Start manual

Tonight I am starting new courses, teaching constantly, and this reminds me to recommend the following to you:

Start using your camera in manual mode (“M”) and with auto ISO disabled. This way you set ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed. Those are the only three variables that can affect exposure – use them yourself and understand the effects.

You see, if you use automatic modes, these “fight against you”. For instance, increasing ISO will not make your image brighter when your camera is set to an auto mode, since the camera will adjust aperture or shutter “the other way”. But it will not tell you this, leadinf to confusion.

So your exercise for today – and until you understand exposure properly: shoot in manual mode the entire day and adjust everything yourself. This is the only way you will understand photographic exposure.


6 thoughts on “Start manual

  1. Hi Michael,
    I have a question that is somewhat related to this post. Hopefully you can help clarify:

    Recently in some event shooting that I did, I followed the famous Willems 4-4-4 rule with my 430-EXII set to ETTL metering. The pictures that resulted were a bit overexposed and with the ambient light not doing as much “work” in behind the subjects. (I think could have been a variety of reasons such as brighter ambient light, distance of subjects, etc). In these instances, what is your first suggestion to correct this? Flash compensation? change shutter speed / ISO / aperture?

    Any guidance that you could give would be appreciated!


  2. First: if the flash part is too bright, use FEC (Flash Exp Comp) to decrease that (say, -1 stop).

    Second – if the background is too bright, increase shutter speed. If it is too dark, increase ISO.

    Send me a picture with EXIF data and I’ll tell you my suggestion/analysis!

  3. Thank you!

    Would adjusting the aperture only be suggested/valuable in special circumstances?
    I will send a few samples tonight for your to review.


  4. I’ve been shooting manual for the past few days and am “getting it.” Still, I wonder about when to use exposure compensation buttons and when to use the dial to over-expose or under- expose.

    And, am I right, using a Nikon D80, that if the button is set to +3 for example, the dial has no effect on that setting?

  5. Michael! You are soooo right….on my recent trip to Arizona, I was using M 95% of the time…all because of something I learned from you. As I was in the desert and making use of tips from your one-to-one coaching and your blog, there were so many times I wanted to email you and thank you, but couldn’t, as I was not getting reception. Thanks so much for the last few one-to-one coaching sessions!

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