Focused on the eyes–The eyes are what it’s all about when it comes to portraits. What happens when your focus can’t hold for both eyes when your depth-of-field is shallow? Canon 40D. ISO 100 1/60 sec @ f 1.4. Captured in available light from a north-facing window. There is a reflector just out of camera view below where Â I’m standing over Lesly who is reclined on a sofa.
Automatic mode is so wonderful.
It frees you to concentrate wholly on what’s in the viewfinder.
In fact, if that’s how you do your best work, there shouldn’t Â even be any display in the viewfinder to distract you from your subject in hand.
As long as you don’t make mistakes either in setting your exposure, shutter speeds, ISO, White Balance or even focusing, an uncluttered viewfinder can allow you can be one with your subject.
The reality is, everyone makes mistakes. Some photographers are just luckier than others. Those of you who are lucky, wouldn’t you want to be lucky all the time?
Here’s 4 reasons to shoot in manual mode:
1. To learn from your mistakes
Even worse, do not delete your pictures as you’re shooting.
Everything looks nice and sharp and even properly exposed if you’re in the right lighting conditions on that tiny LCD monitor on the back of your camera.
Obviously I don’t mean save those pictures Â that were accidentally taken of your beautiful feet or other body parts.
Instead of deleting indiscriminately, after you go through and assign all your stars for ratings and picking out those gems, Â go back and look at the bad pictures.
Which is in focus?–The difference may be subtle but the one on the right is the one I prefer because the eye on the right which is closer to me is sharp. Knowing my own limitations about hand holding successfully a 50mm lens, I opted for the higher shutter speed and shooting wide open at f 1.4. The White Balance was set at Auto. I should have changed it just for the heck of it to see the difference.
Especially open in Photoshop those pictures where you thought you had a winner when you saw it in the viewfinder.
As we shoot, we inventory in our mind a particular setup or situation where everything seemed to come together.
I don’t know about you, inevitably those are the ones I look for first, when I’m editing.
So when I find I really really blew it, not focusing carefully, or paying attention to the lighting, or the pose of the model, I have identifiedÂ some areas of improvement to work on.
Critical and analytical thinking are important skills for a photographer of any skill level.
2. To diagnose problems
When you capture in manual, the EXIF (exchangeable image file format)Â info is a wonderful note-taking tool capable of recording almost everything with minimal effort on your part.
A good example is this: supposing you use a certain lens infrequently and then you start noticing every time you use it, you have a focusing problem.
If you have Apple’s Aperture of Adobe’s Lightroom, you can search through your entire catalog of pictures for pictures taken by that lens. All you do is enter in the search field the focal length of the lens for EXIF.
Now it will bring up every single picture ever taken by you using that particular lens. Then when you have a selection of pictures taken with that lens, you can further diagnose by comparing the aperture setting on those pictures carefully scrutinizing the sharpness.
If you look at the aperture and you see that consistently the lens is not sharp at that setting, you now know that perhaps you need to send that lens in for repair. This conclusion assumes you weren’t under the influence of any hallucinogenic substance.
Or you might learn that if you’ve out partying too hard and haven’t had enough sleep, you have no business shooting with a shutter speed below 1/500 sec with a certain telephoto lens.
Remember what Dirty Harry said.
Becoming a better photographer has a lot to do with knowing your equipment and this approach helps.
4. To become a light meter
Okay, this is a silly reason. Why would I want to become a lightmeter? Â Hear me out. From my years of using the same speed film daily, I know the exposure for taking pictures outdoors within one or two f-stops. Why is this useful?
Have you ever changed the ISO on your camera to shoot indoors and forgotten to move it back to 100 when you’re done?
If you know your exposure, this a like a self-check that something is wrong. If I’m outdoors and my camera doesn’t tell me 1/500 sec @ f5.6, I know my ISO is probably set too high.
Now if only I can remember to do the same when I change my White Balance.
5. To recognize and know when to override the camera
Oh… while we’re on the subject of automatic modes, do you know every camera has a threshold where the light level is so low it can’t possibly focus?
Also the scene has to have enough contrast for your camera to discern before autofocus can work.
If you’re lucky when that happens, the camera refuses to allow you to shoot.
Better I realize it’s having trouble focusing than letting me assume everything is hunky-dory and I find out only later that none of the pictures are sharp.
What you need to do then is get someone to shine some continuous lights on your subject and you manually focus–the old fashioned way.
You may have more reasons not to shoot in manual exposure mode than I do, so why not share them with me?