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Moving to the World of "Manual"


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#1 of 7 Mike O'Connell

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Posted March 07 2013 - 05:53 PM

I had not been happy with some of the results of my photography and I knew it had to be me..definitely not my equipment. I took someone's advice and bought "Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson and have made it part way through and he convinced me to quit trying to rely on the camera to do the work and to make the move to manual. I had the first good chance to give it a try to tonight at my son's high school performance of the "Pirates of Penzance". I had tried to take photos in the same theater before without much success, but was relying on program modes in the camera. Although I definitely need some work, I was very suprised at what I could do by moving to the manual mode. My camera is a Nikon 5100 and the lens is a Nikkor 70-200 f2.8 VRII (that I picked up used for a great price) and I was seated in the back row of the theater (did not want to bother anybody with the photography). I did have the VR on since I knew many shots would be a lower speeds due to the lower level of lighting and I did use a monopod for support. My son is the one in the red cap in the second photo. Questions or comments? Take care, Mike

#2 of 7 Scott Merryfield

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Posted March 08 2013 - 09:42 AM

Mike, It looks like you did a good job in nailing the exposure on those shots. Under those conditions, shooting in manual mode is almost always the best way to go. Understanding Exposure is a great book -- I recommend it all the time to new photographers, and have loaned my copy to a few friends, too. As you get more familiar with your camera in manual mode, I would also recommend trying out aperture priority (Av) and shutter priority (Tv in Canon-speak) at times, too. There are times when these modes can help simplify your setup. I will generally use aperture priority mode when I am shooting outdoor landscapes, shutter priority when shooting wildlife or other outdoor action, and manual mode for indoor flash photography or other indoor shooting where I want to keep a constant exposure -- like ice hockey, in my case. Once you understand how and when to apply exposure compensation in Av and Tv modes, you will have just as much control over exposure as using the true manual mode. Personally, I probably shoot in aperture priority more than any other mode. If you are not already doing so, I would also recommend shooting in RAW mode with your camera, too. This will give you more ability to correct certain things in post processing if they are a little off when you shoot -- such as white balance, minor adjustments in exposure, etc. If you use Adobe Lightroom to process the RAW files, you can also correct for certain lens flaws, too -- such as distortion, vignetting, and chroma aberration. Think of shooting RAW instead of JPEG as developing your own negatives in a darkroom instead of sending them to a lab to print during the days of film -- it's just not as messy now with digital. Anyway, congrats on graduating from the automatic modes to manual. That is a big step in a person's photography journey.

#3 of 7 Cameron Yee

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Posted March 08 2013 - 09:57 AM

Yes, congratulations Mike! I was shooting my school plays back in high school, so I have a lot of nostalgia for this type of photography, and stage performances of various types continue to be one of my favorite things to shoot. I know it's even more fun and rewarding when you have a personal connection to the people on stage.


What ISO were shooting at? Just as general advice, I would say don't be afraid to shoot at high ISOs, like 1600+. Noise is going to be much easier to deal with than blurry subjects, and shooting in RAW in combination with the higher ISOs will also be a benefit.


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#4 of 7 Scott Merryfield

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Posted March 08 2013 - 01:17 PM

What ISO were shooting at? Just as general advice, I would say don't be afraid to shoot at high ISOs, like 1600+. Noise is going to be much easier to deal with than blurry subjects, and shooting in RAW in combination with the higher ISOs will also be a benefit.

I am not familiar with Nikon models, but Cameron is correct on high ISO. Some of the newer dSLR bodies have amazing high ISO performance. My Canon 5D3 still produces excellent images at ISO 6400, and I have pushed it even higher when necessary. It really can help in low light conditions when you need to maintain a certain shutter speed. Things have come a long way from film days, where anything faster than 400 was considered really pushing the envelope.

#5 of 7 ManW_TheUncool

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Posted March 09 2013 - 05:42 AM

Glad to see you're getting the results you want, Mike. I find ISO 3200 very useable on the D5100, especially if you don't mind a bit of grain in your images. Seems better than my old D200 at ISO 1600 even though the pixels are smaller and more plentiful. For this type, I definitely don't mind that level of noise/grain -- I actually typically leave the D5100 on Auto-ISO maxed at 3200 until I find a need to set it lower and/or manually. I do also shoot Raw+Jpeg, and yes, typically start w/ aperture-priority before switching to manual as need-be... _Man_
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#6 of 7 schan1269

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Posted March 09 2013 - 05:48 AM

This post makes me think it is finally time to go buy a dSLR. I've been waiting for the day it really caught up to my medium format camera. Methinks (compact) dSLR is close enough. I don't use 35mm much and medium format digital are still faint inducing prices.

#7 of 7 Sam Posten

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Posted March 11 2013 - 06:21 AM

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