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Mastering Manual Settings

a beginners simplified guide….

Image of a sony a7iii

Either you’re new to photography or you have decided to take your skills to the next level, that level being manual settings. Most people stick to “auto” on the camera dial but the “M” on the dial is what gives you absolute control of the photo you create. Scary and exciting at the same time, let’s master these settings so you are not scared anymore. However, before we begin i may warn you that there is no right or wrong way to use your camera, if you create photos you love that’s all that matters. My job is to provide you with a skill set so you have another tool in your bag in case you need it for your artistic vision. So let’s get to it…

  1. Exposure
  2. Aperture
  3. Shutter Speed
  4. ISO

Exposure

What’s exposure?

When you first take a photo it falls into one of three categories, under exposed, over exposed or properly exposed. The goal of this exposure game is to get a properly exposed image.

How do i get a properly exposed image?

You can get a properly exposed image by adjusting your aperture, shutter speed or ISO. A properly exposed image captures details in the shadows and the highlights. In addition, most cameras are equipped with an electronic histogram that will help you get proper exposure if you learn to read it correctly.

What’s Aperture?

Aperture operates in increments of F-Stops, when you see it on your camera it looks like this “F 1.8”. The lower the F-Stop, the more light let into your lens. In addition, this is also impacts your depth of field, a common photography term referring to the depth of an image. An image with a shallow depth of field would be around “F 1.8”. An image with a deep depth of field will be around “F 11” or higher. Furthermore, the higher your F-Stop the less light let into your lens.

What is Shutter Speed?

Shutter Speed operates in fractions of a second, this controls the way your sensor captures an image. A slow shutter speed is around 1/15th of a second or slower, a fast shutter speed is around 1/250th of a second or faster. If you wanted to capture the motion of a glass falling off the table a slow shutter speed would do the job. If you wanted to freeze water droplets in mid-air a fast shutter speed is what you need. In addition, the slower the shutter speed the more light let into your image, the faster your shutter speed the less light let in.

What is ISO?

ISO controls how sensitive your sensor is to light. When you adjust your ISO you’re adjusting the sensors sensitivity to light. Adjusting your ISO to 100 would lower the cameras sensitivity to light, ideal on a bright sunny day or with studio lights. Raising your ISO would increase the sensors sensitivity to light. However, going past 6400 on your ISO can produce unwanted grain in your image so be cautious of that.

Notice the difference in the left corner of the image. The image at 80 ISO has finer grain appearing sharper. The image at 12,800 ISO has more noise, resulting in an image not as sharp.

Conclusion

The goal is to get proper exposure, you can only get proper exposure by adjusting your aperture, shutter speed or ISO. However, tricky lighting situations may prohibit you from getting proper exposure, for these situations you would do something called exposure stacking, more on this in the future.

How to take an HDR / Stack Exposures

So you’ve mastered manual settings and you understand how to adjust aperture, shutter speed and ISO. However, you’ve encountered a problem when trying to preserve really bright highlights and really dark shadows.

So, what do you do?

Hopefully your answer wasn’t give up, otherwise i won’t make my sweet ad revenue by you learning this useful photography tactic. Anyways, today ill show you how to stack multiple exposures so you can preserve those highlights and shadows. luckily, this is a lot easier than it looks, let’s begin.

First, you will need the following…

  • Camera
  • Tripod
  • Photoshop or Light room

Next, you will want to find a composition with your camera on the tripod and set your aperture, ISO and shutter speed as close to proper exposure as you can.

Notice it’s overexposed around the window, that’s okay we will fix this by stacking multiple exposures.

Now, keep your camera on the tripod and raise your shutter speed so you underexpose your image but just enough to where you can see detail in the highlights.

Notice how you have more detail around the window by underexposing the rest of the image.

Lastly, you want to overexpose your image by slowing down your shutter speed just enough to where you can see more detail in the shadows.

Notice how you have more detail in the shadows by overexposing your image.

Time for the grand finale, we will be merging these three exposures to capture maximum detail in the bright highlights and dark shadows. We will be merging these in Lightroom but you can also merge them in Photoshop.

Import the three images into Lightroom and then hold CTRL and select each one.

After selecting the three images right click then go to photo merge and click HDR.

Make sure Auto Align is checked then select high on the deghost amount and merge your image!

It’s that easy, you’ve just stacked multiple exposures to create an image that is properly exposed for the shadows and highlights, congrats!

Here is the final product after some fine tuning…

Thank you, if you found this helpful at all be sure to like and contact me in anyway you would like! Next, we will dive into long exposure photography!