Camera Mode – Manual

Camera Modes

This is the scary one, but well worth playing with as it will help you understand what changing various settings do.

In manual mode you have to set the aperture setting yourself and you have to set the shutter speed setting yourself. If the resulting exposure is wrong, then you are to blame, if it’s right then that’s a feather in your cap and you deserve a pat on the back.

So how do you know what are the right settings? That’s when experience comes in, and it is not something that can be learnt quickly. Experienced photographers will know that on a sunny day, with the camera set to an aperture of f8, that a certain shutter speed will generally give them a decent result but as there are so many variables to think about, it is a tricky thing to do. Luckily with digital you can experiment as much as you want without worrying about wasting film and money on learning and making mistakes.

As manual mode involves setting two parameters, it takes that bit longer to set the shot up, so if a quick shot is what’s required then a mode like aperture priority or shutter priority might be the better option so you can concentrate more on getting the picture rather than worrying about settings.

On the other hand, if you have the time to set the shot up then using manual mode will teach you the most. Set the aperture and shutter speed, take a picture, review it and see if it looks ok. If it’s under exposed (too dark) then you might need to slow the shutter speed down a bit or maybe use a wider (smaller) aperture setting. If it’s over exposed (too light) then you will need to do the opposite, speed up the shutter speed or reduce the size of the aperture by choosing a larger aperture value.

I don’t want to dwell on manual mode too much at the moment, it’s a bit like running before you can walk, but I thought it needed to be mentioned. Don’t be scared of it, just remember that it needs a lot more thought and experience to get right.

12 thoughts on “Camera Mode – Manual

  1. Yeah, I do. Once you understand what aperture and shutter speed do, and have the ability to set the manually, it’s well worth having a go with fully manual.

    Just experiment and remember what you change each time so you get to learn how the picture gets affected.

  2. Thanks, Garry. I’ve tried a bit before, didn’t really get any better results, but I guess I should experiment more.

    I’m planning on buying a professional dSLR within these two months, so your recent article gave answers to the question I’m asking every photographer I know 🙂

  3. A DSLR will give you so much more versatility and quality, but it’ll also hurt the bank balance when you start seeing all those nice lenses available that you just have to have 🙂

  4. I just purchased a Mamiya 645E, and I am a completely green photographer. So, your articles have really helped me to understand aperture, relation to shutter speed, etc. My question to you is, would you recommend that I just learn the meaning of all the parts, ie: apertured, and experiment, or should I start with a basic photography class? Thanks in advance for your time.

  5. Hi Sammi, I guess it depends how you learn best. If you are totally green then joining a class where other people are learning too may be a good idea as you can help each other and as long as the course teacher is a good one you should learn a good deal.

  6. Thanks for the interesting articles Garry. I have always been a bit scared of manual mode on my camera. I get some good shots in auto mode so I really ought to take the plunge and play a little more and hopefully get even better results. thanks again for all you wonderful tips.

    By the way, what is your take on the new Digital Frames such as found here for displaying your work.

  7. I like the idea of the digital frames, they can be a great present. I don’t have much experience of them, and I am sure they are improving all the time, but I did find the image quality wasn’t fantastic on the few I looked at a while ago. I am sure they have improved a lot since then though.

  8. Thanks for the reply Garry, I am currently saving up for one of the 15″ frames, so when I get it I will let you know what I think.


  9. I use a 2x converter on my camera so have to shoot in manual mode as using auto mode can damge the driver motors on lenses I find shooting in manual mode exciting I haven’t really got the full grasp of fstop and shutter speed yet but as you mentioned using dslr is not a problem as you can delete mistakes I can not remember the use of AV &Tv modes can you guide me on that

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