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Sometimes you might have a very peculiar creative vision, or be facing a particularly complex exposure situation. Maybe you are shooting a scene and you want shallow depth of field and you want blur some motion in the scene and you don't care if the whole thing is a little overexposed. Or maybe you are used to working with a handheld light meter and you are using it to calculate exposure settings, which you then need to dial in by hand. Manual mode give you full control of both shutter speed and aperture on your camera. You can dial in any settings you want, regardless of whether the camera's meter thinks they're a good idea.
It might flash warnings to you about how it thinks you are making bad decisions, but it will still take the shot. To change to Manual mode I'll press the mode button. I am currently in Program mode. That's the P there, and we rotate the main command dial until I get M on, which is Manual mode. And as soon as do that, the Exposure Compensation dial lights up. We'll see why in a minute. Half-press of the Shutter button, or the press mode of the button takes me back to shooting. It comes in at whatever the last Manual mode settings I used were. Even if the camera been powered off in the meantime, it still remembers the last time I was at 1250th of a second at F 8.
To change shutter speed I use the main dial here just like I do in Shutter Priority mode. To change aperture I use is the subcommand dial just like I do in Aperture Priority mode. I can dial these to anything that I want and the camera will still let me take a picture. However, it's giving me some metering information at the same time. That's what the exposure compensation dial is doing, and all of this is also visible inside the viewfinder. So right now, at 1/640th of the second at F 11, it's saying that I am metered properly, that I'll get a good exposure.
But if I change my shutter speed, if I speed it up, now it saying I am underexposed by two- thirds to one stop of exposure. If I go to other direction, it's saying I am overexposed. So if I know that I absolutely want a slow shutter speed, or a slower shutter speed, then I am going to need to compensate for that with an aperture adjustment, and now I am back to good exposure. So I can keep track of my metering as I go, simply by watching the Exposure Compensation display. Obviously, Manual mode is also great for those times when you don't care about the metering.
You really need a particular thing and you understand your postproduction process well enough to know that you are going to able to compensate in one direction or another for over- or underexposure. Manual mode does not open up any hidden power in your camera. The only thing that it gets you that you can't get in any of the other modes is the ability to over- or underexpose in a very particular way. On very rare occasions, this will be the only way to get the shots that you want.
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