Full Manual: Why?
Why photograph in full manual mode? There’s really only one answer, and it’s pretty simple. Our contemporary technology, while beautiful in its capability and sophistication, does not have the intelligence to evaluate a scene and calculate the variety of options for exposure to achieve the desired results we see in our minds.
For example, at some point in our photographic lives I’m sure we’ve all tried to photograph a night scene, only to struggle with the results the camera creates on “auto”. It’s doing its best, it really is, but the truth is that it lacks the intelligence to evaluate all aspects of a scene with prioritizing image quality (ISO). Typically the camera suggests settings that we might not have chosen if photographing on full manual.
What you see below demonstrates this idea very well given the winter season. When photographing in winter a professional’s skill is truly tested when photographing snow and ensuring that the snow isn’t too blown out, or bright. However, on auto you can see that the camera made its best decision, but I made a better one on manual. When on manual the photographer has full control over the functions of the camera. In the case of the two images below, I chose to overexpose by two stops, simply because I know how my camera shoots, and from experience I’ve photographed enough sun and shadow to know, innately, how to get the right exposure.
Another example is water and waterfalls. In the outdoors waterfalls are beautifully scenic, and a great opportunity to freeze that beauty naturally. When the camera evaluates what is typically average daylight, adjustments are made to expose with all high, middle, and dark tones in mind. If the desired result is the beautiful “misty and flowing” look, obviously a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second won’t yield those results; it’ll freeze the water’s motion. How would the camera know we were trying to avoid that image? The following examples were photographed at ISO 400, f22, at 1/8th of a second. Yes, a tripod was used.
The above image required manual exposure, and an innate sense that a slow shutter speed was necessary, even though it was midday. That was my decision; that was my vision. On its own the camera, more often than not, wouldn’t have produce that image simply because of the camera’s metering of available light.
Ultimately, in order to fully comprehend the capabilities of your camera to yield the results you want, the fundamentals of photography are necessary. Understanding the connection between shutter speed and motion, and aperture and depth of field is critical for photographing on full manual to direct your camera appropriately to create your great images. Remember, it’s your vision, your view of the world, you’re the creator! The camera is just the instrument used to translate what you see.
Author: Annalise Shingler of Annalise Shingler Photography