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Manual Mode Made Simple

Lesson 7 of 7

The Process of Shooting in Manual

Khara Plicanic

Manual Mode Made Simple

Khara Plicanic

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Lesson Info

7. The Process of Shooting in Manual

Lesson Info

The Process of Shooting in Manual

Step one, you wanna visualize the desired end result. Okay, so you wanna ask yourself, am I trying to shoot a picture that has a shallow depth of field, or a deep depth of field? Do I want that blurred background, or do I want lots of range in my focus? Do I want my action to be frozen? Do I want it to be blurred? Do I want it to be super blurred, or maybe just a little bit blurred? Those are the things you wanna be thinking about. So don't worry like, oh what's my exact shutter speed? Just think like big picture, fast, slow, wide open, or squinty? And then, depending on how you answer that question, then you're gonna want to anchor down the most important variable. So if you're shooting a portrait and you're like, oh I want that yummy blurred background, 'cause it's delicious, then when you are in the scene and you're composing everything and choosing your settings, you're gonna wanna just anchor down your, in that case, aperture, because that's gonna give you the blurred background o...

r the not blurred background, right? If you were concerned more with shutter speed 'cause you're trying to showcase action, then you'd be anchoring down your shutter speed. Okay so, if we think of those three variables, they're like a triangle, sometimes I imagine them like a top, like a three sided teeter totter. I couldn't really showcase that very well on the keynote, so this is me doing it with my hands. So it's like a three sided teeter totter, you want to just anchor down whatever corner is gonna give you the effect you want, because the other two variables are just for balance, they're not gonna affect the creative look of the photo, they're just gonna add light or take away light, okay? So anchor down your most important variable, then balance the other two variables to give you what you're looking for, to make the meter happy, or to make you happy if you're overriding the meter like I do all the time, it's a guide. You're gonna balance the other two variables and then, you're gonna take a test shot, yay digital, take a test shot, and then adjust it as necessary and repeat. So let's walk through this. So, step one, visualize the desired result. So here's my backyard, and in the evening we have this gorgeous light that comes through from behind the fence, and you can see it, a big sun splotch right there in the grass. And I'm always like, oh, I can't wait, when we bought that house, I was like, I can't wait 'til we have a kid someday and I'm gonna just photograph the heck outta them in this yummy light by this fence. And I finally got to do it. (audience laughs) So that was really fun. And in my mind of course, I'm thinking, oh and it's gonna have a really yummy blurred background, it's gonna be gorgeous. So I decided that I was gonna shoot a portrait with really shallow depth of field, get that blurred background. So the variable that I wanted to anchor down was my aperture. So I decided I was gonna shoot at F/2, because that's really shallow, but not quite as razor thin as 1.2, which you know, when you're shooting kids and they move, you could have one eye in focus and one eye blurred because it's an inch further away from your camera. So I went with F/2, which is still kind of a gamble with kids, but I thought, well, at least I can make him sit there and do it a few more times, 'cause he's my kid. So we went with F2, alright? So now I'm looking at my scene, I've got F/2, and my meter's going, oh my gosh, so much light. So I'm going to do the next thing, which is balance it out. So I thought, alright, well next I'm gonna choose an ISO that's not crazy, because I'm outside, there's tons of light, I don't need ISO six million, but I still want something not too low, so I just chose 400. Is that the right answer? Who cares, there is no right answer. I could've chosen 200, I could've chosen 800, I just chose something, okay? So take a stand, make a choice. So I chose ISO 400, then of course, we had to come up with something for the shutter speed, and to make the meter happy, the shutter speed landed at 1/800th. If I didn't like this, if I thought, you know what, that's stupid, I could use a slower shutter speed, and that would allow me to lower my ISO, I could've done that too. You're the boss when you take these pictures. But I was like, whatever, that's good, I'm really only caring about this. So I took a test shot, and got, that, he's so cute! And I thought, you know what, that looks pretty good, but I like my stuff really bright, like I would err on the side of overexposed, just 'cause it's so ethereal and I just, I like it that way. So I went back and made an adjustment. So here is what we had before. The meter was happy, that was the image we got, and then I thought, you know what? I want this brighter, but I didn't wanna jack up the ISO 'cause it wasn't necessary. Look at this crazy fast shutter speed I have for a baby that's not walking yet. I don't need this. So I decided to slow down my shutter speed, which would bring in more light, so now the meter was telling me plus something, plus one, plus two, something in there, and then I took another picture and got that. And it's kinda glowy and just kinda yum. And once I was happy with my exposure, then I can really relax into the scene and just shoot whatever I want because unless a cloud rolls in front of the sun, or I'm shooting for hours, the exposure was gonna be consistent. So then I could just start shooting. (laughs) I love that one of him, and I could just worry at that point about his expression, and my timing, and my composition, and what's going on in the frame. So when I'm shooting this stuff, whether I'm shooting portraits, or I'm at a wedding or something, I tend to walk into the scene and I'm shooting my test shots and getting my settings before I've got my subjects workin' it, 'cause I don't wanna wear them down. I wanna have my stuff together, and I wanna be prepared and know what I'm doing, and I wanna be set up, and then try to elicit those fun expressions and things outta them. So that's why, in this example here, my husband was holding him and I was just kinda getting set up, and then