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View Full Version : Manual exposure mode, juggling three balls


yelvertoft
20-12-05, 16:53
Figuring that we’ve probably got some people lurking here who have just got a “serious” camera for the first time, and may be unsure about using manual exposure mode, I thought I’d put together an article.

Firstly, it’s worth remembering that for all the modern cameras fancy features, you are essentially still only changing 3 things to get the exposure right:
1. The aperture – how big the hole in the lens is
2. The shutter speed – how long the hole is open for, and
3. The “film” speed (ISO number) – adjusting how sensitive the sensor is

The best analogy I’ve come across for all this is that it is like filling a bucket from a tap. Getting a bucket full to the brim is equivalent to getting the exposure right. Not filling the bucket is under exposure, overfilling the bucket so that it spills is over exposure.

The aperture is the flow rate of the water from the tap, tap on fast = wide open aperture.
The shutter speed is how long the tap is on for, tap running for a long time = slow shutter speed.
The ISO number is a measure of how big the bucket is, small bucket = high ISO number of your film or digital sensor.

In the days of film, you could only change the bucket for a different one when you changed films, now you can change the size of the bucket with every shot. However, you can see that there are a multitude of different ways of filling it. For a given size of bucket you can have the tap on very fast for a very short period of time, you can have the tap on very slowly for a very long time, or you could have anything in between.

So, enough about filling buckets with water, how does this translate to photography?

Your lens has a range of adjustment to set the aperture, these set the size of the hole the light can pass through. These are marked as f-numbers. The standard sequence of f-numbers runs as:
1.4 2.0 2.8 4.0 5.6 8.0 11 16 22
This seems an odd sequence of arbitrary numbers, it isn’t, but that’s another thread for another day. The important thing to remember for the moment is that the smaller the number, the bigger the hole. The bigger the hole, the more light is able to pass through it.

Your camera has a range of shutter speeds, the amount of time the shutter is open for. The standard sequence of shutter speeds is:
8seconds, 4sec, 2sec, 1sec, 1/2sec, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000

Modern cameras will often have setting in between the figures listed above for both aperture and shutter speed but I’m trying to keep things simple for the moment. You can see that the sequence of shutter speeds listed above, each setting is (near enough) double or half the speed of each of its neighbours. So, in this sequence the shutter is open for half or twice as long. If all other factors are equal, there will be half the amount of light getting through to the sensor for each increment along this sequence from left to right.

It may not seem like it, but the sequence of f-numbers listed above is also a sequence where each step will allow half the amount of light through if read from left to right, or twice the amount of light through for each step from right to left, i.e. f/8.0 lets through twice the amount of light as f/11 or half the amount of light of f/5.6.

Your camera has a range of ISO speeds, typically:
100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
You can see that each number is again, double or half that of its neighbours. Again, your camera may have other setting between those listed but bear with me. Each of the numbers in the sequence from left to right will need half the amount of light to achieve the correct exposure.

So, lets start to join up the dots. If you use your camera in program mode, it may tell you that it wants to use ISO200, f/5.6 and 1/60th of a second. You can change any of these settings when using manual mode and still get the exposure right, you can get that bucket brim full in a variety of different ways. Bear in mind that in manual mode, the camera’s meter will advise you of its opinion of the exposure, usually by indicating a negative figure e.g. –1.0 if it thinks you are using a combination that will result in under exposure or a positive number e.g. +1.0 for over exposure. For each whole number indicated over or under exposed, you need to move one step along in any one of the sequences listed.

Looking at the three sequences listed above, for our combination of ISO200, f/5.6, 1/60th, if we keep the ISO the same at 200, we could also achieve the correct exposure by doubling the exposure time to 1/30th and closing down the aperture to f/8.0. This can be continued along the sequence(s). Or, we could go the other way and set 1/125th second shutter speed and open up the aperture to f/4.0. If your camera has a "program shift" feature, you are effectively running along the line of acceptable combinations of aperture/shutter speed.

If we were to adjust the ISO figure to 400, the sensor would be twice as sensitive, so only need half the amount of light to get the correct exposure. If this were the case, we could keep the shutter speed the same at 1/60th and close down the aperture to f/8.0, or keep the aperture the same at f/5.6 and double the shutter speed to 1/125th. I hope you can see from this that in manual mode, you can change any of the variables, typically changing any two from the set of three, and still get the same exposure.

Why would you want to do this? There’s another few new threads there………..

I hope someone out there finds this useful.

Duncan.

henryb
20-12-05, 17:16
Duncan, thanks for this info ,this is what I,m trying to get to grips with...hb

Nigel G
20-12-05, 17:59
When I upgraded from a CP4500 to an Oly C-7070 for digiscoping I intially tried all the same settings I had used previously. However in Aperture Priority mode I soon found the camera wouldn't go below 1/30 and skipped most of the intermediate shutter speeds.

Consequently to get what I wanted I had little choice but to take the plunge and go manual and frankly its probably the best thing I've done in taking the mystery out this whole business. The absolute key in my mind is to watch the camera's built in meter and (for my camera at least) keep the figure between 0 and about -0.7 and your shot will be fine.

