Think­ing be­fore you shoot can give you bet­ter pic­tures

NPhoto - - Special Feature -

ction pho­tog­ra­phy needs in­stant re­flexes and gives you no time to think – if you pause to pon­der, you’ll miss the shot (and prob­a­bly the ones that fol­low it, too). You might think, then, that this is the one time when auto ex­po­sure will al­ways be best.

That’s not nec­es­sar­ily the case. You can get the same kind of ex­po­sure prob­lems in a sports sta­dium as you do in a por­trait shoot or a land­scape. Quite of­ten you’ll be shoot­ing play­ers in bright sun­light against a back­ground in shadow, or vice versa.

Your cam­era’s ex­po­sure sys­tem may be able to cope with fast-mov­ing sub­jects, but it won’t al­ways be con­sis­tent. The cam­era will re­cal­cu­late the ex­po­sure for ev­ery shot, even in the split sec­ond be­tween frames when you’re cap­tur­ing a high-speed burst, and if you leave it on auto you will of­ten see dif­fer­ences in ex­po­sure be­tween the frames, where the size or po­si­tion of the player against the back­ground has al­tered.

If you switch to man­ual and mea­sure the ex­po­sure care­fully be­fore you start, the

Avari­a­tions be­tween shots as your sub­jects move around won’t hap­pen. As long as the light­ing con­di­tions don’t change, the player will al­ways be cor­rectly ex­posed re­gard­less of what’s in the back­ground.

The sit­u­a­tion is dif­fer­ent, of course, if the light on your sub­ject is chang­ing dur­ing the se­quence. Your sub­ject might move from light in the cen­tre of the pitch to shade closer to the stands, say, and in this in­stance au­to­ex­po­sure may prove the bet­ter op­tion. The im­por­tant thing, though, is to as­sess the con­di­tions be­fore you start. The cam­era doesn’t al­ways know what’s best, and man­ual mode may be the smarter op­tion.

Your cam­era’s ex­po­sure sys­tem may be able to cope with fast-mov­ing sub­jects, but it won’t al­ways be con­sis­tent

Check your speed

There is an­other good rea­son for shoot­ing in man­ual – it gives you di­rect con­trol over the shut­ter speed, and this is im­por­tant. A fast shut­ter speed can ‘freeze’ any move­ment in your sub­ject so that ev­ery de­tail is crys­tal­clear, but you can also use slower shut­ter speeds to ‘pan’ with your sub­ject and blur the back­ground, cre­at­ing a sense of mo­tion.

You could take con­trol of the shut­ter speed by switch­ing to S, or shut­ter-pri­or­ity mode, but most pros pre­fer man­ual be­cause they can con­trol ex­actly how the sub­ject will ap­pear from one shot to the next and they aren’t re­ly­ing on the cam­era’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the light­ing con­di­tions.

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