Friday, April 24, 2009

A Good Day for Manual Mode

It's time to try working in Manual Mode on your DSLR.

Turn the big knob on top of the camera to M, point the camera at your subject and press the shutter halfway down. You'll see in your viewfinder if the camera thinks you are underexposing or overexposing -- there's a little indicator that will let you know. Then you can change your settings -- I recommend changing one at time -- to get the exposure you want.

A good way to learn to estimate light levels is to try the "Sunny f/16" system -- and see if our guess at the light level matches what our camera meter thinks. It's sunny outside today, so we can practice working this way...

1. Set your ISO to 400.

2. The "Sunny F16 Rule" tells us that on a sunny day we can set the shutter speed to match the ISO setting. Your camera probably won't have a 1/400th of a second setting, so round off to 1/500th of a second. Close enough for a first attempt.

3. Look at the shadows the sun is casting. If it is clear and bright, you'll probably see hard shadows, but as it gets more overcast the shadows will get softer or disappear. So:

a. if you see hard shadows, set your aperture to f/16
b. if you see soft shadows, set your aperture to f/11
c. if you see no shadows, set your aperture to f/8
d. if the light level seems even lower, set your aperture to f/5.6

That's all. Set your camera to M. Set your ISO to 400. Look at the shadows and set your aperture. Point your camera at your subject, press the shutter halfway down. Your camera may have a little triangle, or a light or another indicator that lets you know if it thinks you are over or under on your exposure. Adjust if you agree, or go with your guess. Take the shot.

Look on your viewscreen, and see if you've got it right -- and then act superior to anyone using automatic modes.

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