Taking that plunge has also taught me a lot about exposure for more difficult subjects which have particularly dark or light aspects within the overall composition. I don't get it right all the time by any means but at least I now have the confidence to give it a go and I highly recommend some experimentation for anyone who hasn't yet given it a try.

KC Foggin
20-12-05, 18:26
Duncan, this is excellent and I'm going to make it into a "sticky" in this forum.

Don Hoey
21-12-05, 12:57
Nice one Duncan. :)

I did a similar thing on paper when I ran a works camera club and people said they found it very useful. Too many starter books are not written from the perspective of the newbee.
Authors often cannot remember their own difficulties in understanding what initially appeared quite daunting and so express themselves simply.

Don

blackjack
26-12-05, 13:43
That was a well written piece on lighting control, Duncan! All that I can add is, when you shoot manual all of the time, you will eventually know exactly where you should be. It will become intuitive, I promise. It just takes many shots to get it right. Once you attain that control, your images will greatly improve.

yelvertoft
26-12-05, 18:11
That was a well written piece on lighting control, Duncan! All that I can add is, when you shoot manual all of the time, you will eventually know exactly where you should be. It will become intuitive, I promise. It just takes many shots to get it right. Once you attain that control, your images will greatly improve.

Eh? I've been using a Pentax K1000 and a Rolleiflex Automat type II on and off for 20 years. Does that count?

I don't think you quite understood the reason for my post blackjack but thanks for the encouragement. :D

Duncan

cuddy
26-12-05, 21:46
Thank you Duncan, this is spot on info and certainly explains things for me.


Regards brian r.

embe
30-12-05, 06:01
Thanks So Much Duncan Keep It Coming, Early Nights,weeties For Breakfast And Straight To Your Computer PLS PLS, I Am Going To Be Saving This Valuble Knowledge From Your 20 Yrs, Regards Embe

chrispie
31-12-05, 02:28
Excellent! I was told to read the posts here to learn about photography before signing up for a class. I'm keeping a running document in Word with all this information and look forward to playing with my camera settings. The photos on the gallery are such an inspiration. I hope I can post a "worthy" entry soon.

Dr.Manjeet Singh
31-12-05, 03:12
yelvertoft-thank you for the explaination-even a idiot like me has started to under stand what iso is -please continue and if you dont mind i am printing it so this old brain can read it again.Best so far which a newbie like me can under stand.Thanks a Million.:)

yelvertoft
31-12-05, 22:36
Excellent! I was told to read the posts here to learn about photography before signing up for a class. I'm keeping a running document in Word with all this information and look forward to playing with my camera settings. The photos on the gallery are such an inspiration. I hope I can post a "worthy" entry soon.

All pictures are worthy. This forum has no pre-requisites for posting pictures. Post a pic on the gallery or in the critique forum. You won't get "mauled", we're not that kind of forum. Just helpful constructive advice is the aim.

Thanks for the encouragement. I'll be posting other articles soon, but life outside of WPF is taking priority at the moment.

6eor6e6
12-02-06, 01:46
Thanks again this is great info and i"m glad I read before I went out today, will print to take with me Regards George

sassan
31-08-06, 03:50
Duncan, I really like the whole HOLE concept you're taking about. :)
I have no problem understanding that. But then about the bucket of water I am lost. What if the water is hot or cold what kind of picture would that be?:confused:
Well done my friend.

gordon g
05-10-06, 11:46
What if the water is hot or cold what kind of picture would that be?

That would be colour temperature/white balance!:D

sassan
07-10-06, 16:16
That would be colour temperature/white balance!:D

LOL.
You are right Gordon and you burned me with colors...:D

ollieholmes
07-10-06, 17:57
I have read this once and it makes so much more sense to me than any book i have everr read on the subject. Maybe you should write some more guides like this.

yelvertoft
07-10-06, 18:10
Maybe you should write some more guides like this.

I have, they are the three "Stickies" at the top of this sub-forum. ;)

vulture
05-09-07, 20:14
Thank you Duncan. Nothing's changed of what you wrote in 2005; just new readers, like me, grateful.

Looking forward to your next easy-to-understand (but far from simple)instalment.

Al Tee
24-01-08, 00:27
Figuring that we’ve probably got some people lurking here who have just got a “serious” camera for the first time, and may be unsure about using manual exposure mode, I thought I’d put together an article.

Firstly, it’s worth remembering that for all the modern cameras fancy features, you are essentially still only changing 3 things to get the exposure right:
1. The aperture – how big the hole in the lens is
2. The shutter speed – how long the hole is open for, and
3. The “film” speed (ISO number) – adjusting how sensitive the sensor is

The best analogy I’ve come across for all this is that it is like filling a bucket from a tap. Getting a bucket full to the brim is equivalent to getting the exposure right. Not filling the bucket is under exposure, overfilling the bucket so that it spills is over exposure.

