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When and Why using Manual Mode

by: Handayana

Many beginners learn photography ask me why we use the manual mode after created sophisticated facilities such as Auto or Program. What are the advantages manual mode and whenever we use it?

Well before talking about manual mode, you should know about the facilities that are on Auto and Program in DSLR cameras today.

In Auto or Program mode, all settings are delivered to the engine in this case our digital camera brains. Digital Camera brain is capable of reading a light rightness which is then translated into a number of parameters such as aperture, speed, ISO and even white balance. All data processed and in a split second with a speed camera came out the photos. What kind of images are? Of course it is nice according to the Camera
. So the camera will produce images with an average reading, meaning that the object we capture no absolute dark and absolute bright light, yes taken in average lightness. In normal mode Auto or Program mode is very helpful for normal picture taking. The normal sense of the shooting is done with the light coming from behind the camera, all objects lightening well, just click and nice clear picture come. Easy isn’t it?

Well some times when we will take photos with exceptional circumstances we have to change from camera brain to our brain. This unusual conditions such as:

- Photographing the sun rise or sun set
- Photographing with additional lights flash outside on its camera.
- Photographing with special effect like effect of motion, or a “star effect” on the lights for example.
- Photographing night with a low speed.
- Etc.

How to use manual mode?

First we have to set the manual mode on our camera. These facilities are located at the top left or right of the camera. After that specify what will be the object of our shooting.

Photographing the sun rise or sun set
. For example the object is the beach with sun set without any other object at the foreground. That is just a view of the beach and the sun alone. If we let all the settings on the Camera brain, the result will tend to white light and the sun is not visible red round or nearly invisible. The view that is obtained is the beach scene with white sky. This is a nice picture according to the camera. But that's not what we want to see isn’t it? Generally we want the sun round shape (although a small may be) and red or dark red. Well this is time where we use the manual mode. Lets our brain works. First set the aperture with a small opening (large number) eg 11,22 or 32. Use ISO 100 and adjust the speed of 1/250 or 1/500 depending on the sunlight intensity.

Shoot with trial and error, see what it does. In according with your expectation you may change the shutter speed or the ISO but not the aperture. You can compare the picture. If less dark just set at an accelerated shutter speed. If you change the aperture with bigger opening (small number) you may loss the round shape of the sun.

Photographing with additional lights flash outside on its camera. This is usually done in a photo studio where a lot of extra lights use. We can also use a dedicated flash but we did bounce means that flash are not directed frontal to the object image but reflective to wall, corner room, ceiling or other material as the angle of reflection. Dedicated flash mounted on the camera is able to measure the light intensity adapted to the distance of the object image on focus. Data of light intensity and distance of the object will be photographed then processed quickly by the camera and the picture shoot according to the brain of camera. Well unfortunately camera does not know if there are additional light that are not detected by the camera because the additional lights not be connected to a dedicated camera flash. Or dedicated flash that has measured the brightness adjusted to object distance from the camera does not know if that came out reflected light or other device fitted to muffle flash intensity. The results recorded image certainly does not match to the camera brain, and will produce images that are under or over-lighting. This is time you use the manual mode by trial and error. Try shooting a few times and set the aperture, speed or ISO to get the images in accordance with our expectations.

Photographing with special effect like effect of motion or a “star effect” on the lights. To get the special effect shots, we have to shoot with aberrant camera brain as a thinker. Sometimes we want to make photos with star effect on street lights for example. If we leave it to the camera brain the results will only be visible camera image with bright lights around it. Stars on the lights did not show up. Well for this purpose use manual mode. Now set a small aperture (large number) 16, 22 or 32 if any. Look at the view vender and then adjust the speed 2 or 3 step faster. The speed position 2 or 3 in the left of middle mark of light meter. For this purpose may be required Tripod for low speed. Navigate to the line of lights that will photograph and click, be light with stars effect.

Photographing at night with a low speed
Almost the same as making a special effect, if we want to capture the evening city with a wide aperture or a small aperture and speed was so low we had to use the manual mode. The low speeds to record a moving car lights on the street for example. Longer the speed setting longer the flow of light recorded. In this case it is absolutely necessary use tripod so camera doesn’t shake. Very low speed is usually above one second, some low-speed camera has the facility up to 30 seconds. Turn your shutter speed adjuster to the left and see in the view finder 20 sec, 30 sec or use B (bulb) facility.