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Manual mode and light meters

From: Foundations of Photography: Exposure

Video: 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.

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.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Foundations of Photography: Exposure
Foundations of Photography: Exposure

64 video lessons · 92052 viewers

Ben Long
Author

 
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  1. 8m 45s
    1. Welcome
      1m 57s
    2. What is exposure?
      4m 8s
    3. A word about camera brands
      2m 40s
  2. 9m 31s
    1. What is a camera?
      2m 52s
    2. The shutter
      3m 53s
    3. The aperture
      1m 33s
    4. Exposure defined
      1m 13s
  3. 13m 50s
    1. Modes
      2m 7s
    2. Pressing the shutter button
      2m 54s
    3. Autofocus
      5m 22s
    4. Light metering
      2m 3s
    5. White balance
      1m 24s
  4. 29m 26s
    1. Shooting sharp images
      1m 58s
    2. Noting shutter speed
      4m 3s
    3. Taking control of shutter speed
      1m 30s
    4. Stop defined
      2m 50s
    5. Shutter priority mode
      4m 34s
    6. Exercise: Shutter speed
      40s
    7. Reciprocity
      3m 13s
    8. Controlling motion
      7m 8s
    9. Shutter speed increments
      2m 21s
    10. Exercise: Go work with shutter speed
      1m 9s
  5. 26m 2s
    1. Depth of field
      1m 53s
    2. How aperture is measured
      2m 42s
    3. Aperture priority mode
      4m 57s
    4. Lens speed
      53s
    5. Shooting deep depth of field
      3m 53s
    6. Shooting shallow depth of field
      2m 50s
    7. The depth-of-field preview button
      4m 24s
    8. How shallow should you be?
      2m 47s
    9. Exercise: Go work with aperture
      1m 43s
  6. 16m 26s
    1. ISO: The third exposure parameter
      6m 27s
    2. Assessing your camera's high ISO
      5m 32s
    3. Shooting in low light
      3m 32s
    4. Exercise: Shooting in low light
      55s
  7. 14m 30s
    1. White balance controls
      5m 37s
    2. Adjusting white balance manually
      4m 25s
    3. Shooting raw
      4m 28s
  8. 6m 3s
    1. How light meters work
      1m 47s
    2. Why are there different modes?
      4m 16s
  9. 33m 58s
    1. Exposure compensation
      4m 0s
    2. Intentional overexposure
      2m 40s
    3. Intentional underexposure
      1m 42s
    4. Controlling tone
      2m 31s
    5. The histogram
      10m 4s
    6. Real-world histograms
      5m 49s
    7. Tone and color
      2m 16s
    8. Auto exposure bracketing
      3m 57s
    9. Exercise: Go work with exposure compensation
      59s
  10. 12m 56s
    1. Dynamic range
      2m 24s
    2. Exposing for highlights
      4m 15s
    3. Fill flash
      3m 11s
    4. Three solutions to the same problem
      3m 6s
  11. 12m 26s
    1. Manual mode
      2m 6s
    2. Manual mode and light meters
      4m 52s
    3. Manual exposure exercise
      5m 28s
  12. 12m 1s
    1. Custom modes and A-DEP
      1m 39s
    2. Program shift
      3m 52s
    3. Exposure compensation with program shift
      1m 58s
    4. An exercise in reciprocity
      53s
    5. Scene modes and in-camera processing
      3m 39s
  13. 8m 15s
    1. Shooting with post production in mind
      3m 45s
    2. Exposure strategy
      3m 51s
    3. Goodbye
      39s

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