The aperture is the flow rate of the water from the tap, tap on fast = wide open aperture.
The shutter speed is how long the tap is on for, tap running for a long time = slow shutter speed.
The ISO number is a measure of how big the bucket is, small bucket = high ISO number of your film or digital sensor.

In the days of film, you could only change the bucket for a different one when you changed films, now you can change the size of the bucket with every shot. However, you can see that there are a multitude of different ways of filling it. For a given size of bucket you can have the tap on very fast for a very short period of time, you can have the tap on very slowly for a very long time, or you could have anything in between.

So, enough about filling buckets with water, how does this translate to photography?

Your lens has a range of adjustment to set the aperture, these set the size of the hole the light can pass through. These are marked as f-numbers. The standard sequence of f-numbers runs as:
1.4 2.0 2.8 4.0 5.6 8.0 11 16 22
This seems an odd sequence of arbitrary numbers, it isn’t, but that’s another thread for another day. The important thing to remember for the moment is that the smaller the number, the bigger the hole. The bigger the hole, the more light is able to pass through it.

Your camera has a range of shutter speeds, the amount of time the shutter is open for. The standard sequence of shutter speeds is:
8seconds, 4sec, 2sec, 1sec, 1/2sec, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000

Modern cameras will often have setting in between the figures listed above for both aperture and shutter speed but I’m trying to keep things simple for the moment. You can see that the sequence of shutter speeds listed above, each setting is (near enough) double or half the speed of each of its neighbours. So, in this sequence the shutter is open for half or twice as long. If all other factors are equal, there will be half the amount of light getting through to the sensor for each increment along this sequence from left to right.

It may not seem like it, but the sequence of f-numbers listed above is also a sequence where each step will allow half the amount of light through if read from left to right, or twice the amount of light through for each step from right to left, i.e. f/8.0 lets through twice the amount of light as f/11 or half the amount of light of f/5.6.

Your camera has a range of ISO speeds, typically:
100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
You can see that each number is again, double or half that of its neighbours. Again, your camera may have other setting between those listed but bear with me. Each of the numbers in the sequence from left to right will need half the amount of light to achieve the correct exposure.

So, lets start to join up the dots. If you use your camera in program mode, it may tell you that it wants to use ISO200, f/5.6 and 1/60th of a second. You can change any of these settings when using manual mode and still get the exposure right, you can get that bucket brim full in a variety of different ways. Bear in mind that in manual mode, the camera’s meter will advise you of its opinion of the exposure, usually by indicating a negative figure e.g. –1.0 if it thinks you are using a combination that will result in under exposure or a positive number e.g. +1.0 for over exposure. For each whole number indicated over or under exposed, you need to move one step along in any one of the sequences listed.

Looking at the three sequences listed above, for our combination of ISO200, f/5.6, 1/60th, if we keep the ISO the same at 200, we could also achieve the correct exposure by doubling the exposure time to 1/30th and closing down the aperture to f/8.0. This can be continued along the sequence(s). Or, we could go the other way and set 1/125th second shutter speed and open up the aperture to f/4.0. If your camera has a "program shift" feature, you are effectively running along the line of acceptable combinations of aperture/shutter speed.

If we were to adjust the ISO figure to 400, the sensor would be twice as sensitive, so only need half the amount of light to get the correct exposure. If this were the case, we could keep the shutter speed the same at 1/60th and close down the aperture to f/8.0, or keep the aperture the same at f/5.6 and double the shutter speed to 1/125th. I hope you can see from this that in manual mode, you can change any of the variables, typically changing any two from the set of three, and still get the same exposure.

Why would you want to do this? There’s another few new threads there………..

I hope someone out there finds this useful.

Duncan.

It's a doddle compared to 27 years of marriage..!!..:confused:
Al.

andy153
24-01-08, 12:04
Thanks Duncan, a clear and concise post - very useful - whether beginner or pro we all need to be reminded of the basics from time to time and take our heads out of our pixels.

tifosikrishna
24-01-08, 16:24
that is a very nice explanation. i remember reading something similar in "Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson.

regards
tifosi.

xiaoli
10-11-08, 14:54
actually the problem of trying to figure all that out is what kept me from getting a DSLR (and the price) so what I got was an intermediate point and shoot that let's me play with aperture and shutterspeed but not both at the same time. Still taking my time working out how the one affects the other. It seems to be counter-intuitive to me but the bucket of water analogy is the best explanation I ever heard.

Glenvic
01-08-10, 11:05
Great article Duncan - l could have done with it at the beginning of Year 1 - it would have made so much more sense then. Thanks

jzhao1688
12-12-10, 03:52
I always use manual mode ever since I started with photography, because it's got more control over creativity than auto exposure. The only time I will use automatic mode when I'm doing a wedding shoot where I don't have time to fiddle with the manual exposure settings.

miketoll
30-07-12, 10:09
Really Good discussion for person like me who wants to learn new thing in photography. Thanks Duncan... Keep it updating.. I will visit this post everyday for new things...

I am very sorry to have to tell you that Duncan died suddenly some time ago. A terrible loss not only to his family but to the forum.