Hello, and welcome to this week’s shoot-along post. I’ll be featuring one photo tutorial, photo gift idea, or photo challenge every Wednesday from now until December. Today, I’ll leave you in the hands of the lovely Carrie Butler, to talk about shooting in manual. Thanks, Carrie!
Ok Giver’s Log Shoot-Along readers, I need to come clean here. I have been having major anxiety about these next few posts. As in, sweaty palms, shaky knees, the works. “Why all the anxiety?” you ask? Well, I am worried because I am about to show you all how I shoot in manual mode and I am sure there are better, fancier ways to do things that I don’t do and everyone will think I am a big dumb dummy. There, I said it. So as a disclaimer, I am going to explain the way I do things, knowing full well there are other ways, and hope that I don’t get internet tomatoes thrown my way. Does that sound fair?
Today’s cameras are getting better and better, aren’t they? As a matter of fact, I have a camera phone that takes some crazy sharp pictures with extraordinary color, all at the click of a button. However, there are plenty of times where I would like to tell the camera what to do, how to see my subject the way I want it seen, and that is when I need to take control and manipulate some of the settings to get the results I want. There are three main ways to do this.
Here they are, the big three:
ISO. (PS, don’t automatically count yourself out of this if you don’t have a dslr camera, lots of point and shoots these days allow you to change all three of these things, even my camera phone allows me to change the ISO.)
We’ll start with aperture. Aperture is how wide the shutter opens up when you take a picture. The wider it opens, the more light it lets in. Also, the wider it opens up the more blurry the background and foreground of your image. Got that? Okay
When you are setting the number on your camera, the lower the number, the wider it opens. I just try to remember that aperture is the one that is backward. The lower the number, the more light in and the more blurred the background is. Does that make sense? Even several point and shoots have some sort of aperture priority mode. Okay then, ready for an assignment?
MINI ASSIGNMENT #1
Here is your mini assignment. Grab your camera and figure out how to set it to aperture priority mode.
(That is the mode where you get the pick the aperture and the camera has to adjust every other setting to make the aperture work. On the canon rebel, you set it to AV, and you can raise or lower the aperture by turning the dial on the top left of your camera to the right or left. On a Nikon, even the point-and-shoots use an A for the aperture priority setting. Incidentally, in order to go to the lowest available aperture on your lens, you need to have it zoomed all the way out. I think most lenses that come with the canon rebel these days have a 3.5 lens, which means the lowest available aperture to you is 3.5, in order to dial it down that far, your lens must be zoomed all the way out.)
Find two objects, place one in the foreground, the other in the back and slightly to the side so it is visible. (Make sure that wherever you are shooting has plenty of light!) Adjust your aperture so that it is at the lowest possible number. Focusing on the object in the foreground, take the picture. Now, raise up your aperture. If you started at 3.5, go up to 4.5. Again focusing on the object in the foreground, take a second picture. Raise your aperture up a third time, this time to maybe 5.6 and take a third picture. Now you can compare them to each other. The background object on the first photo should be the most blurry, and slowly become sharper in the subsequent photos. In these samples, I photographed my daughter’s dog, Black Puppy, with the less beloved White Puppy in the background.
With each adjustment to the aperture, the shutter opens less and less wide, letting less and less light in, which changes the depth of field, or how blurry the background is. In aperture priority mode the camera will choose a slower shutter speed to compensate for lack of light. If the camera allows you to see the information on each shot, make note of the shutter speeds and how they change in comparison with how the aperture changes.
Now let’s talk about the shutter speed. Your shutter speed controls how long your shutter stays open for an exposure.
If you have a lot of light on a subject, the shutter closes fast, if you have low light, the shutter speed is slow. Pretty basic. The faster the shutter speed, the sharper your images. Have you ever taken a picture of your kid wiggling and gotten a very blurry arm or leg, or whole body? That is a slower shutter speed. (Or a super fast kid.)
To solve that problem, try setting your camera to shutter speed priority. (That’s where you get to pick the shutter speed and the camera has to change all the other settings to make it work.) Have a kid or a spouse or a crazy neighbor pose for you and wiggle around. Start at a slower shutter speed, maybe 1/25. Take the picture and repeat, increasing your shutter speed. Do you notice that the picture is slightly blurred, becoming increasingly sharp the faster your shutter speed? If you can see the information on the photo, notice how the camera has compensated for the different shutter speeds by adjusting the aperture.
Last but not least, there is ISO. I admit, I googled this earlier to see if wikipedia could explain this better than me, and frankly, I don’t think it can. Let me take a stab at it. The lower the ISO, the less light comes in and the deeper the color saturation. The higher the ISO, the more light comes in and the more grain will appear in the photo.
Here are some examples. If I am shooting in broad daylight, I keep my ISO between 100 and 200. If I come into a dark house where I do not want to use flash, I turn up my ISO to the next possible setting that will let enough light in to allow me to use a fast enough shutter speed.
This final photo was taken with an ISO of 1600. It was night time, indoors, and without changing the ISO I would have had to set the shutter speed so low that they would have been blurry. You can see a slight bit of graininess in the photo because of the high ISO.
MINI ASSIGNMENT #2
Here is a mini assignment: Put your camera in aperture priority mode, set the aperture to the lowest possible number. Remember, this will let the most light in, since it is opening wider. Now find a room in your house that is dimly lit, one that you would ordinarily use a flash in. Raise up your ISO and take the picture. Are you able to get the shot?
Phew!! That is so much information to take in, are any of you still with me? If you are still reading, thank you!! Ok, so now you have the information. Your assignment this week is to take two photos, one in Automatic mode, and the other either changing the aperture, changing the shutter speed or changing the ISO to make the photo different, better, then the one taken in Auto.
TIPS, TRICKS, and MORE
I’ll end with a few tips:
- Do you hate that “flashy” look of photos indoors? Turn the flash off, lower your aperture and raise your ISO. You shouldn’t need a flash.
- Want to tell a story with your photo? Turn your aperture all the way down (lots of people refer to this as shooting wide open) and blur out some element of the photo, ie, a baby with a big sibling blurry but in the background.
- Shooting sports? Set shutter speed faster and your subject suddenly becomes sharp!
- It helps to take three or four pictures, each with different settings, so you can get a feel for how each setting will change your photo.
Next tutorial we will be putting these things together and learning how to do some fun things, specifically getting really pretty backlit shots, and learning how to use the on camera meter for better exposures. Good luck, and let the tomatoes fly, if you must…
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All this made possible by the lovely Carrie Butler.