I was like, alright, let's see if he can sit, and then he could, so we were blown away by that. So we got this. So that's how it works, it's really just those three settings, and then these five steps. And with that, we have some time left for questions, which I'm really pleased about. Perfect, I would love to see, do we have any here in the room with me? Do you guys have any questions? One question that you didn't really talk about a little bit, A Bardwell is wondering about flash. Do you wanna talk about how flash kind of, I know this isn't a flash class, that's a completely huge subject and we have plenty on it that you can check out, but just talk a little bit about how manual interacts with flash. Great question, yeah, we purposely didn't include it in the class today because we have 90 minutes. Flash is a whole other thing. When you are working with flash, I think of it almost as you're taking two pictures in one. You're taking, it's one picture of course, but you've got the influence that the ambient light is having, and then you have the influence of the flash. And your settings really dramatically can influence the ratio between how much influence the ambient light is having, and how much influence the flash is having. So the shutter speed is controlling that ambient light and how much of it's being recorded because you are allowing the camera to have its eye open for longer, which gives the ambient light a chance to speak up in the final picture. And the aperture is controlling the flash input, because it's the quantity of light that's coming in. 'Cause the flash happens in an instant right? So it's a tricky thing, for example, when I am shooting, let me think how I, when I'm shooting at a wedding reception, for example, I'm lighting the dance floor and all of that. If I want the flash in the scene, but I don't want it to be dark and just really look like I lit it with just flash, if I want the ambient light to play a role, I'm gonna use a slower shutter speed, and then I'll see the uplights in the corner of the room, and everything like that. If I wanna reduce the impact that the flash is having, I can stop down my aperture, and squint out some of that flash, and help balance the scene. So it's like two pictures in one, it's a whole other topic. (laughs) But that's what I'll say about it for right now. That's great. Kelsey Flynn is wondering, what about setting white balance and getting good color in your photos? Oh yes, well that's a great question. Your white balance is a function of your camera, and when you shoot JPEG, you get the opportunity to sort of bake in a color correction to your picture. So if you are outside shooting in the shade, you typically end up with very blue looking pictures. If I was wearing a white t-shirt and I stood in the shade under a tree and didn't adjust my camera, my shirt would look like a really pale blue, and it's kind of gross. So you'd wanna change your white balance. So that's usually a button somewhere, on a DSLR, it's probably easier than on a point and shoot. So my DSLR, I actually have a button right here at the top, I can just press that and dial in my chosen white balance. You may have to dig through your function menu to find it, depending on what camera you have, but that's something you'd wanna set before you take the picture. So again, test shots, and then adjust. So as I'm walking through these five steps, when I'm visualizing it, I'm anchoring it, balancing it, testing it, usually at that point, I'm looking at the exposure, but I'm also checking to see the color in the scene, and if it's oh my god, that's so blue, or it's so orange, or whatever, then I can make an adjustment at that point. So you change it and then take another picture. If you're shooting RAW, you don't have to worry about white balance because it's not getting baked in, that's something you would deal with when you process your raw files. Cool. Maybe one last one, and I'm gonna kind of expand from the question that's asked. They asked what settings would you suggest for shooting in daylight with natural light for bright, tight shoots? Obviously very new to photography. So my question is more of a, you've shown us the process, figuring out how to expose it properly, do you have any go-tos, go to settings where you're like, I'm in this kind of situation, I'm gonna start at this place and then adjust from there, as opposed to just putting in random numbers, taking a test shot, and going? Yeah, so when I'm shooting outdoors in natural light, I'm usually, I'm almost always shooting at F/2, or 2.8, or 1.something like that, pretty wide open. So if it's a very bright time of the day, then my ISO is gonna be, I'll start at like 100. If I'm out and it's middle of the day, really bright, I'll nail down, anchor down my desired aperture, and then I'll choose the lowest ISO I could get away with. I like to think of ISO, it's more of an enabling variable. So the ISO doesn't creatively influence your picture, it enables you to use shutter speed and aperture to get the look that you want. So it's usually a guess, I'll start with ISO if I'm outside, then I'll see what shutter speed is gonna make things balanced. If the shutter speed that makes it balanced is so slow that I need a tripod, then I'm like, oh no, then I'll go back to my ISO and jack it up so that I can increase my shutter speed because I'm not gonna go for a tripod. So there are no specific settings, and I think, those are the types of questions that seem really helpful. When you're new you're like, oh what should my settings be? But it's actually not a helpful question. I think a better question is, what am I trying to do and what setting is gonna get me there? And not focusing on the numbers, but focusing on should the shutter speed be slow or fast to give me what I'm going for? Should the aperture be wide or squinty to give me what I'm looking for? And then just go from there. And when you do it a lot, and you practice a lot, you get really good at it. I mean, it's shocking how quickly you can actually get pretty good at it. So now when I walk into a scene, like that picture with my son in the backyard, I just walked out there and was like, oh this is good, and I was pretty close. I mean, I made one adjustment from 1/800th to 1/400th, and I was like, done. You just get good at guessing, but I always still make test shots, always. And it's just practice, and then you'll see, you'll just get the hang of it.

