera deigners to get you the shot.

I think proper depth of field to emphasize choaen area of focus is very important, and then good light, to reveal form is important. Avoid shooting at mid day. Mid day exists, but objects take on more visually lush form when side lit even a couple of hours makes a difference.

Too bright to get good saturation? Lower ISO, or higher aperture, faster shutter speed.

Gettig dark? Raise ISO, lower the aperture number, slow shutter speed.
posted by Oyéah at 8:00 AM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Lots of practice. Seconding the idea of shooting on aperture priority and shutter priority for a while to get used to each. I shot in manual for years and got good at it, but now I shoot in aperture priority because I feel like I have almost as much control and it's much, much easier.

And read this: Understanding Exposure.
posted by kdern at 8:24 AM on April 11, 2015

I'm definitely with kern that shooting in aperture and shutter priority is the easiest way to learn and the way to get the biggest bang for the buck. I'd say the canonical example of altering shutter speeds is to shoot something like a waterfall at an assortment of speeds and then notice what the water looks like. Likewise for depth of field is to shoot a scene with a lot of details stretching from the fore to the background. Shoot the same scene at every f-stop and notice the results. You can go further by repeating this exercise with a different focal points for each series.

Study these results to learn what those settings did to your photos so that you can get a good results from new situations.
posted by mmascolino at 9:14 AM on April 11, 2015

One concept that really helped me while learning to shoot manual was that of "many correct exposures": every time you press the shutter, there's 6 or more "correct" settings of aperture and shutter that will produce a well-exposed image. However, only one or two of those will be "creatively correct", that is, produce the effect you're looking for! Experiment with imagining what you want the final image to look like and then trying to shoot it.

Also, look up your camera's metering modes... there's a huge difference between spot, center-weighted, and average metering. I usually shoot with spot, as that lets you choose between the "correct" settings for the part of the image you're most interested in :)

(On preview, kdern's linked book is by Bryan Peterson, the author of the linked article. He's good!)
posted by Gilead at 11:31 AM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite] is an amazing resource for exactly this. There are lessons and assignments for each manual setting to help you understand and really get a feel for how to use each one. I go back to it occasionally to brush up on things I've forgotten, too.
posted by rhiannonstone at 12:30 PM on April 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

I found this site very helpful when I was learning how to shoot in manual mode. I mostly shoot in manual mode now.
posted by Lynsey at 4:09 PM on April 11, 2015

I highly recommend the website Cambridge In Color, because it covers a lot of the basics.

I would also agree that aperture priority mode is a great starting-off point, just because shutter speed and ISO are relatively easy to understand (higher shutter speed = less light, less impact of "shake", higher ISO = more light, worse image quality) whereas aperture is a little less simple, especially as it impacts depth of field and various lens-specific characteristics.

I'm grossly oversimplifying here, but exposure is a long, complicated process. if your DSLR is new enough, connect it to a TV with HDMI and watch how the image changes as you change the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. Another option is to just continually take pictures and watch how it changes as you tweak each variable.

It helps if you know exactly what you're trying to do, but understanding how exposure works will help you get a given situation right. With enough experience, I started being able to guess the right settings for a given photo - because metering tends to tell you what the exposure should be for 18% gray on a given spot, you can't necessarily just rely on a camera's metering for a given scene. Also worth pointing out that matrix metering and spot metering are two very different things for different uses, though I prefer spot metering for most cases. If you have more specific questions, I can help you out.
posted by Strudel at 7:40 PM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

You asked about podcasts. Check out Improve Photography, which I think is the best photography podcast on the iTunes store.

It's not specifically a how-to-use-manual walkthrough, if that is literally what you're looking for. But I think it's a great match for your needs. The new episodes are very different: new hosts, and a broader focus including both advanced and beginning shooters. But if you go back and listen to the first year's worth of episodes (skip around by topic for whatever interests you), then I think you will be hooked. It's geared for intermediate shooters looking for, as you say, advice on putting the pieces together. You will definitely get solid tips on transitioning to manual.
posted by cribcage at 8:22 AM on April 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Take some shots in auto - or your favorite semi-auto mode and note down the settings it chooses. Then work off of these. Some rules of thumb:

1) Keep ISO as low as possible. Large ISO means you can take a picture with less light, but it also means more noise in the photo. Only increase ISO if you cannot get enough light for your chosen shutter speed and aperture.

2) Keep your shutter speed fast if you are shooting sports 1/250 at a minimum 1/500 is better. Faster means less light, so you will need to compensate with a larger aperture (smaller F# - i.e F2.8) or with a higher ISO.

3) Smaller aperture (large F number - ie. F11) means larger depth of field which means more of the picture will be in focus (i.e. foreground and background). Smaller means less light, so you will need to compensate with slower shutter speed or higher ISO. If you want to blur the background, you need a larger aperture (small F number - i.e. F2.8)
posted by NoDef at 8:00 PM on April 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm with sammyo on easing into this. The very, very last thing you need to learn is manual focus, because modern autofocus is better than you for 99% of all shots.

Also, check that the source of advice has roughly the same climate as you. Learning photography in Scotland, I found that "Sunny 16" was more like "Sunny 8" ...
posted by scruss at 12:36 PM on April 13, 2015

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