We have all seen it, that button on our camera, the “M” button. When you buy your first digital camera, the amount of buttons and settings can be overwhelming. There are buttons everywhere and for the most part, we have no idea what they are for. I remember when I first started out with my digital SLR, I opened the box, put the lens on the camera and walked around my garden, snapping photos of all sorts of flowers, shapes and colours in the garden. All of this was done on AUTO because I had no idea how anything else worked. I then went on a photography course and the world of MANUAL (the “M” button) was revealed to me. Suddenly, I understood how some of the amazing images I saw were made. I wanted to make images like that too and I realized, that shooting on manual was the way to do it.
I spent every spare moment I had, learning about the various functions of aperture, shutter speed and ISO settings. I also worked on changing up my white balance and seeing how that affected my images. I was hooked. My camera gave me so much ability to customize how I shot my images. I loved the fact that I could control so many variables until I got precisely the shot I wanted. Of course, it took a fair amount of practice and there were lots of deletable shots, but eventually, I was able to get a good shot in almost any situation.
Shooting on manual will give you the ability to do a number of creative things with your camera. A fast shutter speed will allow you to freeze the action in your shot. A slow shutter speed will allow you to blur certain parts of your image i.e. car headlights (you will need a tripod though).
A wide open aperture (F/2.8 or 4.5) will give you a shallow depth of field; that means that only a small portion of the scene is in focus and the rest of the scene is softly out of focus. Using a narrower aperture setting (F/8 and above) will mean that more of your scene is in focus. This is useful for landscape photography, where you want everything through the image to be in focus.
Shooting on manual gives you flexibility and allows you, as the photographer, to take control of the camera. Yes, the modern cameras do a good job on the scene functions and those will work pretty well, but if you really want to get the most out of your camera, you’ll want to start shooting on manual.
By Barry J Brady: