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Friday, June 26, 2009

Learn to shoot in Manual

Reherasing in Danforth
© 2009 Simon Hucko

Today's tip is to learn how and when to shoot in manual mode. I usually do most of my shooting in aperture priority mode (A for the Nikonians or Av for you Canonites). This lets me set my aperture and ISO to get the depth of field and image quality that I want, and then let the camera choose an appropriate shutter speed for an accurate exposure. However, there are some situations in which the camera's meter can go haywire and give you bad results, or leave you playing with exposure compensation the entire time (and missing shots because of it).

For the image above, we were rehearsing in a room that was almost surrounded by windows. The light in the room remained fairly constant, but depending on how I framed my shot it could have more or less of the window in it. This would move the meter all over the place, and so even if I dialed in an exposure compensation I would have to be constantly adjusting it. By flipping over to manual and setting a constant exposure, I didn't have to worry about it. Even if the exposure on people fluctuated by 1/2 a stop or so, it wasn't a big deal to fix it in post (since I was shooting RAW).

Another good example is when I photograph school concerts. The stage lights are constant (more or less) through the concert, so I just flip it into manual and find an exposure that I like. In the two examples below, the meter would give very different exposure values for the first shot (sea of white) and the second (very dark). Since I was shooting in manual, I didn't have to worry about it, and the exposure on the skin was the same between the two.

I find myself shooting in manual more and more when I'm in a situation where the light is fairly constant. It actually requires less thinking than letting the camera meter for me, since I don't have to worry about compensating for large amounts of white/black in the frame. It also gives me a nice consistency for the shoot, and I can make batch adjustments for things like exposure and curves.

Finally got around to editing some photos from last weekend: Flickr set here.I'm planning on editing the rest of the photos and getting them up tomorrow, so check back again :)

Happy Friday, and enjoy your weekend!



  1. What about us Pannies?!

    Cool tips. Now if only I had a camera with that kind of control... :P

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