Class Description

For consistency and control over your images, nothing beats shooting in manual mode. Join Khara Plicanic for Manual Mode Made Simple and take control of your images.

Learn how to expertly dial in aperture, shutter speed, and ISO; and learn the tricks of the pros for making this part of your workflow, so that you barely even have to think about it. Learning this is a key step towards opening up your camera's potential and taking better photos.  

In this easy-to-follow class, Khara will walk you through the basics of using your camera in manual mode. You’ll learn about the mistakes most beginners make and get a head-start on shifting your dials and controlling your settings. By the end of this class, you’ll feel more confident holding your camera and be inspired to go out and shoot – in manual mode!   

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Julie Lillard

I have been using my DSLR for 2 years and feel like I take pretty good pictures. I have read my manual and understood the basics of ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture. What I was having trouble with was understanding how they all worked together. I though Khara did a wonderful job of helping me understand how one works with the other. I also loved that she emphasized that there is no one correct setting, it is based on what you like! Great class and I would definitely recommend it.


Awesome class! I'm a complete beginner and Khara does an amazing job of explaining key concepts in simple terms. She also does a great job in explaining step by step how to go about setting up your shot when using manual mode. I'm feeling a lot more confident today after viewing this course. Khara is a great teacher. Highly recommended!

Karen Tesch

This was really a great class! She has a way of making things so easy to understand. She is charming, and engaging. I would highly recommend this class to anyone. I hope she does other classes because it is really worth your time. I wish I had seen this earlier in my efforts at photography. Thank you so much! You're a great teacher!