In the last blog post I talked about the misconceptions of the Manual Mode and it’s negative implications it has upon new camera users. Joe was told repeatedly that in order to make beautiful images – Manual is the only way. That’s what the pros use. Poor Joe.
Without basic understanding of exposure it is however impossible to utilize this mode and another reason why so many camera users (the ill informed ones at least) stick to Manual Mode. So, what governs exposure and what can we do about it? We all know that there are shutter speed, aperture and ISO but how do we link them together to form exposure is the real trick here. To put it plainly, exposure is the amount of light hitting the sensor/film to make a picture.
Lets imagine light as water. To make a picture we need a certain amount of light/water. Lets say a glass of water. No more no less. Filling up the water in the glass would be a tap which you would have to turn on and off. The duration of the filling process (turning the tap on and off) in camera terms would be shutter speed. Say you need a full second to fill the glass with water but if you have a larger tap you might need less than a second. So in this case, the tap (or the diameter of the tap to be precise) would represent the aperture in camera terms. See the relation between duration and tap size? Exactly the same as shutter speed and aperture. The longer you turn the tap on the more water you’d get. Likewise the larger the tap the shorter the duration. Faster shutter speed needs to be matched with bigger aperture(smaller f number).
Say you need a glass of water and with a regular size tap you need 2 seconds to fill it up. To halve the amount of time needed (to 1 second) you need a tap twice the size of this regular one. Make sense?
Tap duration + Tap size = 1 Glass of water
½ Tap duration + 2 Tap size = 1 Glass of water
Everything has to balance out to keep the amount of water constant. Now what if we put this all into camera terms?
Shutter speed + Aperture = Exposure
1/60s + f8.0 = Exposure
1/30s + f11 = Exposure
1/125s + f5.6 = Exposure
If you have a camera in hand now try the above variations but keep the ISO constant throughout(your choice of ISO). Doesn’t matter if they’re too bright(overexposed) or too dark(underexposed). Just observe if they all look the same regardless.
So after all this where does Shutter Speed Priority comes in? As the word priority suggests, in this mode you are in control of the camera’s shutter speed hence Shutter Speed Priority while the camera adjusts the aperture accordingly. Note that there’s limit to aperture due to your lens of choice. Some have a maximum aperture value of f/1.4 while others might have aperture value of f/5.6. Likewise for the minimum aperture of some lens could be f/16 and some others f/32.
How does this translate to better shooting compared to Manual Mode? Easy because now you only have to worry about one thing instead of two (shutter speed and aperture). All you need to do to make good pictures is set the shutter speed to the appropriate speed and the camera will do the rest of your guesswork. You can almost always use this mode as you have control over camera shake provided by your caffeine overloaded self. Since most beginners suffers sharpness issues (due to camera shake) or the lack of it, having a comfortable handheld shutter speed is more important than depth-of-field. I would suggest anything above 1/60s (for a modern DLSR) as a good start.
So, go try this wonderful mode. Set your ISO to auto and your shutter speed to 1/60s and fire away. Here’s a inside tip from the pros, sport shooters rely on this mode a lot to shoot all those incredible photos you see in magazines.
We turn heads with our pictures – they turn knobs and wheels.