If you’ve ever driven a vehicle you probably know that if you learned how to drive a manual shift vehicle it is easier to transition to any auto vehicle. On the other hand if your first car was an automatic you are going to have a steep learning curve when you get behind the wheel of a manual vehicle.
As the name suggests, “Manual” mode stands for a full manual control of ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed. In this mode, you can manually set the ISO, aperture, and the shutter speed to any value you want.
With this mode you are in total control of your camera but the catch here is the camera will not adjust and setting to compensate for your mistakes. This is the big difference between Manual and Aperture/Shutter Priority.
In Manual Mode you the user are in total control of the camera so you must pay special attention to your exposure controls.
This mode is generally used in situations, where the camera has a hard time figuring out the correct exposure in extreme lighting situations. For example, if you are photographing a scene with a very bright area, the camera might incorrectly guess the exposure and either overexpose or underexpose the rest of the image.
In those cases, you can set your camera to manual mode, then evaluate the amount of light in darker and brighter areas and override the exposure with your own settings.
Manual mode is also useful for consistency, if you need to make sure that both shutter speed and aperture stay the same across multiple exposures. Once you set the shutter speed and aperture to the values of your choice in manual mode, your images will all have consistent exposures.
It is important to be aware of your surrounding in Manual Mode the settings that gave you the photograph of your dreams an hour ago may now be underexposed because the sun is moving across the sky.
I always suggest students’ get comfortable with Aperture/Shutter Priority and use Manual Mode to get a feel for the fundamentals of photography. As a new student it is best to use this mode in your leisure time and slowly start to acclimate this Mode into shooting.
Please don’t run out with your new DSLR and try to shoot your son’s soccer championship game. If you do not have an understanding on how aperture, shutter, and ISO work you may walk away with three usable pictures if you are lucky.
Take the time to change your aperture, shutter speed, and ISO and see how they interact with one another.
A tip that I give new students in Manual Mode is to think about what you want to do with in a certain situation. If you are taking a portrait then aperture is your main focus. Start by setting your desired aperture and slowly adjust your shutter speed until you have obtained the correct exposure.
It works the same if you are photographing sports and shutter speed is your main concern.