Digital Photography – a basic lesson Part 2

A few weeks ago now I went through the exposure triangle – this explained at a fairly basic level the Shutter, Aperture and ISO settings that are at the heart of every photograph that is taken.

For all of us that own D-SLR cameras or a smaller bridge camera or even a compact camera, most are happy with staying in a full automatic mode of photography and letting the camera just take the photograph and make the decision of the end result for us. Cameras these days have various scene modes where they can recognise a Landscape scene, recognise a Face ready for a Portrait and can put your camera into “Sport” mode with a sport scene selection mode.  These “scene” modes are all automatic.

Is using an automatic scene mode on your camera a bad thing? No not at all. But sometimes there maybe occassions where you want to take control of your photo and not leave it to the camera to decide and I’ll cover a few examples……

You’ll notice on the top of your D-SLR camera you generally have a dial that allows you to select various automatic, semi automatic or full manual modes. The three modes I generally use and I will cover are –

1. A Mode (Nikon) AV Mode (Canon) – Aperture priority mode. This mode gives you control over the Aperture setting on the camera with the camera automatically selecting the Shutter speed for you

2. S Mode (Nikon) TV Mode (Canon) – Shutter priority mode. This mode gives you control over the Shutter speed setting on the camera with the camera automatically selecting the Shutter speed for you

3. M Mode – Manual Mode. This mode gives you full control over selecting the Aperture and the Shutter speed settings on the camera

Heres a few examples of why you may want to use Full Manual Mode or Shutter Priortiy Mode –


Example 1 – Full Manual Mode

I recently shot in a Studio in very dark conditions and with just a studio flash light firing and lighting my subject. I had to switch my camera to full manual mode for this session, but why?

Had I left my camera in full automatic mode or semi-automatic mode it would have “seen” that the room was very dark and adjusted it’s settings accordingly. For this example I would have been left with a shutter speed that was left open for a long time to let the available light in – which the camera worked out would take 6 seconds. Had I tried to take this picture hand-held or even on a tripod for 6 Seconds the end results would have been a blurry photograph as any tiny movements of me or my subject during those 6 seconds would have resulted in a loss of sharpness. In full manual mode – I overuled the camera and set my shutter speed and aperture manually knowing that when the Flash Light fired there would be sufficient light hitting my subject to get the photo I wanted.

My settings in manual mode were Aperture F11, Shutter Speed 160th Second – perfectly safe to hand hold my camera at.

Art Nude Portfolio

Example 2 – Using Shutter priority mode

To get some movement into a photograph that would otherwise be just a standard static snapshot I often switch to S mode on my Nikon – Shutter priority mode. On this particular day it was a lovely sunny day, lots of available light and if I left my camera in full auto mode it would have likely selected a very fast shutter speed for me – and rightly so. However I didn’t want to just get a snapshot, so by selecting S mode on my camera and dialing in a relatively slow shutter speed I was able to add some blur to the image as the car passed me – but that’s exactly the end result I wanted. Settings were 1/60th of a second which was enough to hand-hold and add some blur to a fast moving car


Example 3 – Shutter priority mode

Again, wanting to add some blur to a photo to give it a percieved sense of movement I had to once more over-rule my camera and select a slower shutter speed than what it was suggesting to me.

The way to do that was to either move to full manual mode or to Shutter priority mode. For me I needed to act quick and so by me setting the shutter speed I was happy for the camera to automatically select the Aperture for me, I was just concerned about slightly blurring the photo which you can only do by controlling your shutter speed. The settings were 1/25th of a second which was enough to blur the boxers arm movements but keep the rest fairly sharp. Had I left my camera in full automatic mode rather than taking control of it this photo wouldn’t have been possible.


Next lesson – Aperture priority mode and Full Manual Mode hints and tips….!

Try out S mode or TV mode on your camera and set the shutter speed yourself and look at the results, the chart at the bottom gives you an idea of what results you may get from setting the shutter speed yourself and taking a photo!



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