Modern digital SLR cameras can produce great pictures in automatic mode, but serious photographers should know how to take control and use manual mode. Switching your DSLR to manual gives you full creative control and helps you to develop your photographic skills. Making decisions about aperture settings and shutter speeds means you get to control exposure to produce different results and more professional-looking pictures. These tips will guide you to improve your photography by taking control of your DSLR.
Learn how to switch to manual mode
Many photographers routinely shoot in automatic mode and don’t know how to switch to manual. On most cameras this simply means rotating the mode selection dial to “M,” but a quick check of your manual will confirm this. Switching to manual focus usually means making a selection on both the camera body and lens. Always remember to switch focusing back to automatic mode once you’ve finished shooting in manual, as it’s easy to overlook this and shoot out-of-focus pictures.
Learn how to take meter reading with your DSLR
The exact method for taking exposure readings with a DSLR varies between different makes and models, so refer to the instruction manual to confirm how to do it with your equipment. Half-pressing the shutter button is the usual method for activating the metering system. By adjusting the shutter speed, aperture and ISO settings you can increase or decrease the amount of light reaching the camera’s sensor. The camera’s meter will confirm when the settings will result in a correctly exposed image.
Develop an understanding of the exposure triangle
The three elements of the exposure triangle are aperture, shutter speed and ISO setting. Each influences the amount of light passing into the camera and affects how a photograph will look. For example, the aperture setting determines how much of a scene will be in focus. By switching your DSLR to manual mode you can experiment with different settings and learn how to create different types of photograph. Understanding the exposure triangle is a major step toward being able to produce pictures like a professional photographer.
Take control of shutter speed for action shots
Fast-moving subjects will appear blurred in photographs unless you shoot with shutter speeds of at least 1/1,000 of a second. Select the highest shutter speed the lighting conditions will allow to guarantee the subject is frozen sharp. Action photography often involves telephoto lenses, so fast shutter speeds are also important to prevent camera shake spoiling your shots.
Take control of aperture for portraits
Shooting with wide apertures can instantly make your pictures of people look like professional portraits. Selecting a wide aperture allows you to isolate your subject from the background. If you want to specialize in portrait photography it’s worth investing in a lens with an aperture of F2.8. Higher aperture settings increase the depth of field in pictures, making them more suitable for landscape photographs.
Take control of focusing
Switching to manual focusing means you can chose the focal point in an image. Modern digital cameras have advanced focusing systems, but they can still produce disappointing results. For example, if your main subject is not in the middle of the frame your camera may focus on the background. Selecting manual focus means you can take control and and ensure your main subject is pin-sharp.
Examples of other types of picture you can shoot in manual mode include silhouettes and high-key images. As well as giving you a better understanding of how the settings on your digital SLR can be used to create different effects, switching to manual allows you to experiment with new techniques.