Photographic Explorers Message Board › Manual Mode - recommending against it for street photography

Manual Mode - recommending against it for street photography

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Chris B.
London, GB
Post #: 2
In meetups I've noticed photographers using manual mode out in the street. I'd recommend against it.

Manual mode is good for static, controlled conditions (e.g. in the studio) or in environments that confuse the camera's sensors (e.g. underwater). However, in the street, the camera will expose shots better in aperture priority (a.k.a. Av) or shutter priority (a.k.a. Tv) mode.

In these modes you control one of the variables (i.e. aperture size or shutter speed) and the camera adjusts the other automatically to get the best exposure for the conditions. In rare situations where the camera doesn't get this right, you can tweak the exposure using exposure compensation (shown on the cam as -2, -1, 0, +1, +2 etc).

You still have full artistic control in Av and Tv modes:

  • For blurry backgrounds and a sharp foreground, use Av mode and set a wide aperture (the lowest f-number your lens will allow e.g. f1.4)
  • To freeze detail in a scene e.g. droplets of water, use Tv mode and set a fast shutter (e.g. 1/4000th of a second)
  • To emphasise motion blur e.g. in the background behind a motorbike, use Tv mode and set a slow shutter (e.g. 1/20th of a second)
  • To capture lightning, night-time traffic as streaks of light, "soften" running water etc, put your cam on a tripod / stable surface, use Tv mode, set a very slow shutter speed (e.g. 30s)
  • To create starbursts round bright points of light use Av mode and set a small aperture (the highest f-number your lens will allow e.g. f22)

I'm sure there are some effects I'm missing and I'd be interested to hear the pros' thoughts on the general topic of manual vs. Av/Tv modes

user 3468842
Group Organizer
London, GB
Post #: 4
Chris, thanks for taking the time to write this concise but thorough article - if someone else starts a composition thread, we'll have a complete
guide to photography!

An additional tip I would give is:

If the light is poor and your shutter speed drops below 1/50th of a second (when using a 50mm lens or
1/200th of a second for a 200mm lens, etc), consider increasing your ISO, as camera shake is usually more
destructive to your photo than sensor noise (which can be reduced on the computer if need be).


A former member
Post #: 1
Hi... I'm new here but I couldn't help adding a tip to this thread.

Another solution in the conditions you describe, Trevor, is to use a technique I've heard described as the 'poor man's image stabilistation'.

You can use this when you find your shutter speed is 2 to 3 stops below camera shake level, e.g. 1/13th or 1/6th of a second on a 50mm lens. To do this, set you camera to continuous shooting mode and then fire off 3 to 4 shots. While the first one will most likely suffer from camera shake, but the second and third quite often don't.

Lighter lenses are best for this trick. Practice with your lens to see if this works for you and how low you can push your shutter speed.

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