Calling on Photographers For Manual Labour

By Haje Jan Kamps on at

A lot of photographers seem to reach glass ceilings at some point during their development: they upgrade their equipment from fully-automatic snapper-boxes to more advanced equipment, and they develop their photographer's eye bit-by bit.

Many photographers never fully understand exactly how the camera makes the decisions it does, and as such, fail to understand some of the basic bits about how it takes the light you see, and turns it into a string of lovely bits and bytes you can admire on your screen.


"M" for...Marvellous

So, for the next week, I have a challenge especially for you. Pull out of the protection of Program mode (p). Abandon the asylum of Aperture priority mode (A or Av). And surrender the safety of Shutter priority (Tv / S). Today, ladies and gentlefolk, we're breaking brand new ground. Flick your camera's mode switch to M for Marvellous, Mouthwatering, Masterful and Magnificent. It's time to kick your photography skills up a notch or two.

I'll be honest with you; it took me a long time to become comfortable with the tantalising M on my camera. "Hell, I've earned this", I've been telling myself. "I paid a lot of money for a camera that has a good light meter and reaction speeds faster than spiderman on speed, who am I to second-guess it?"

But alas, fear of the Manual setting won't help you become a better photographer. So let's make magic happen: this is how the boys are separated from the men, and the girls from the women. Unless you have an instinctive feeling for how shutter times and apertures work in perfect harmony, you'll be struggling to realise your visions as a photographer.


The Exposure Triumvirate

First off, do your research. Make sure you know exactly what aperture is and how it affects your photography. Wrap your head around the shutter speeds that will govern your life for the coming week. And, once and for all, find out what ISO is and what it does. Between the three of them, they govern your exposures, and will rule your life.

For one week only, set your camera to Manual, and only shoot using that mode. Don't cheat. Not even once. At the end of the week you're welcome to switch back. But maybe you won't -- at least, I hope not.

Image credit: Haje Jan Kamps / Photocritic