The “M” Mode, arguably the most dreaded mode on the mode dial of your camera. All mid-level point and shoot cameras, entry, mid and high level DSLRs have this mode on the mode dial. M stands for ‘MANUAL‘.How is the M mode different from the other modes ? Why do people fret about using this mode? And most importantly, why do the pictures you take look like they are from under water while some photographers can produce world class, tack sharp shots using the same mode ?

The answer is simple – understanding the M mode.

Understanding the M Mode will need you to understand the effects of the exposure triangle on your shot. In short it will require you to understand the effect of three elements of the exposure triangle on each other. Each shot is affected differently by each of the elements that make up the exposure triangle. A quick brush through about the Exposure Triangle is available here.

Now, that you know and understand basics about Shutter Speed, ISO and Aperture, let us see how the M mode works. If your camera is set to the AUTO mode and you enjoy taking pictures in this mode especially in a garden in broad daylight, or on the beach, try shooting the same frame (scene/subject) at different times of the day without changing any settings or even your position.

Click to Enlarge
The Mode Dial on your camera.

You will notice that all the shots look different to each other. This is how your camera operates in the AUTO mode. In simple words, the sensor senses the light conditions based on the amount of light falling on it and makes changes to the shutter speed and ISO settings ‘automatically’ before you squeeze the shutter. The major drawback associated in this mode is when you take shots in dimming light or far away objects in harsh light conditions. The sensor senses and instructs the camera to shoot accordingly.

On the contrary, in the MANUAL (M) mode, the photographer has unmitigated flexibility to tell the DSLR what needs to be done. Click to EnlargeYou can reduce the shutter speed to allow more light to fall on the sensor or reduce the aperture to decrease the amount of light. In simple words, the image can look exactly the same by tweaking these settings in your camera. The shot alongside was taken post sunset when light was at its lowest. To allow more light to enter the shutter and fall on the sensor, the shutter speed was set to 8 secs. In photography, 8 seconds is considered as a long duration as most of the time during the day the shutter speed is well above 1/80 of a second. The EXIF details are: f 6.3 | ISO 100 | FL 55mm | SS 8 sec. If you observe, the exposure of 8 secs has in fact blurred the movement of the waves causing a smooth effect to emerge.

In the posts to follow, we will focus on each of the settings to help you get the basics of M mode photography right. Together, let us embark on a journey that I like to call from AUTO to MANUAL mode. This might sound technical but it gets interesting as we go on.

Until the next post, Happy Shooting !

Don’t forget your comments and amazing likes below. Also, you may find the below posts of your interest if you have just bought your new DSLR or picked it up after a while.

Recommended reads:

  1. Composition
  2. Know Your Camera
  3. Understanding or Reading Light

3 Replies

  1. Thank you for posting this. So much information and easy to follow. I’ll be sure to try using manual mode this weekend ??

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