Learning to use manual settings will provide you with the ability to create the beautiful exposures you desire. The exposure in your camera is determined by several different settings. Exposure refers to the lightness or darkness of the image. The settings are: 1) the aperture, the lens opening, which lets in light and controls the depth of field; 2) the shutter speed, the speed by which the lens lets in light, and 3) the ISO, which controls the camera’s sensitivity to light. The right combination of these three settings will give you a nearly perfect exposure and give you the effect you want for your image.
When you are photographing in the manual mode, you can control both your aperture and shutter speed. If you are photographing in bright light, you should use an ISO of about 100/160, which also creates less noise. The higher ISOs, 1600 and up, which are used in a low light situation, create noise and also yield less color.
The images that follow are from my session with Ariel, a beautiful 13 year old in her Halloween costume created by her very talented mother. I used the APO 70-200mm F2.8 EX for the close ups, the 24-105mm F4 DG (OS) for a more wide angle shot and the 85mm F1.4 EX DG for the last image, a beautiful portrait lens. Below you will find the images and a discussion of the settings I used to create the images and the reasons for each setting.
When photographing in natural light, it is important to select your settings based on how much light is available in the location and the direction of the light. In this session, the location provided plenty of light, and the sun was at the right angle to place Ariel with the light behind her. This allowed for lighting up the background and creating a very even light on her face. Because of the nature of this session, looking more like a fashion shoot, I wanted the images to be very bright and crisp. The ISO was set at 160, because there was plenty of light, the aperture, at 6.3 still providing a soft background, but not completely blurred and the shutter speed at 1/160. The cloud coverage softened the entire lighting effect.
In this next image, Ariel is now facing the light. The aperture was changed to 7.1, letting in less light and adding a little more depth of field. At this point, I’m trying to keep all those handmade Butterflies in focus with all their hand painted detail. I have also changed the shutter speed to 1/320, also letting in less light, but keeping the image tack sharp and because there is less light through those two settings, the ISO is increased to 320.
As the light changed due to the cloud coverage, I once again adjusted the settings 1) opening the aperture to 5.6 and slowing down the shutter speed to 1/160, increasing the amount of light coming into the camera, and 3) changed the angle to shoot up so that Ariel’s Butterfly hat looked like it was up in the trees. The change of angle also changes how the background looks.
One of my favorite lighting styles is Back Lighting or Rim light. I love the look it gives the subject. It’s almost like there is a halo around her separating her from the background. It’s also a great way to photograph someone when the light is at an angle and still too bright to use directly on them. Because the clouds have now moved away, the settings were adjusted to have enough light on her face, (in this image she is turned away from the light) while at the same time not completely blowing out the highlights coming through her hair. The aperture of 6.3 provides what is needed for both light and my depth of field while the shutter speed at 250 gives that perfectly sharp image. Adjusting the ISO to 250 from 160 provides enough light for a great exposure.
This final image of the day was created right before the sun started to set behind a hill. The settings were adjusted as follows: 1) the aperture at 5.6, 2) shutter speed maintained at 1/200; 3) adjusted ISO to 500. These changes provided the needed light for such a dark setting. The image is evenly sharp, meaning the vines and Ariel is on the same focal plain. This image was processed in Photoshop using a textured background to give the image a little more depth and texture in the vines and to add more separation between the subject and the wall behind her.