Using Your Camera in Manual Mode #1


This series of Blog posts details how to use your digital camera in Manual Mode.  I’ll try to keep each post fairly short, but don’t hold me to that statement.  No one wants to read a long Blog post that just rambles on and on.  Each post will detail one or two topics at a time (hopefully).  I hope you find them easy to read and understand.

I’ve owned a few digital cameras over time - Canon DSLR (full-frame), Fujifilm X-T1 (cropped sensor) and currently, a Sony A7riii (full-frame).  As for lenses, I won’t even bother going there.  I’ve been practising and learning about digital photography for many years.  Key word is practise - one rarely perfects photography.

If you have any specific topics or questions you’d like me to discuss, please email me your suggestions.

Mode Dial

The illustration below shows a camera’s Mode Dial set to M (manual).

You’ve probably been using AUTO, or any of the other auto modes, e.g., portrait, landscape, close up, etc. for a while now.  In these modes, the camera and its firmware determines the best exposure for the image.  The simplicity of capturing a photo is the main attraction of these modes.  However, as you gain more experience, you may find yourself wanting to control the camera yourself.  That’s what these posts will be all about.

In this initial post, I’ll discuss two topics: the camera’s Diopter and give a brief overview of “correct” exposure.

The Camera’s Diopter

I wear glasses all the time.  Looking through the Viewfinder can be an issue.

If you don’t wear glasses then the Viewfinder’s Diopter default setting may be perfectly sharp and focused.  Congrats!!

The Diopter lets you adjust the Viewfinder’s image so everything is crips and focused.  Todays DSLR and Mirrorless cameras all have a Diopter.

The following illustrates the Diopter for a DSLR camera.

The following illustrates the Diopter for a Mirrorless camera.

To adjust the Diopter, look through the Viewfinder with your glasses on, or without if you don’t wear any.  Is the image crisp and in focus?

If yes, then you’re done!!

If not, slowly rotate the dial clockwise and/or countercheck wise until the image is crisp and sharp.  That’s it, your done!!

Exposure Overview

Finally, I want to briefly discuss the concept of “correct exposure”.  Photographers in general obsess over getting the correct exposure.  Note how many times you see a photo online quoting the ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed settings.

When using your camera’s auto modes, the camera’s firmware/algorithms do a pretty good job of setting an acceptable image exposure.  I’m sure you were fairly happy with how your pictures turned out by using the auto modes.  And for you, the exposures were correct.

I want to challenge the perception there is a “correct” exposure for a photo.  I suggest there’s an “appropriate” exposure.

I’ll use two sample image to demonstrate my point.

The above image was my original exposure made on my iPhone.  I let the camera’s firmware set the exposure while I concentrated on the image’s composition.  Before I captured the image, I already had decided creatively what I wanted the final image to look like.

I feel the above version of the image is much more impactful and visually powerful.  I converted it to B&W, but I also reduced the overall exposure.  Plus, I darkened the shadows until there was very little detail in them.  I feel this final image’s exposure is more “appropriate” to what my creative vision was.

Now let’s look at a colour image.

The exposure for the above image was what I originally set.  I was primarily concerned about not over exposing the highlights in the snow.  As you can see, this original exposure is quite flat with extremely low contrast.  I imported the file into Lightroom Classic for post processing.  Originally. I thought I might create a B&W image, but later decided to stay with colour.

Creatively, I modified the image to emphasis the light coming in from the upper left corner that creates the mid-tone texture in the snow.  I also wanted to maintain the brightness along the edges of the drift’s shapes to bring out the overall contours of the snow’s form.  The snow’s colour was always present in the original exposure.  By making a few simple tweaks, I was able to enhance what’s already there.  For me, this image is about the sense of the snow’s coolness and the texture.  It’s about shape, form, light and detailed textures.  I feel this exposure is more ”appropriate”.

I hope you found this first post informative and interesting.  Stay tuned for further posts.

If you have any specific questions, please email me at  I’ll reply as soon as possible and may include your question and answer in a future post.

Using Format