Manual Mode

When you use full auto mode you let the camera make all the decisions about shutter speed and depth of field. In many cases, this is the right decision but, as we have seen, there are times when you need to control the camera in order to make a specific photograph. Changing to shutter priority lets you freeze or blur images to imply a sense of movement. Aperture priority enables you to control the depth of field. And changing the ISO controls the camera’s sensitivity to light.

Manual Mode

When you turn the dial on your camera to M you take control over all aspects of making the image. You have to set the shutter speed, the aperture and the ISO setting. From my experience this can lead to a wildly over- or underexposed picture but don’t worry, just change the settings again until you have the picture that you want. In my opinion, the artistic benefits of full control over the image outweigh the inital hassle of getting the settings right in the first place. And if I’m honest, I enjoy the tweaking with those settings to get the exposure just right.

Manual Mode in Practice

1/200 at f/16 with ISO 100

A view of the Sagrada Familia from the rooftop of Casa Milà which is a few miles away. I needed to use a small aperture so that I could have both buildings in focus. It was bright enough in the Barcelona sun for me to use a low ISO … this helped to keep the noise down to a minimum. By using a reasonably fast shutter speed I didn’t need to worry about camera shake as I hadn’t brought a tripod with me.




1/250 at f/3.2 with ISO 100

This was at Folly Farm in the early summer. If you go there you will notice that the lions are (thankfully) behind a strong wire fence. By standing close to the fence, using a wide aparture and focusing on the lions I was able to make the wires ‘disapppear’. Because I had a wide aperture I was able to use a low ISO.


1/200 at f/13 with ISO 100

I wanted to take an unconventional view of Barcelona and the pigeon provided a good opportunity. It was a very sunny day so I could use a low ISO and a narrow aperture. Because the city is so far away it looks out of focus but not so blurry that you can’t see where you are.


1/250 at f/5.0 with ISO 3200

I was at a work event in Maenclochog Village Hall taking photos of people sharing stories. Storm Callum was raging outside so it was quite dark and I needed to have a high ISO. I used a fairly wide aperture to isolate individuals with a shallow depth of field while maximising the limited light available.