Learning Manual Mode

Here is my timeline of events…

Young Child: Played with my Dad’s old Canon film camera and loved to take pictures.
High School & College: Would take my Dad’s nice Nikon DSLR and shoot my heart’s content outside and of my siblings.
May 2011 Post Graduation: My parents bought me my Nikon D7000 for my undergraduate and graduate school graduation present and it became official… I was in love with photography.
August 2011: I moved to Richmond and needed an excuse to figure out where I was.  I used my camera as a way to venture outside and explore my surroundings, and how great were my images with this new fancy tool!  Automatic, yes please, I didn’t know what any of these other buttons meant….
November 2011: I started this blog (eek)
December 2011: I realized that I needed to learn Manual.

What I loved about automatic mode was that it allowed me to concentrate on the composition of the image and where I wanted everything to be. I could design a layout of an image because I didn’t have to worry about the settings.  However I quickly realized that this fancy camera with all the weird buttons was not doing me any good by just being in Auto Mode.  In fact, I didn’t have any control over my images.  They were okay and some I absolutely loved, but I couldn’t get any images at night or in low light that I liked.  I realized then that the point of these cameras is to be taken advantage of.  They don’t have all of these settings and buttons for no reason and if you learn to use them and understand them, then your pictures can turn out exactly the way you designed them… instead of how I happened to luck out.

So I decided to find a class, a hands on class in Richmond that would teach me how to use my camera manually.  Being new to Richmond I had no idea where to start so I emailed a professional photographer whose blog I really enjoyed.  At the time I don’t think I truly understood how big this photographer was in the industry or that I would read her blog almost daily for the next 2 years.  I asked her if she knew of any classes or if she had taken any in the area and a few days later Katelyn James responded.  She was so sweet and mentioned that she had taught herself but that she had heard of Creative Live offering a lot of classes that were good for beginners.   Looking back I am so grateful for this email of encouragement.  She didn’t know me and is probably so busy with clients she really didn’t have to respond, but she did and it helped so much!

So I was off to Creative Live to find a class.  I found John Greengo’s Fundamentals of Digital Photography which included 92 video segments that went into every detail of the camera and photography.  The segments ranged in time from 10 minutes to and hour and 30 minutes long and included information about sensors, composition, lighting, aperture etc.  It was incredible.  I would come home from work and watch segments until I fell asleep.  I couldn’t get enough and found myself re-watching segments just to make sure I soaked it all in.  I would watch and watch and watch but it wasn’t until I went outside and started to practice that it all started to make sense.

Even after taking the class I spent about 6 months in Aperture Priority Mode because it was easier.  It allowed me to control one aspect of the image while the camera fixed the rest.  It wasn’t until December of 2013 that I switched completely to Manual and wouldn’t let myself go back.

What I will tell you is that it was uncomfortable at first.  It took longer to adjust all my settings and even still the images weren’t coming out exactly how I wanted.  Eventually though with more and more practice I started understanding the give and take of each setting and how they worked together.  I felt more confident and was getting images that I was proud of.  Even now, a year and a half later, I’m still thinking about the settings and taking a second to adjust,  but what I’m getting in return is something that I created versus an image that was captured automatically.

So here is a look back on some images I took in the very beginning and some that I love from being in Manual.  Also if you are interested in learning manual mode, I HIGHLY recommend the course I took on Creative Live.  He now teaches an updated version for 2014 but it is so worth the investment!  You have access to the videos and downloads forever and I still go back and reference a lot of them.

Automatic Mode:

Aperture Priority:

Manual Mode:

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