Join Richard Harrington for an in-depth discussion in this video Manual mode, part of Up and Running with the Canon 6D.
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- If you need total control, it might be time to shoot in manual mode. For example, when I shoot video or time lapse, I'll generally use the manual mode to dial in the correct settings. This way the camera will shoot in the method that I specify and not make any changes over time. The manual mode gives you complete control over both shutter speed and aperture. And what's going to be used here is that these settings become locked. Now your camera's light meter will still work. It's going to provide you feedback on the exposure of the scene.
But the camera won't make any changes to the shutter speed or aperture. Rather, those changes are up to you. To switch to manual mode, turn the mode dial to "M". The last settings you used will be shown. Use the main dial on the camera to change shutter speed, and the quick control dial to change the aperture. If turning the dials has no visible impact, check that the lock switch isn't engaged. Let's say I want to go with a real shallow depth of field and I open the aperture up.
With this lens, the widest aperture is F4. It currently tells me that I'm overexposed on the meter. If we take a look at a shot as well as histogram, you can see that's the case. Let's bring that up a little bit with a faster shutter. As I change this, you'll notice that the meter there updates. Now if the indicator disappears, just half-press the shutter release button to measure the scene.
Right now I'm measuring one stop underexposed if I shoot an F4 aperture in a thousandth of a second. You see there we are indeed underexposed. Let's dial back the shutter speed to a slower shutter. And because of the strong light background, I'm going to slightly overexpose. In this case, by 2/3 of a stop. You'll note that I'm at a shutter speed of 1/320 of a second, and F4 aperture. ISO 320, so relatively low sensitivity on the camera sensor.
Plenty of light to work with here. And that's reading more properly exposed. Notice that the white of the histogram isn't slammed to the right, but because this is a raw file, that'd be quite easy to recover. Now if I bump up the ISO a bit here, when I half-press the shutter release button, you'll see that the exposure indicator indicates that we are additionally overexposed now. That's because the camera's more sensitive at the higher ISO.
These three things of exposure triangle work together. Let's take that up a little higher, and you'll now see we're a full three stops overexposed. So if I was shooting at ISO 1600, I would need to back down the shutter speed here to two thousandth of a second. However, in this case rather than changing shutter speed, I'd be better off reducing the ISO, to have less grain or noise.
Let's keep that a max of 400 for this shot. I'll leave the aperture alone in this case, and just adjust the shutter speed. Here's the balanced exposure, although this will push the white backdrop more towards a neutral grey, and a slight overexposure. Let's go one stop over, and it's a proper base exposure. Although because of the white backdrop, I could likely go a little higher.
Half-press the shutter button to meter, and let's take that to two. And you see in that case the whites are pretty slammed to the right. I consider that a bit overexposed, and so let's back that off slightly. Let's take that to just one stop. Zoom in. And the highlights are looking good, and those midtones...
there's plenty of information there to recover. So overall, it's a balance of the two dials. Remember, when shooting in manual mode, you can change your F-Stop. This will make the opening of the lens smaller or larger. Larger opening: More light. You could adjust the shutter speed, which is the duration that the shutter is open. And if necessary, you can refine the ISO, which is the sensitivity of the camera sensor.
Shooting in manual mode doesn't really unlock any hidden powers in your camera. Rather it simply puts you in total control over shutter speed and aperture. When you combine this with ISO, you can manually maintain the balance of the exposure triangle. This level of control is very useful for shooting time lapse or video, or for precise artistic control. I recommend that you spend the time to get comfortable shooting manual mode to truly understand your camera. You'll also want to check out Ben Long's series, "The Foundations of Photography Exposure" to learn more.
- Taking shots in Auto mode
- Using special scene modes
- Changing image format and size
- Changing ISO
- Adjusting exposure compensation in Program Exposure mode
- Focusing manually or with autofocus
- Changing the shutter release mode
- Adjusting exposure in the 6D
- Shooting video