Manual mode and light meters
Video: Manual mode and light metersIn manual mode, you have full control of shutter speed and aperture, but it's very important to understand that in manual mode your light meter is going to work differently than it did in either the priority modes or program mode. In those automatic modes when you half-press the shutter button, the camera meters the scene and then chooses a shutter speed and aperture for you. Since you are choosing those, there is kind of nothing for it to do in that regard. Take a look at this set. We've got three cameras back on--well, two cameras and a projector back on our set. We are going to point our camera at it in manual mode and look at what happens to the meter as we move some settings around.
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Arriving at the best exposure for a photo is part science and part art. In Foundations of Photography: Exposure, Ben Long helps photographers expand their artistic options by giving them a deep understanding of shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and all other critical exposure practices. This course covers the basic exposure controls provided by all digital SLR cameras, as well as most advanced point-and-shoot models. Learn how to master a camera's metering modes, how to use exposure compensation and bracketing, and much more. By the end of the course, you'll know how to develop an "exposure strategy" that will allow you to effectively employ your exposure knowledge in any shooting situation.
- What is exposure?
- Exploring camera modes
- Light metering
- Shooting sharp images
- Controlling shutter speed
- Understanding f-stops
- Controlling motion
- Working with a shallow depth of field
- Measuring aperture
- Shooting in low light conditions
- Performing manual light balance
- Working with the histogram
- Using fill flash
- Understanding reciprocity
Manual mode and light meters
In manual mode, you have full control of shutter speed and aperture, but it's very important to understand that in manual mode your light meter is going to work differently than it did in either the priority modes or program mode. In those automatic modes when you half-press the shutter button, the camera meters the scene and then chooses a shutter speed and aperture for you. Since you are choosing those, there is kind of nothing for it to do in that regard. Take a look at this set. We've got three cameras back on--well, two cameras and a projector back on our set. We are going to point our camera at it in manual mode and look at what happens to the meter as we move some settings around.
When you first go into manual mode, what you are going to see are the last shutter speed and aperture settings that were used the last time you've used manual mode. So a 10th a second at 6.3 were the last manual settings I used whenever I last used manual mode, whenever that may have been. Now I still need to half-press my shutter button to autofocus. I do that, and when I do it, meters the scene. It does not meter the scene and change anything; instead, it meters the scene, and using my exposure compensation indicator down here, tells me whether I am properly exposed or not.
If it's in the middle, then I am properly exposed. If this was off to the side, I would be either over- or underexposed. So we are here at F 6.3. Let's say that I want to ensure really deep depth of field, so I want to go to a smaller aperture--that's a bigger number. On this particular camera, when I am in manual mode, I have got two wheels on this camera, one of them controls shutter speed, the other controls aperture. Your camera may be a little bit different in how it works. So I am going to change my shutter speed. First, I am going to re-meter so we can see, as long as this thing is up when I am changing my parameters, it will move around, and I can see in real time how my metering is going.
So that's my shutter speed control. I am going to change my aperture up to f 11 to get me deeper depth of field. Obviously, my image is darkening, closing my aperture down, and you can see, you should have noticed as I was turning it, this indicator, it was moving to the left. So what the meter is telling me now is that for my current settings--a 10th of a second, at f 11--I am underexposed. I am underexposed by 1 and 2/3rd stops. So I can of course shoot it that way, or I can try to change my exposure to get it back up to where it needs to be.
I am going to put my camera on manual focus, so that we don't keep having that refocusing. So I want my aperture here. I am not going to change that, because I am going for deep depth of field; instead, I am going to change my shutter speed. I am going to slow it down. As I do that, I went from the 10th of a second to an 8th and my dial went up there, so I can just turn this until it gets back up to where it supposed to be, which is 3rd of a second at f 11. But a 3rd of a second is an awfully slow exposure. I'd like to get that up a little bit higher. Even though I am on a tripod, camera shake can happen any time.
I am at ISO 400, so I am going to increase my ISO to buy myself another stop. So, I am going to go from 400 up to 800. And now when I do that my image is overexposed. You can see I am one stop overexposed. I've made the sensor more sensitive, and so it's getting more light with this same set of exposure setting. So, I am ready to change my shutter speed. I am going to pull it so it's faster and get it at a 6th of a second, at f 11. So I am at ISO.
I am back to ISO 800. I am back to my good exposure. I can take the shot. This is how it works working with manual mode. You've got to remember that your light meter simply follows whatever it is you've dialed in. You are in full control of how much light is going to hit the sensor. Your light meter then just tells you whether it thinks you've got too much or too little. Bear in mind it still assuming that you are pointed at something that is middle gray, so it's still-- when it says right, what it means is that it thinks you are saying something that's middle gray, so there is a chance that black things are not going to be as black as they should be, so I might want to underexpose, which I can do by just changing whichever parameter I want.
In this case, I want to keep my aperture where it is and work with shutter speed until I get maybe my exposure where I think it should be. This is all there is to manual mode. You are in full control. You've got your light meter as a reference. Is this better than working in a program mode or aperture priority mode? No, there is no better or worse, in any universal sense, to any of these modes. This might be better for certain situations, just the way aperture priority mode might be better for other situations, or program mode still for others. It's entirely a matter of taste. It's a matter of how you like to work.
If you learned photography on an all- manual camera, like some people did long, long ago, then you might be used to working this way. So, manual mode is a great extra tool to have in your photographic toolkit, and it's also a good way to learn more about exposure and reciprocity, and that's what we're going to do in the exercise in the next lesson.
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