You have no doubt heard, time and time again, that you should learn how to shoot in manual mode if you want to improve your photography skills - so many times that I bet you are probably sick of hearing it!)
But exactly WHY is it so darn important?
Well, that's exactly what we are going to dive into in this blog post :-)
Before we dig in, if you are wondering what settings you could / should be using in manual mode? Then download my Manual Settings Cheat Sheet here and get acquainted! (Oh, did i mention it's FREE? No? It is)
What is Manual Mode?
Let's take a moment just to go over what manual mode is, just in case you are unclear. Manual mode is simply a mode that lets you manually select which Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO settings to use.
Each of these settings is incredibly important, because they have two functions - they control how bright our dark your image is, along with how your image LOOKS.
Now if you are brand new to photography, you are probably not going to be aware of what all these individual elements (Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO) even do, so in which case, don't worry about manual mode just yet. Concentrate of learning each of the elements individually, and what they do, then move onto one of the semi automatic modes so you are controlling just one element, then two, before moving onto full manual mode and controlling all three.
If you would like someone to walk you through this process, step by step, then be sure to Auto to Awesome. Because it is all broken down into individual steps, and you'll learn exactly how to control each one before moving onto the next, so it's makes it as simple as possible!
Why learn Manual Mode if my camera can balance the exposure for me?
The short answer is: because manual mode will give you the control you need to determine how your images LOOK.
Of course, there is a long answer too!
Here are the three MAIN reasons why learning to shoot in manual mode is a must.
#1- You can get more creative with your photos
Shooting in Manual Mode simply gives you the control you need in order to take more creative photos.
Firstly, you'll be able to control how to expose correctly for each image (which is far different than just getting the meter to read to 0 which is what your camera does!) and that will give you that creative control that you need. You can decide to underexpose and get a silhouette, over expose and get a bright, airy image, or just expose for a certain part of the scene.
Secondly, manual mode allows you creative control is because you can change how your image looks.
By taking control of Aperture, you get to decide depth of field - in other words how much of the scene is in focus. So you can get everything from near to far in focus, or just a small element of the scene sharp and let the rest fall into soft, buttery blur.
Shutter Speed lets you control how motion is captured - by either slowing the shutter to SHOW the motion, or by speeding up the shutter so that you freeze it.
And finally, ISO lets you control how sensitive your camera is to light, so you can take images in dark areas or in super bright light.
In manual mode you get to decide all three, so you can get super creative with your images!
#2 - You'll get consistent exposures
Have you ever taken one picture where your subject was perfectly exposed, and then another a few seconds later that was too bright or too dark? That inconsistency between your exposures is all down to your shooting in AUTO, or one of the semi-automatic modes like Aperture Priority.
That's because in these auto modes, each time you take a picture, the camera is taking a measurement of the light, and using that information to try to make an educated guess about the exposure. Any small changes in the scene: such as when you move the camera to take a slightly different composition, or your subject moves in the frame and so on, the camera will take a different "reading" of the light, and change the exposure accordingly - even though the light hasn't actually changed.
This is why two shots, taken moments after each other, can have very different exposures.
However, if you are shooting in manual mode, you set your Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO just once, and they will never change again until YOU decide to do this. This means that if you are free to shoot as many pictures as you want, and provided the light itself doesn't change (for example, the sun goes behind a cloud) you'll get a series of images that have the same, consistent exposures.
For this reason, it can be quicker to shoot in manual mode, and you will be able to get the same result every time you take a picture - instead of pointing the camera and just hoping that your camera will be able to do it for you.
This is when you get good at photography, because you will be able to know that you can get a good exposure, each and every time you take a photograph.
Sounds good doesn't it?! But, wait, there's more....
#3 - You can work with tricky lighting situations
During your photography life you are definitely going to have to (and want to!) shoot in some lighting conditions that may be less than ideal.
It's in these "less than ideal" situations that your camera's AUTO modes fall down - you'll find they just can't see and react to the scene in the way you want them too!. This is when you get frustrated and want to throw your camera against a wall because it's not doing what you want it to do.
Some "tricky" lighting situations can include full sun, back lit situations, situations where there are pockets of bright light, or shooting in low light.... in other words, simple, everyday situations.
In these cases, shooting in manual mode is a life saver!
In manual mode, YOU get to choose where to expose for, and how to balance that exposure, so you don't get dark, under exposed subjects or too bright blown out ones!
You can get a step by step guide to shooting in manual mode, along with so much more (like how to use light effectively, get tack sharp images and use composition tools to great effect) in my Auto to Awesome course. It's pretty nifty at getting you taking images you will be proud of!