Photography Basics: Learn Manual Mode (tutorial, Part 1)

Photography Basics: Learn Manual Mode

Most of the cameras that give you freedom to choose your settings have Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual Mode. In Manual Mode camera lets you choose all settings important for the exposure of your photo (how much light will hit your sensor or film). You don't have to shoot in Manual Mode, as every mode has it's good and bad sides, but if you learn how things work in Manual Mode you will be able to get more from other modes.

What will determine your exposure?

Exposure triangle

The amount of light that will hit your sensor is regulated by aperture, shutter speed, and ISO

Aperture represents a hole within a lens that lets light travel to your sensor. You can shrink or enlarge the size of the aperture to allow more or less light to reach your camera sensor.


Aperture or F Stop

Aperture on your camera will be shown as an F-number or F-stop (F/1.8, F/4)
The smaller the F-Stop bigger the hole on the lens (it is a bit weird because f/2 is more light then f/11 but once you get it it is normal). When you go from 2 to 2.8 you double the light that is going to the sensor. (you will need to remember the scale for doubling the light, shutter speed and ISO is easier :) )

Basic scale for Aperture

Shutter speed represents the amount of time camera shutter is open and that means for how long will light hit your sensor. Camera shutter is just a curtain that stays closed until you press the shutter (button that you press to make a photo) to take a photo. When you press the shutter, curtain opens, and stays open for amount of time specified by shutter speed and then closes and blocks the light to the sensor.


Slow shutter speed


Fast shutter speed

Shutter speed is measured in seconds. Most of the time you will use a fraction of the second. When you go under a second it will show fractions like 1/2 (half of the second) and most modern cameras go to 1/4000 of a second or 1/8000 of a second.

To double the amount of light that is hitting the sensor you double the time. If your shutter speed is at 1 second and you need double the light you will go to 2 seconds. If it is 1/400 you will go to 1/200.

Basic scale for Shutter speed

ISO measures the sensitivity of light. In film cameras it was the indication of how sensitive a film was to light. More sensitivity of film, less light you need. On film, to change ISO you had to change the film. In digital cameras film was replaced with image sensors.


ISO and Sensor

Lowest value (less sensitive) on most digital cameras is 50 or 100 ISO. Highest ISO on digital cameras is moving with development of new sensors. Doubling the number of ISO will double the light sensitivity of a sensor.

basic scale of ISO

The amount of light is measured in Stops of light. One stop of light means double the amount of light.
So if you change any of the elements in the exposure triangle for one stop more and another for one stop of light less you will get the same photo.
If your settings are shutter speed of 1/200, aperture 2.8, and ISO of 200, and then change shutter speed to 1/400 (curtain closes faster lets less light in) and change ISO to 400 (more sensitivity to light) you will get the same exposure.
different settings, same exposure

These are the basics about the elements that you need to know to learn how to shoot in Manual Mode. In next few posts i will try to go more in to the details of every element, and explain why and when you should pay attention to which.

Does any of this has any sense to you? Should i write a part two of this, or is it just to confusing?

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