manual exposure : simplifed

by Mary Jane

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Ok mamas, I really, really hope that you have been giving manual mode a try. It really is the one thing that will take your photos to the next level. Just tell your auto mode that you’re officially fighting and you’re going to see what else is out there. I promise once you get the hang of it, you will never EVER look back.

I am an extremely visual person (hence the career as a photographer, I guess)- so no matter how many times I heard someone explain exposure, or how many times I read about it – I never really grasped it until I could get a visual. Here is one that worked for me, maybe it will help you too. If it doesn’t, just forget I mentioned it.

OK, I want you to picture a bucket. Now, I want you to visualize a stream of chocolate going into that bucket. There are three questions I want you to ask yourself? How big is the bucket? What is the size of the stream and how long will it be flowing?

Let’s say you were to fill a certain sized bucket. You could do it with a large stream of chocolate for a short amount of time or small stream for a longer amount time (and any combination in between) – in the end, you still end up with the same amount of chocolate.

In this analogy – chocolate symbolizes light. (don’t you love talking about chocolate?)

The bucket symbolizes your ISO, the duration of the stream is your shutter speed and the width of the stream is your aperature or f/stop.

ISO. It’s a general adjustment that sets the size of your bucket or sensitivity of your sensor. Because a small bucket fills up quickly, it symbolizes an ISO that has a high sensitivity to light. The ISO on a camera changes on a numeric scale. If you set your camera to ISO 400 it is twice as sensitive to light as when it’s set to 200. So as you go up in ISO – 100, 200, 400, 800 – your camera sensor becomes more and more sensitive to light. This setting, along with the shutter speed and f/stop, work together to determine a correct exposure.

Shutter Speed. In my fun little analogy, the duration that the chocolate flows is equivalent to the amount of time the shutter (of the lens) will be open. The longer the shutter is open, the more light will be allowed in.

F/stop or aperature. The width of the chocolate stream symbolizes the width of the opening in the shutter – that’s the f/stop. How wide is the shutter going to open? A small opening in the shutter, lets in a small amount of light to the senor and a large opening lets in a large amount of light.

As you can see these three elements do a little dance together to create a correct exposure. When shooting in manual, it takes three to tango.

So once you grasp all of those things – where do you start? First of all, what kind of lighting situation are you in? Is it bright, sunny, shaded, cloudy, dark, inside, etc.? The brighter your lighting situation, the lower the ISO can be. Once you set that – it’s kind of like creating a recipe. When cooking, there are an infinite number of ingredients that you can mix together to make something delicious and there are an infinite number of ways that you can put them together. This is the same with photography – as long as you get the correct exposure, you can play around with different pairings of the ISO, f/stop and shutter speed to get the look or feel that you want.

So…let’s get cooking!

Even if you’re not sure about the recipe (camera settings)- just keep stirring (shooting).

When you finally make a recipe (or take a photo) that you like – this might be your reaction.

And you’ll want to keep tasting…

..and stirring…

…and tasting…

It’s a sweet, sweet journey! Get started soon, so you can get the yucky recipes out of the way and be on your way to an Iron Chef!


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jill Perretta June 28, 2013 at 1:35 am

Camera Help Word Picture

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