EXPOSURE BASICS: USING EXPOSURE MODES - PART TWO
by Jamie Harrison
In this article, we’re going to look at the essential creative exposure modes on your Olympus camera. Knowing which mode to use and when will make it easier and faster for you to get perfect results every time.
A is for Aperture Priority Mode
Aperture priority mode allows you to select the aperture you want and the camera will then select the required shutter speed. This is great in daylight for portraits or for macro work, when you want to achieve shallow depth of field by using a wide aperture such as f/1.8 or f/2.8.
Similarly, if you’re shooting a landscape you may want to choose a very small aperture like f/16 for critical sharpness throughout the image from foreground to the distance. Whenever you want to maintain creative control over the amount of sharpness or depth of field of the image, pick aperture priority.
S is for Shutter Priority Mode
Shutter priority, as its name suggests, allows you to select the shutter speed while the camera then selects the correct corresponding aperture. I use shutter priority a lot when I’m shooting handheld in dark conditions, such as music or theatre photography. It’s important to have a reasonably fast shutter above 1/30sec to ensure no camera shake or subject movement.
When combined with a fast lens, such as the ZUIKO 45mm f/1.8 lens, using Shutter priority gives me a workable shutter speed with a wide aperture to shoot in the most hostile lighting conditions.
Sports and wildlife photographers will also appreciate the opportunity to pick a high shutter speed of up to 1/8000sec when shooting fast moving subjects. Alternatively, for dreamy waterscapes, night scenes or fireworks, a slower shutter speed of 1 second to several minutes would be the option to choose. Going slow requires a tripod, and in bright sun you may want to invest in some neutral density filters to eliminate overexposure if the aperture is too small.
M is for Manual Mode
Manual mode gives you full control over both aperture and shutter speed. Theoretically, this means that you can choose any combination of aperture and shutter speed you like, but in practice you’re still limited by the light. For example, you may want to shoot at f/8 and 1/500sec, but in reality you may have an underexposed or overexposed image, because those settings just aren’t suitable for the light.
Follow your meter readings in the viewfinder or on your screen to ensure you get the right exposure.
If you’re a studio shooter, like me, then manual mode is the only choice. This is because flash limits your shutter speed choice to 1/250sec in order to properly record the flash duration (flash synchronization), so you can’t use aperture priority. Similarly, your camera can’t measure the flash output for your image, so you can’t let the camera decide on the aperture, so you can’t use shutter priority. You have to manually set the shutter speed and adjust the exposure with a combination of manual ISO, aperture and flash output settings.
Purists still like the control afforded by manual control though. It may take a little longer to work out the correct settings using the right metering mode and then adjust them using the reciprocal nature of aperture, shutter speed and ISO, but it’s worth the effort, if only to really gain a full appreciation and understanding of exposure.
How does the ISO speed fit into this?
For the most part, when using Manual, Aperture and Shutter Priority modes, set the ISO speed for the prevailing light conditions – ISO 200 for daylight, ISO 400 or 800 and higher for low light such as dawn and dusk or indoors.
Similarly, if you’re shooting in the studio, then ISO 100 or 200 will be your go-to setting. But here’s a twist that was unavailable with film photography.
In your ISO settings is an auto ISO function. This allows you to shoot in manual mode in changing lighting conditions, setting the exact shutter speed and aperture that you want for ultimate creative control. The camera will now automatically adjust the ISO sensitivity of the camera to give the right exposure for the settings you have chosen. You can even set a limit in the camera’s menu to make sure the ISO speed doesn’t go too high and produce too noisy results.