Shooting in Manual Modes

The photography conditions are not too bad… the engineered intelligence on your camera is making decisions about all sorts of settings while you point and shoot. While the photos are coming out great, some curiousity arises: Who takes more of the credit for those masterpieces? You or the camera?  Automatic mode is cheating, but it’s ok because it sucks. Ok, that’s a bit too harsh. Seriously though, shooting in only automatic mode with today’s advanced cameras will probably work a great deal of the time, the problem is when automatic mode doesn’t cut it.

Learning manual shooting modes will be a great asset when taking photographs where the automatic mode doesn’t know what kind of shot you are looking for. Automatic mode doesn’t know when you want to do something creative. Getting a photograph with soft flowing waterfalls, selectively freezing action or nearly any shot that you say to yourself, “This would be really cool if I could…” will likely not become a reality using the Auto mode. The best summary is probably simply that control of the camera depends on the photographer’s ability to manipulate it in manual mode. If you’re not truly controlling the camera then you get whatever you get.

Once familiar with selecting settings offered by a manual mode it will be much easier to just get the camera to capture what you desire, and will be able to do it on the first shot. Most cameras offer different shooting options such as: portrait, landscape, close-up, sports, night and more which still automatically configure the aperture and shutter speeds but now the camera has a better idea of what you are trying to shoot. Those are a nice feature to have away from the full-automatic mode, but the modes found on some cameras, usually SLR style cameras, which are known as the creative modes are where the real settings are. These manual modes are labeled as P, Tv, Av, M and A-Dep.

The P mode, or Program AE, allows the photographer to set the AE (automatic exposure) which is really a fancy way of saying the camera chooses the optimum aperture and shutter speeds, just like in an automatic mode. The difference is that using this P mode, now more options such as continuous shooting, ISO, white-balance and more are now accessible.

With the Tv mode the photographer has control over the shutter speed. In this mode the aperture will still be set by the camera’s calculations on what will help achieve the best exposure. Setting this will now allow for photographs where action is frozen or long exposures, so this is a very dynamic mode full of many great opportunities.

Now with the Av mode we have control over the aperture. While the photographer now has control over how large or small the aperature is, the ability to adjust the shutter speed is lost. Adjusting the aperture can make a difference greatly on how fast a shutter speed can be used to get a good exposure. Aperture also has an effect upon the dept of field.

Manual is the control to rule them all in my book. This is the true manual mode which allows access to everything. Like the other manual modes, ISO, metering, white-balance and more are available, but the real deal is that shutter speed and aperture are both adjustable in this mode. With both the shutter speed and the aperture in the hands of a photographer any setup can be attained.

The final mode is the A-Dep mode which works by once the depth of field has been determined when taking a photograph the camera then figures out the proper shutter and aperture settings to attain the image. This mode seems like an automatic mode but does need some special attention to setting the depth of field.

There’s just a quick overview of what the different modes are and what they each do. Once comfortable with setting up the camera it will feel strange to ever go back to an automatic mode, where you cannot change the camera for yourself. Remember to explore the different shutter speeds and apertures to find that perfect exposure, and good luck with each shot taken.


In the world of photography there are millions of different things to think about when shooting any subject. There is the consideration of the tools for the job and their endless settings that will be tweaked, the lighting conditions, locations to capture the scene, and more than I’ll probably ever think to list need to happen before the bytes begin to transfer onto the memory card (assuming we are all shooting digital now). These are all very important but just as important as all of that is the way our photographs are composed.

Quite a while back I heard someone talking about the difference between a photograph and taking snap shots; How photographs are carefully thought out works of art, while snap shots are casual, without all of that methodic thought a photograph requires. All of the preparation and detail to how an image is captured shows a great deal of professionalism and always produces greater results than when you head out the door without a plan, clicking away in fully automatic mode.

Take the time when it’s available to place items in an organized manner, move the model’s hair into place, or find an interesting angle that gives a new perspective. There are many ways to improve the quality of a photograph by just thinking of it as an art. Before photography, when portraits  and landscapes were painted those skilled artists went by the principles of design remembering unity, balance, emphasis, contrast and everything else that goes with creating good visual pieces. They would not paint something with distracting poles in the subjects way or people’s limbs randomly cut off at the edges, so when composing a photograph it’s best if issues like those can be avoided. And when a perfect picture is burdened with a distracting element, photoshop is more than happy to help rectify the problem.

Since nearly all of the traditional art’s design concepts can translate to photography is stands to reason that two rules of composition are very popular in the photography world. These two rules are “The Rule of Thirds” and “The Golden Section Rule”. The rules work by dividing the frame into sections from verticle and horizontal lines. Where these lines intersect is where the subject should be photographed. Using these rules usually are a sure fire way to take interesting photos, much better than everything being focused at the center of the picture.

The Rule of Thirds describes itself well, because it works by dividing the frame into thirds vertically and horizontally to create the intersection points. These points are further towards the edges than with the Golden Section Rule, so I find that this layout can assist in creating movement in the composition. The Golden Section Rule is much more complex. It is much like the Rule of Thirds with how there are four lines dividing the image into nine sections with the intersection as the places geniuses throughout the ages have realised are where we humans naturally find visually comforting. This rule makes the intersections like the Rule of Thirds but they are closer to the center of the picture. Here’s a link to wikipedia’s page about the Golden Section Rule if you’d like to tackle understanding how exactly it works: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_ratio.

