Posted by: Bill Shaner | January 11, 2009

M stands for MACHO!!!!

I hate bees. Well I hate anything that has a stinger. So when I took the picture on the right I had to buck up and be a bit macho when everything inside me said I should run from the area screaming like a little girl. What does this have to do with photography? Well, other then fodder for people to pick on me at the next Peoria Flickr meetup I want to suggest you investigate a fear in photography that I think a lot of new photographers have. That’s the fear of using Manual mode.

When you first started shooting you may have started with Program mode. At some point you demanded more control and you learned about Aperture and Shutter priority modes but chances are manual was just too frightening or mysterious to use. Well now is time to buck up and roll the dial to M. Just tell yourself it doesn’t stand for Manual. M stands for MACHO!!!!

Why do you want to move to “M”? It simply gives you the ultimate control! It lets you master the art of photography and not let the camera master it for you.

If you are doing photography because you enjoy the artistic side of it then Manual is for you. If you just want to take photos of family events then the priority modes will meet you needs and provide you with plenty of great shots but what happens when shutter priority mode doesn’t help you get that shot of your kid shooting a basket in that dark gym? Do you know how to resolve that problem? Learning how to shoot in Manual Mode will!

Manual mode teachs you without an instructor the “exposure triangle”. As you use it you learn how ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed work with each other.

The image on the left is  a good example. I knew I wanted a little depth of field but not a lot. I also knew that I was going to need a lower ISO since I wanted the background around the candles to be dark and a high ISO was going to possibly mean more noise in the shot. It was dark and I didn’t have a tripod with me so the shutter speed was going to have to attempt to be in the 30th of a second range if not higher.

In the end I bracketed some shots at varying f/stops since that was my primary goal exposure wise for the shot. While I played with my f/stop I knew I had to bump my ISO far higher then I wanted; ISO 800 which meant I shot the image at a 25th of a second which meant I had to find a way to brace myself for a steadier shot.

How much time did I spend thinking about all of that before I took the photo? Not much really. Because I knew how my camera worked I was able to quickly decide how I wanted it.

Plain and simple… In the end Manual mode will help make you a better photographer since you will think more about photography and how everything works together.

My task for you over the next week is to roll that selector switch on your DSLR (or SLR) over to the letter M. Pick up the cameras photo manual or talk to a friend if you don’t know how to change change your aperature and shutter manually and then take a bunch of pictures!

What I think you will find is that after around one or two weeks you will ask why you didn’t use this mode all the time and when someone asks why you shoot in Manual mode??? Tell them you’re Macho!


  1. What?! My camera has a Program mode? Where?!


    Great pic. Glad you took the risk. I’ve never been stung by a bee in my life so when I took a similar pic, I was doing the ducking and weaving thing too. I’m afraid!!

  2. Being old school I recently learned how to shoot in aperature priority and used the ISO and shutter speed to keep the aperture where I wanted it. So I can appreciate the sentiment.

    BTW I raised bees for a number of years as a hobby. First most folks don’t realize that everything with a stinger isn’t a bee. Two, it’s good to see you recognize one. And three, bees really don’t want to sting you. Generally they only sting in self defense. Remember they die after stinging you.

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