How to Begin Shooting in Manual Mode

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First, you need to understand why or why not to shoot in manual mode. Despite what some people will say, most pro photographers shoot in Aperture Priority mode. This means that you set the camera for the aperture you want, and it picks the shutter speed based on available light. A good rule of thumb when just wandering around taking pictures is to set your camera in Aperture Priority at f8. This is a good general-purpose aperture and will handle the bulk of your photography. If the light is particularly tricky or you are shooting with flash or strobes, you may want to switch to manual mode.

As already discussed, Aperture Priority is when you set the aperture and let the camera choose the shutter speed. In Shutter Priority, you set the shutter speed and let the camera choose the aperture. This is handy in sports shooting where you want to freeze or blur the action. In manual mode, you will set both of these. And this is one big reason for not shooting manual. There is no automation, so if the light changes, you will need to change one or both of these settings, or you may not get the shot. You can also change the ISO setting, but for now, concentrate on these two.

“Once you have a decent camera and begin taking some better photographs, some people will tell you that professional photographers always shoot in manual mode. While this is not true, there are advantages to shooting manual and learning how isn't as difficult as you might think.”

To get started, set your camera on the automated mode you are accustomed to. This should give you good results. Using your camera's menu, look at the picture, and determine the aperture and shutter speed the camera chose for this shot. Refer to your camera's manual if you don't know how to do this. Now change your camera to Aperture Priority and set the aperture to the setting your camera used in auto mode. Retake the same picture, and you should get nearly identical results. Next, set it to Shutter Priority and repeat the process. Again, same picture, same results. This is because, despite the different settings, your camera has used identical aperture and shutter speed for all three, unless the light has changed.

Next, move your camera to the dreaded manual mode. Refer to the manual again to determine which dials or buttons change both aperture and shutter speed. Set both to the same settings used above and take the picture again. You should have the same picture with the same exposure. Congratulations! You have shot in manual mode. Now, move the camera and take an image with different light, either brighter or more shadows. Take another picture and see what happens. It's probably not as good this time, because the light changed, but your camera settings didn't. Here lies the difficulty in shooting manual. But following the process outlined above and with practice, you will learn how to read the light and adjust your settings accordingly.

Shooting in manual mode shouldn't be a big mystery. Follow the steps above and learn how to begin shooting in manual mode.
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