If you are a user of Auto Mode in digital cameras, then life pretty much seems good for you. You just have to switch to your preferred mode, press the shutter and the image sensor does the rest.
But what happens when you are taken out of your comfort zone. When the image sensor finds it difficult to get a grasp on the surrounding because there’s not much light and the result is a over-exposed image or one with grains (more on that later).
What do you do then ?
This article gives a basic understanding of the basics that every photographer should know of before venturing into the intricacies of manual mode in the digital world. It will help you to get a quick grasp of what awaits and what points to avoid as you venture forth. It gives a short and articulate view on how to go about the basics and progressively move forward.
ISO is an acronym for International Standards Organisation and it indicates the sensitivity of your camera to available light.
Higher ISO indicates that the sensor is extra sensitive to light and vice versa.
High ISO number is mostly used in cases where the situation dictates low-light photography. But with high ISO number (like ISO 1600 or above) comes the problem of noise in images. You must have seen how night time images seem to contain small grain-like spots in them. This is caused due to high ISO.
Now-a-days, companies are coming up with models which have the feature to transcend the barrier for high ISO numbers. They are able to deliver noise-free images at low-light situations and are also able to maintain the quality intact
Low ISO is preferred by most photographers because it delivers more details and quality in the images. If there’s plenty of light to go around in a particular location, then always go for low ISO.
High ISO = images with noise = low-light situations.
Low ISO = noise-free images = plenty of light.
Aperture defines the amount of light that can enter the sensor or hit the sensor, to be more precise. In photography world, light means information. So, the amount of light hitting the sensor defines how your image is going to come out and under what circumstances.
If the aperture number is low, let’s say f2.8 or f1.4 (aperture sizes are measured by f-stops), then it means that the lens has been opened wide. Which indicates that a huge chunk of light will be able to hit the sensor thereby gathering more data and sending that information to the viewfinder. This in turn will control the brightness or the darkness of the picture.
As the aperture number keeps on increasing, the picture becomes more dark in return.
Another important point to be mentioned about aperture is that it also controls depth of field.
In simple terms, depth of field pretty much controls the sharpness related to a picture as to which part is more sharp and which part is more blurry. Depth-of-field depends on:
- Distance between the user to the subject.
- Focal length of the lens.
In short, if you want bokeh-type images, prefer
Low number aperture = Shallow depth of field = Blurry backgrounds
If you want sharper images with everything on point (like landscapes), prefer
High number aperture = Greater depth of field = Sharp backgrounds
Along with ISO & Aperture, Shutter Speed is one of the most important pillars of digital photography and is responsible for all the countless images consisting slow-motion trails and fast paced images like racing F1 cars.
In layman’s terms, shutter speed defines the period of time the shutter will stay open for light to hit the image sensor .
Faster shutter speeds are able to freeze action and that is why they are more preferred for bird or animal photography because of the constant motion of the subjects.
Slower shutter speed is mostly used for motion blur photography. Preferred by photographers for catching star trails, lightning situations, flow of water in a waterfall.
Faster shutter speed however comes with less amount of light. So, unless the ISO and aperture are maintained accordingly, the image might lose out on sufficient exposure.
All the three points mentioned above come together to get the perfect exposure. Combination of the three elements results in a Exposure Value(EV) for that setting. All three are inter-related and any changes that is done to either of the three elements will bring about a change in the overall output of the image that you have clicked.
Attempt Manual Mode
If you have been using Auto Mode for a long time, then you need to stop it right away. You need to experiment with the other 4 modes that allows you to manually control the exposure of an image. Yes, Auto Mode allows you to click images without you having to worry about the intricacies of exposure parameters namely Shutter Speed, ISO, Aperture. But unless you nudge yourself and are prepared to make mistakes, you will not be able to explore your creativity and deliver pictures that might be able to tell a story.
Try out for yourself as to see what happens when shutter speed is increased or aperture. What effect it creates on the image. What changes are done to the overall exposure of the image. Whether there are blurs when you try to click a fast paced subject in slow shutter speed. Experiment with all the four modes and see which one suits you better for manual control.
The 4 modes are:
Shutter Priority (Tv for Canon models)
This mode allows the user to select the shutter speed of his or her choice while the camera decides on the aperture depending on the situation.
Aperture Priority (Av for Canon models)
This does the opposite of Shutter mode. Allows the user to manually set the aperture and also control the depth of field for proper exposure.
The camera decides the aperture and the shutter speed based on the incoming light hitting the sensor. So, all you have to do is change the ISO rating and the camera sensor will do the rest.
I would suggest users to abstain from this mode unless they are in a situation where it requires a lot of changes to be done for shutter speed and aperture.
Mostly preferred by professional photographers, this mode is basically your go-to mode when it comes to manual control over the way your click your images. It is an amalgamation of both Shutter and Aperture Priority i.e. it allows for control of both shutter speed and aperture.
There are other automatic modes too in most compact and entry-level DSLRs like Portraits, Landscape, Macro etc. For sure, they are fun to work with when you are a newbie or want to explore every feature in your camera. But it is better to abstain from such shortcuts as you start progressing. They are not the necessary evils that you need from your camera. As, you might get adjusted with them and there will come a point when the situation might demand something which is non-Auto.
And finally, Make mistakes.
Yes, you read that right. Make mistakes. Make errors with your settings. See what happens when you increase the shutter speed and under-expose the image. Or see for yourself the changes in an image when ISO is increased or decreased.
Don’t be afraid if your image did not turn out the way you wanted it to be. See, what else you could have done to better the image.
Share your images with fellow photographers for constructive criticism. Don’t get low when they slice your image for errors. In fact, reflect on the points that they might have mentioned and work on ways to better them the next time.