No Cheat sheet needed

Let me start off with a rhetorical question to you – is it not half the fun being creative with your camera, and secondly, is the point of buying a nice camera for capturing great pictures necessary if you have no creative control over your settings in order to get the results you are aiming to achieve. You might as well save your time and money and just use a mobile device with an automatic option that you just press to take the picture… not much fun is it.

Many people are fooled by overlooking the actual reason behind the camera choice they make when handing over all that money in the initial stages of entering the world of photography. One must realize that a camera is an “enabler”. It is merely the tool that takes the photograph, the lens is what determines the quality and the desired feel of the image, and finally it is the photographer that presses that button to capture that perfect image.

There is an overwhelming feeling from people that believe using the camera in manual mode is complicated and is best left to the professionals. This is the initial feedback that I receive from my students when they start off with one of our Beginner Photography Workshops in photography, or our short Beginner to Pro Photography Course. It is not long after, do they realise how simple it is to “take control” as the driving force behind the camera, and experience the feeling of shooting what you intend to capture by being in charge. Then the fun starts.

I have been meaning to share these 3 easy steps with you to follow in a simple and easy manner to understand, whatever your level. So, let’s get started, throw away and burn those cheat sheets, this will be the first step in a forward direction. Remember you never forget how to ride a bicycle, you only get better, so start off on the right foot.

Switch on your camera and turn on the mode to M (manual) and set the lens to AF mode (auto focus).

Step 1 The ISO:

The ISO is defined as the lighting environment during the day with the sole purpose of ensuring that you void noisy or grainy pictures.

As we know, the lighting environment during the day could be sunny, shady or deep shade. That is simple enough… 

So, when you set your ISO, you will see a lot of numbers that represent different lighting environments – don’t stress, most of the numbers you can ignore. Basic rule, is that you will only change this setting when the lighting environment changes.

  • Pre-set according the lighting environment and change accordingly, only when required.
  • Remember high ISO settings lead to noisy pictures so always stay under ISO 3000 even if your camera’s ISO goes to 104 000 or higher, don’t be fooled, IMAGE QUALITY KING.
  • The reason the ISO offers you the option to select high numbers, is only applicable for the AUTO default on the camera, when the camera is set to AUTO. The Camera “believes” that images need to be exposed correctly, which is a good thing, but, the camera is not at all interested in the quality … just take a look at an image you have captured at sunset – the closer you look at the photograph, the more grainy it becomes.

The ISO pre-set guide:

  • Sunshine  100 or 200
  • Shade  400 –  640
  • Deep shade (set rise or sunset) 640 – 3 000

Step 2: The Shutter speed

The shutter speed is all about the movement of your subject. Slow moving subjects require a slower shutter speed than a fast-moving subject in order to freeze your image and get a sharp picture without unwanted blur.

The SHUTTER SPEED guide: (handheld, no tripod)

  • 1/125                          static to slow moving subject                                                             (still product, food)
  • 1/160 – 1/200            slightly faster moving subject                                                             (portraiture, model shoot, buildings, blowing trees)
  • 1/250 – 1/320           common for most general movement                                                 (street photography, events & functions, children’s parties)
  • 1/320 – 1/1000         fast and very fast moving subjects from sport to extreme sport     (rugby, soccer, motor racing, horse racing, cycling, lighting)

To make your life easier, you can again preset the shutter speed by making an assumption of the fastest subject you are intending to photograph, and set the shutter speed accordingly.

Remember, you can shoot a slow moving subject with a fast shutter speed, but NOT a fast moving subject with a slow shutter speed and expect crisp results.

I am trusting you are still with me so far and that my guide and examples work for you…

Step 3: The Aperture

(think of Aperture as the pupil of your eye – it is all about letting in the correct amount of light through the lens to avoid over or under exposing the subject, and, to ensure that all the colours and the shades in your picture are correctly compensated so you achieve what you are wanting as a final result.

Set the light meter in your view finder or o the LED screen on your camera to determine the desired exposure.

  • Correct exposure will depend on preference as well as on the lens and the lighting situation or environment of the subject.
  • Do not try and guess the correct f-number, that would be a complete waste of time, use the gauge on the light meter to adjust accordingly. (negative for shade or positive for more light)

Simple as that! Now you can start having some fun.

This is the beginning of your MANUAL MODE experience and the start to you being able to take control of your photography from behind the camera.

My suggestion is to attend a short workshop in order to build on this, as well as develop your style and signature as a photographer. Often with the assistance of appropraite references found on free visual platforms like Pinterest will be helpful in opening the doors to your creative mind. The wonderful part about photography is you never stop learning and developing your creativity as it is an ever evolving expression of art and the moment. A small tip … look at the composition, the lighting and the settings, if possible on the references and then start asking yourself questions.

Hope you find this helpful in very way.