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Switching from Auto to Manual

by Bethany (follow)
Blog (395)      Articles (166)     

Making the switch from auto to manual is really quite daunting for a beginner.

Even now, after doing my research and reading up on every photography guide, blog and manual that I can get my hands on, the number of things that need to be considered for every single shot feels a little overwhelming. One particular blogger equated it to high school maths, what with all the numbers and settings you need to consider, but I personally think it feels more like reconfiguring a computer every time you need to take a shot.

But this is all still new to me, and things always seem more difficult on this end of the learning curve.

In making the switch to manual, I’ve found it incredibly frustrating when I can’t seem to spot the differences in shots I’m taking. In writing my last post, I experimented with different modes by making adjustments to aperture and shutter speed separately, but I couldn’t tell what the differences were in the photos until I’d uploaded them to my computer and had a look. Even then, I needed help to notice them.

It’s also difficult, as a beginner, to know exactly which settings to tweak in order to get the effect you want. Even if I find something I want to use as a subject, I spend more time trying to work out what to adjust, than I do shooting. Is this just a matter of having the relevant knowledge before we can apply it? Or is there a way to make this part easier?

Steph made an earlier post about common mistakes beginners make when first starting out, and I’ve been trying to keep those in mind as I practise. I just have to remember to adjust all the right settings when I move around.

Still, there are so many benefits to shooting in manual mode that make all of this frustration worth it. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m hopeless with Photoshop and image editing, so if I can cut that down to a minimum, I will. Why create extra work for yourself, when you can eliminate most of the issues at the beginning?

Manual mode also gives you more control over your image and style, and it helps you do battle with inevitable lighting issues. From what I’ve experienced shooting in auto all this time, lighting can be a fickle friend when you don’t know how to accommodate for it.

But until the day comes when I won’t forget what settings do what, I’ll just have to keep plugging away at it. It’s not quite as scary when you’ve got people who are more than willing to offer advice and critique.

Here’s a fun exercise I’ve been trying to do for practice. I’ve got a photo here that was shot in Auto mode, and the idea is to try and work out what settings need to be tweaked in this particular scene:

ISO 200, Shutter Speed 1/170, Aperture f/2.0

What settings would you change?

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