Played around with your camera in manual mode and learned how to control shutter speed, aperture, and ISO to get a properly exposed photo? Are you pretty comfortable with it? If not, stop going any further and practice more.
So do pros don’t use automatic modes?
Of course they do. In addition to manual, most of them use “Av” (aperture priority) and “Television Tv” (shutter priority) mode. There is no best, since each one is used in different situations for various purposes. Here’s an overview of the three:
Note: The actual letters on the mode dial may be different depending on the camera manufacture.
Manual: You are the master of this mode. Manual mode works well in venues where lighting is pretty consistent. Set it once, and shoot away.
Aperture priority (Av): You set the aperture and ISO, and the camera will automatically choose the shutter speed for you. It’s useful when the light is continuously changing. In general, this mode is used more frequently than shutter speed priority.
Shutter priority (Tv): You set the shutter speed and ISO, and the camera will automatically choose the aperture for you. I honestly never use it.
On some cameras you can set the ISO to “auto” and make the camera choose the ISO, but I won’t go into that because it is different depending on the camera and is not a essential function.
In the auto modes (Av and Tv), the camera will select the aperture or shutter speed so that the photo will not be overexposed and be white, or underexposed and be black; so it just takes the middle and exposes the photo so that the average “brightness” is grey. Take a photo of a white wall, a grey wall, and a black wall in the auto modes; they will all be grey.
This is where exposure compensation (EC) comes into play. It’s a way to “help” the camera get the proper exposure, since you are obviously a lot smarter than it. You can dial in an EC into the camera ranging from around -3 to +3 stops, telling it to underexpose or overexpose the photo from what it would do without your help, which would be exposing the photo to make it “grey”.
For instance, when I was trying to take a photo of my sister and dad in the shade on a sunny day on Av mode, it came out like this:
It’s an “okay” shot, but the camera, being stupid as it always is, tried to expose for the bright scenery in the background and make that “grey”, so consequently my family became darker. Later I dialed in a +2 EC and took a similar shot:
The +2 EC in Av mode made the camera overexpose the photo by 2 stops, so it made the shutter speed (the dependent variable in Av mode) 4 times longer than it would without the EC. Now my family is properly exposed, but inevitably the background is blown out. It is difficult to expose photos with mixed lighting.
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