Moving on from Automatic Modes – Photography challenge

If you have been following these posts for the last few weeks then hopefully you will have a better understand of what ISO, Shutter Speed and Apertures are.

I recommend that you try out the little experiments that I have suggested in each articles as it much easier to do rather than to read.


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Depending on what type of camera you use it’s likely that if it is a DSLR then you will have at least two Automatic settings. They are AUTO and P (Programme). There isn’t really anything wrong with these settings, your camera is pretty smart at taking an image with a good exposure. But as I’ve mentioned before, your camera is always looking for an average ISO, and average shutter speed and an average f-stop (aperture). What results is an average image.


First I’m going to just go through the differences between AUTO and Programme modes. You might hear P being referred to as Professional mode. Trust me this is done in jest. The biggest difference is that AUTO mode will take control of everything, if its dark your flash will pop up and the camera will also control your ISO.

In Programme mode your camera will only control the Aperture and shutter speed. You can of course set your ISO to auto but honestly I’m not sure why anyone would want to do that.


Move your camera setting to M (Manual) and you have the full control. The flash will only pop up if you tell it to (or if you have one attached to the camera). You control the Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO.


Now the only thing to do is to work out how to get a great exposure.


There are three ways to do this and with all of these I do recommend checking the back of your camera (but only as a confirmation). This will let you know that you are on the right path.

The preview image on the back of your camera is fairly accurate but it’s not really designed for calculating exposure. Yes you could use the histogram but I’m not going to get into that right now!


Here are your three options for taking an exposure reading


1. Rely on years of experience and guess what the exposure is.

2. Use a light meter.

3. Use your camera’s built-in light meter.

exposure meter

The chances are you’re probably going to start off with the third option. Different cameras have various light meter setting from spot metering to average readings.


Start of simple and use whatever your default setting is, most likely an average setting.

You’ll see by looking through the viewfinder a digital exposure needle moving left to right depending on how you change your settings. Get that needle in the middle and there’s your average light setting.

Bare in mind that you could have very bright areas of your scene and very dark. This is typical in landscape photography so you might want to adjust your settings to compensate.


Experiment time!


Choose three different settings with different types of light source. For example; A wide landscape, an interior shoot with natural light coming through the windows and something in the middle like a portrait taken outside in the shade.


Set your camera up on a tripod to keep the same position

Take at least three images of each scene.

One image with the meter reading meddle dead in the middle

A second image with the meter reading needle set to -1

A third with the meter reading set to +1

You can extend this to two more shots per scene -2 and +2


Take a look at the images and see how they change the exposure for different scenes. Make a note of preferences for future use.


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