Photography Tips 2 – Using Semi Manual Settings

If you can master your camera’s semi manual settings you will soon see a difference in your photography.  For these I would stick to the AV (Aperture Priority) and TV (Speed Priority) settings to achieve the best effects.

Below is a description of the semi manual settings and how to use them:

1 Automatic (A - Green square)
This is a completely automatic setting which acts almost like a point and shoot camera.  In this mode, the f/stop or aperture (these are the same), the shutter speed and the ISO are all set by the camera. This is an ideal mode for complete beginners but for the step up to using semi manual settings, they should be ignored.



2 Program
In the Program mode, the f/stop/aperture and shutter speed are again set by the camera. However, you have control of the ISO and exposure compensation (making the image lighter or darker). So you can use the dial to override the digital camera’s suggested settings if you wish.


3 Aperture Priority
This setting enables you to choose the f/stop/aperture and the camera then selects the shutter speed to make a correct exposure for the aperture selection.  The aperture or f/stop is the size of the hole in the lens when it opens as you click to take a picture.  The smaller the hole, the higher the number with less light and larger the hole, the lower the number with more light.  Many people find this confusing, so just remember the f/stop or aperture number is the opposite in size to what it sounds like it should be.  Here is the f/stop/aperture range – again the lower the number, the bigger the hole and vice versa.


This setting can produce some interesting effects.  For example, if you want to take a portrait of a friend with the mountains behind, but you want the mountains out of focus and your friend in sharp in focus, then you would have a large f/stop/aperture (big hole = lower number), ie f/2.8 or f/4. 

Then if you want to have the person in the foreground in focus and the mountains far away in the distance also in focus also, then you would have the f/stop/aperture set on a higher number (smaller hole), for example f/11, or f/16

The focal range is called the depth of field.  You will have a longer depth of field and therefore more in focus with a smaller f/stop/aperture (higher number) and a shorter depth of field and less area in focus with a larger f/stop/aperture (lower number).


4 Shutter Priority (TV)



This mode is similar to Aperture Priority (AV), but instead of choosing the aperture you select the shutter speed (TV) and the camera sets the appropriate f/stop/aperture setting for you in order to achieve the correct exposure. The shutter speed is the speed that the lens opens and closes again.  If it opens and closes fast then it will freeze high-speed action. So if you want to shoot a skier skiing very fast down the mountain, you would set the speed high.  I would normally set it at 1000 or 1250.  This means 1000th of a second.  So it would produce a sharp image of the skier.  However if I had put the camera on a 200th of a second, this would mean the lens would remain open longer whilst the skier is skiing past and therefore the skier would be blurred.  This may be an effect you want to produce (motion blur) and therefore you would intentionally choose a slower speed.





5 Manual
In the Manual mode, you have to set both the shutter speed and the aperture yourself, which gives you total control of your image.  I won’t go too much into detail on the manual setting on this lesson.  However, after reading about Aperture Priority (AV) and Speed Priority (TV), I hope you will begin to understand that there are endless opportunities for your photography and that once you start using the completely manual settings, you will be able to play about with background and foreground focus with high speed, low speed, more or less light etc.  The opportunities are endless.



Lastly I will explain a little about ISO.  The ISO is the measurement of the camera’s sensitivity to light. The higher the ISO number the more sensitive the sensor is. If you want to shoot in lower light conditions without a flash you would use a higher ISO to get enough light.  I often describe the ISO to people like gears on a bike.  So if I find on the camera that I can’t get enough light on the largest aperture (largest hole letting in most light) then I would bump the gears up to get more out of the camera.  For example, if I was on an ISO of 200 and I found that I couldn’t get anymore light, then I would bump up the ISO to 300 or 400 or more.  Most DSLRs have a large range of ISO now and you can shoot quite amazing photos at night without having go have long exposure times.

Here is an example of where else you may want to use higher ISO.  You are out for dinner with friends after skiing and you take a shot of everyone at a long table.  It’s dark so you use a flash.  The people closest to you are bright and well exposed because of the flash, but the further away people are on the table the darker they are.  It doesn’t make for a great photo.  So to get a great photo, you would turn the flash off and put the ISO to something like 800 and everyone would then be exposed the same making it a nicer photograph to look at.


I hope this has simplified the semi manual settings for you.  The Ski Club would love to see the images you produce after experimenting with these.  Please feel free to submit your images with comments.  Good luck and all the best for 2013!


Click here to read tips on Ski Club of Great Britain website