Some might ask why you would want or need to modify camera settings manually when the camera can do it for you ‘just fine.’ It is certainly possible to get a nice photo just snapping away in automatic mode, but more often than not what you’ll end up with is a snapshot rather than an expressive photograph. The most rewarding aspect of photography is certainly getting to grips with your equipment and utilizing its capabilities in a creative way. A lovely photo of course is in the eye of the beholder which is why the purpose of this article will be to lay out some of the most basic (and important) manual settings which can be found on most cameras.
The common manual modes found on DSLR cameras will be abbreviated as P for Program; A (or Av for Canon users) for Aperture priority; S (or Tv meaning Time value) for Shutter Speed priority, and M for full Manual. It is always worthwhile to experiment with these modes, but I will focus on guiding you through the full manual mode.
By setting your camera in fully manual, the option of controlling all three elements of an exposure; shutter speed, aperture and ISO (sensitivity) will become available to you . So what effect does shutter speed have on a photograph? Based on your shutter speed you may get motion blur or alternatively you may freeze an object in motion. You may also want to use a slower or faster shutter speed to let more or less light in. By and large, you’ll want to stick with a relatively fast shutter speed to avoid motion blur. Depending on the speed of your subject you may be able to freeze motion with a fast shutter speed of 1/400 or perhaps even a relatively slow shutter speed of 1/30. This image here of romantic Florence was taken at sunset with a slow shutter speed of two seconds in order to retain the natural warm pink colours in the sky. Moving on, aperture refers to the diameter of the hole through which light passes in your camera’s lens. The way aperture is measured may be a little confusing at first. The bigger the aperture (opening), the smaller the f-stop number that represents it. For example, f/2.8 is a common “wide-open” aperture whereas f/22 might be “closed-up.”
It also controls depth of field, so my photograph of the heart bouquet demonstrates a small aperture in order to get fine detail. Finally, the sole purpose of adjusting your camera’s ISO is to increase or decrease its sensitivity to light. Thus, a higher ISO number would be geared towards low light photography.
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