In this digital age where film has nearly become a thing of the past it is easy to take tons of photographs and hope for some good ones, but just even a few minutes of looking at the subject’s position and layout as well as remembering the artistic details and rules will help transform snap shots into aimed well composed photographs that will impress everyone.


I recently shot my first wedding that forced me to shoot in low light situations. The actual ceremony seemed like it had enough light, but for shots which required a decent amount of zoom I had to slow the shutter speed down, open up the aperture and raise my ISO. Then came the reception with even lower lighting, which would often dip to nearly no light for different songs the DJ would play. At the end of the night I had taken many photographs with high ISO. With the light sensitive ISOs like the 800 ISO I was using noise becomes noticeable, especially when there is still not enough light. Utilizing the flash more efficiently would have been more ideal but now afterwards I need to reduce the noise that is visible in my photos.

To work on reducing noise in photos I prefer to use Adobe Photoshop CS4’s camera raw function that I was introduced to by Ray Villalobos from planetoftheweb.com. If you shoot in RAW format the panel will automatically open when you bring a raw file into photoshop. For other formats like jpeg images the raw panel functions are still available with the change of a setting. Access to the camera raw panel can be found by opening Photoshop, then going under Edit and on down to Preferences where you’ll see the different options available in a fly-out menu. The last option in that list will be the Camera Raw. Once clicked the window will open where you can set it so that any jpeg or tiff can trigger the raw panel to open for adjusting the photograph. 

Now that photographs of any format can be opened in Photoshop’s Camera Raw we’re ready to utilize this awesome tool. Camera Raw in Photoshop has many incredible functions available to enhance and correct images, but back to that grainy ISO 800 I used for the wedding photos, so I’ll focus on the noise reduction.

Here in the Camera Raw window you’ll need to go to the Detail tab and that is where the Noise Reduction sliders are found. There are two sliders one for the Luminance and the other for the Color noise. Luminance primarily works to smoothen out the patterns of noise created by the sensitive high ISOs. Working with the Luminance can tend to blur the image so a balance must be found between softening the grain and losing important details. The Color slider helps remove those overly saturated color spots in the noise. Below are screenshots displaying not just how Camera Raw looks, but also the difference that the Noise Reduction tool can make.

There we have it, the use of Adobe Photoshop’s powerful Camera Raw editor and photographs with less noise! I also need to mention that in Camera Raw you wont notice the changes the Noise Reduction makes unless you view the image at 100% or further in. Once you have the photo adjusted as desired there is the option to simply save it right there or open the image into Photoshop where any other modifications can be made.

Back when I was about eight years old I started getting into video games mostly on the Super Nintendo and the Gameboy, which I played all of the time even in low lighting (which is probably why my vision’s not what it used to be). My family even played video games, we’d play four player games and that would be our nightly entertainment. Competition was fierce so naturally I got really into gaming, but over the years life gets in the way and I haven’t had the time or desire to play much. It takes a very good game to get me back into vegetating in front of the TV controller in hand.
Forza Motorsports 3

Forza Motorsports 3

Halo 3 got me to buy an Xbox 360 and break my loyalty to Sony’s PlayStation consoles that I had grown attached to mostly due to the fact that Gran Tursimo, the greatest racing simulator ever created was only available on their platform. But now Gran Turismo is not the sole hyper-realistic racing game out there. Turn 10’s Forza Motorsports was a hit on the original Xbox, then even better in the second edition which debuted on the Xbox 360. These were the answer to Gran Turismo, and a very good one at that, offering extremely detailed graphics, physics (which include damage), as well as nearly limitless upgrades. Both games level out about even with one having some things the other does and vice-versa, but now with Forza Motorsports 3 beating Gran Turismo 5 to the shelves and the high number of Xbox’s in houses versus PS3’s Forza may get to wear the crown by itself for a while.  

While I still have yet to part with my $59.99 plus tax for the game it is definitely on my radar pinging the “want” impulse every time I walk past the electronics section. I have played the download-able trial version already and highly enjoyed it. The in car view is greatly detailed and gives the truest perspective I’ve ever experienced in a game before. Driving a GT3 Porsche with all of the assists off (because that’s how real men race) its a blast to feel actually feel the torque reaching the rear end and the surge of a downshift in the controller. Car behaviors are all unique and I can only image they are all dead on… imagining because I don’t know a time that I’ve actually driven an Audi R8 before. The combination of the expected racing simulator dynamics along and beautifully rendered scenery & cars along with the advanced level of customization and community interaction will make any car enthusiast take an interest in this third rendition of Forza.

Here are a couple screen shots of Forza Motorsports 3 that I found online:


good weekend

This weekend was pretty good. Saturday night I got to see lots of family and friends at my mom’s halloween party. She had a haunted trail through the woods and I was a scarer on it, so I donned my leafy suit I use for hunting and was able to blend in with the woods and surprise people which is always fun. I got up early that same morning to walk around downtown Deland with my camera trying to find interesting subjects to practise those photo-skills. Then Sunday was not only church which is good by itself, but I’m also our music service’s new drummer. I’m more of a visual person, I’ve never felt I was given the gift of being musically inclined; So I’m having to work hard to get a one track mind to get three limbs to keep two or three different beats at the same time, but I’m not going to give up.


more new

Another new thing I’ve done recently is create a twitter account. I’m more of a non-social caterpillar, but my class requires it so I might as well go with the flow. You can follow me at: www.twitter.com/a7m2a7



This is the first post in an actual blog I’ve ever typed. I’ve never been to into blogging, its like keeping a journal or something, and why would I want to do that? I’ll give it a shot…