Capturing the mundane to create interesting stories


Sometimes, you can’t be too careful. You never know when and where the rain will come.




Side story:

When I’m shooting with DSLR, I always shoot in manual mode — not because I’m a pretentious snob that thinks a photographer should only shoot in manual mode.

Several reasons I always shoot in manual (with DSLR) are:

  1. Camera can often be fooled by the lighting condition. I’m not saying I’m smarter than camera in terms of judging the exposure… but if I’m doing it wrong, it’s me to blame; not the camera. I don’t like to blame or rely too much on others.
  2. Consistency. This is the most important part because I don’t like to chimp and check my exposure right after the shoot. With program or semi-manual mode, I have to chimp or check the photo to know whether I get the right exposure or not. The downside of this consistency is that there is a possibility that I was consistently wrong. That’s why I shoot in RAW; 1-2 stops can still be fixed.
  3. It’s fast and easy to adjust the exposure compensation. I can do it by turning one dial (shutter speed or aperture) instead of pushing a button and turn the dial. And I can do it quickly without taking the camera off of my face.
  4. I want to always aware of the exposure settings before taking the photo. Shooting in manual slows me down and force me to read the metering before taking the shot. It tells me what ISO, aperture, shutter speed and EV I am at. It makes me think and adjust accordingly. I have a rough guess what the photo is going to be before pressing the shutter button.

Here is what I normally do.

I often check the meter reading from the back of my hand (it’s about 18% gray), and then dial in the settings accordingly (e.g. ISO 200, F/8, 1/400). As I walk around, I kept changing the settings depending on the lighting condition: overcast, cloudy, shade, in the building, etc. I change the aperture and ISO because I normally want a relatively fast shutter speed.

When I see a scene and thinking of taking a photo, before I lift the camera to my eye, I’ll adjust the camera settings according to my estimation of the lighting condition, and also what I want to achieve (DoF? Freezing movement?) With D90, I can do that without looking at the camera. When I have to, I can also check using the top LCD. This is what I love about D90 :D…

When I lift the camera up, I can find two scenarios of the meter reading; 1) I was about right… 2) I was completely off according to the meter. If I was about right, I’ll normally take the shot anyway. If I was completely off, then it’s either the camera meter was fooled… or that I was wrong. So the next step is either click the shutter button anyway (because I know I was right), or adjust the settings (because I know I was wrong).

I find this method better than using the program or semi-manual mode.

And this is something that I will miss when I shoot with GRD3. The OVF does not provide any information other than framing, so I won’t be able to tell if the metering was right or wrong.

The photo above was taken in manual mode, and I didn’t realize that I was 2 stops underexpose. Like it or not, I guess it’s  better to use semi-manual mode when using GRD3.


*Bukit Panjang, Singapore



2 responses

  1. I like the photo above. The underexposure create the moodiness that won’t be there if you had a correct exposure.

    Thanks for sharing your process GM. I always shot in Manual too (except when I give hubby the camera, I switch it to P mode). I usually have the ISO at 100 if it’s outdoor and sunny, then change the f stop and shutter while having the camera to my eye. I never thought of guessing like you did. But I always shot objects and not people. Is that why you do what you do – to keep the element of surprise?

    November 14, 2012 at 00:58

    • The original photo is actually darker, but yes, I agree that it sets the mood.

      Well, since I shoot people, the scene changes very quickly. I have limited time to think about the rest of the parameters; focus and composition… that’s why I do what I do. It works best for me.

      November 14, 2012 at 06:13

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