Photo Lesson Overview on

CGIPix is an observation that Nikon, Canon and the rest no longer make cameras,
they make computers that you can attach a lens to.
Here is a basic overview of what it takes to create good, better or best pictures, you decide how much effort you want to put into your pictures.

Setting Camera Exposure Manually

Manual Exposure Basics

When transitioning to manual exposure the first step is to remove as many variables as possible. The three variables used for exposure are ISO, shutter speed and aperture.

ISO - Leave the ISO at 100 or 200, whatever the lowest ISO setting on the camera is, unless you have a valid reason to change it. Some of the valid reasons for changing ISO are light levels are falling off, or you want to add grain to a photo for a specific reason, i.e. band photos. If you can shoot at ISO 200 and get a usable exposure, do it.

This leaves you with two variables, shutter speed or aperture. From here, you will set one of the remaining variables as semi-fixed.

Aperture Fixed - If you're going for a lot of depth of field, or very narrow depth of field, the you set your aperture and adjust shutter speed. Obviously you can go outside of the bounds of exposure, so you may need to adjust the aperture to stay within the boundaries of available light or hand held shooting.

Shutter Fixed - If you need to freeze motion, or are inducing motion, then you set your shutter speed and adjust the aperture. Same with the bounds of exposure, you may need to tweak the values to keep the exposure good.

Situation 1 - You want a lot of depth of field, and are shooting a landscape on a slightly windy day, using a tripod, with a bright sun at your back. With the wind blowing, the shutter speed becomes more important than aperture. You don't want to use a 1/15 second exposure because the trees will end up being blurred. So here, the setting would be for 1/125 or 1/250 of a second shutter speed, depending on the amount of wind. (A good tip, wait for a lull in the wind to snap the shot, just to increase the chances of a good shot.)
A typical exposure would be:
ISO - 200
Shutter Speed - 1/250 second
Aperture - F14

Situation 2 - You are shooting a motorcycle, and want to freeze all of the movement in the frame during a daylight race. The shutter speed will need to be fixed, at around 1/2,000 of a second.
Here, the typical exposure would be:
ISO - 200
Shutter Speed - 1/2,000 second
Aperture - F4.5

Situation 3 - Shooting with a model, and using a wide aperture to blur the background as much as possible. The aperture will be set at almost wide open, F4 is a good setting.
Here, the typical exposure would be:
ISO - 200
Aperture - F4
Shutter Speed - 1/3200 second

Situation 4 - Shooting a waterfall, and the desired effect is to get as much blurring as possible. The aperture would be stopped down to the minimum setting, F22. A tripod would be mandatory. If you want a longer exposure, then add a polarizing or neutral density filter to decrease the light hitting sensor. Here the exposures would be:
ISO - 200
Aperture - F22
Shutter Speed - 1/100 second

All of the above scenarios are for full daylight, so the exposure values will change if it's cloudy, shaded or anything less than full sunlight. These are just for examples.

In each situation, you have to think about what the shot needs to convey, and what you need to set the camera at. It takes a lot more thinking, planning and concentration than just pointing and taking the picture.

Setting Exposure Manually

Light Meters

A good light meter is invaluable for setting manual exposure. It removes the guess work, and also becomes a great training tool. A light meter will tell you the exact amount of light falling onto a subject, and what the exposure value needs to be set at. Every time before you take a reading with a light meter, look at the available light, and try to guess the correct exposure. After a while, you'll find that you can accurately guess the exposure, without using the light meter. Still, use the light meter, but it's good to know you can measure exposure with just your eyes.

Sunny 16

Some photographers will use the Sunny 16 Rule to gauge exposures. With full daylight, the correct exposure is 1/ISO at F16. So a sunny day, ISO 200 would be 1/200 at F16. As the clouds come in, you gauge the light, and change settings. You really need to use a light meter to get your eyes calibrated to the levels requires, but it can be done.

Grey Card

The least convenient, but cheapest way is to use a grey card, and pull it out whenever the light changes. A grey card will work with the camera's built in meter, to give you an accurate reading. Set the grey card where the subject is, get close enough that the grey card fills the frame, take a reading with camera. Not pretty, not convenient, but it is effective.

Camera's Built in Meter

This is the least accurate method, but if you know what you're doing, it is effective. Again, use an external light meter long enough to calibrate your eyes, and it makes the camera meter more accurate. Set the camera to manual exposure, and see where the bar lines up and says the scene is properly exposed. If you've used an external light meter enough, you'll know whether the camera is telling you the correct exposure. Pointing it at a black car or a snow covered mountain, the camera will be off. Point it at a general landscape and it will be pretty accurate.

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