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I am having trouble getting the aperture and the shutter speed right. How do I gauge this? I am struggling with the camera settings as well on manual. I have the Canon EOS 550D I am wanting to improve my pictures using the camera settings, rather than just using the point and shoot settings, which aren't that spectacular, and sometimes not consistent.
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Mark, have you tried using live vuew, While not acurate reprensentation of the final image you can get a good idea of exsposure as you adjust the the settings.
For a more acurate idea look up using the histogram facility on your camera as this is perfect for getting good exsposures. just do a search on using Histogrammes which would give you a much better explenation than i could tell you.
Not sure about Canons but, with my Nikons, I can judge the exposure settings in Manual by first setting the most critical (aperture, shutter speed or ISO), then the next most critical, and then adjusting the third while observing the exposure meter reading in the top LCD (or, indeed, the viewfinder read-out).
However, most of the time, for most purposes, I find that either Aperture Priority (most of the time) or Shutter Priority (occasionally) give me all the control I need and any move away from base ISO is often just an intuitive thing.
In the olden days, before coupled exposure meters, we all guessed exposures and became quite good at it. But, nowadays, you will never out-guess the exposure meter. The best you will become is acquiring an intuition for applying exposure compensation in particular circumstances.
The technique described by LeftForum works fine on Canons as well. And like him I tend to work mainly in aperture priority with dips into shutter or manual. The way I tend to work is decide what is important. Is it the depth of field or is it a shutter speed to capture or blur motion? That sets one of the parameters. Then I adjust the ISO to be as low as possible and keep the other parameter acceptable. I use the following for most shots, its just how I work if it helps. If shutter speed is the most important I set it first.
For most scenes I have an idea of the aperture I want for the photo (you can read DoF charts or you can build a feel for this over time and use the DoF button to help). So I set the aperture. Next I look at the scene in front and decide how bright the subject looks compared to the background. Cameras tend to meter to get everything an even shade of grey, but clever metering like evaluative does tricks to balance skys out etc, so for the most repeatable performance centre weight can be best. So again based on experience I work out if I want to lighten or darken the exposure and adjust the exposure compensation.
The next stage is to check the shutter speed, is it OK to avoid camera shake and capture the motion, or is if very high, much higher than needed? I then adjust the ISO level to get a desirable shutter speed at the lowest possible ISO level.
Then after taking the photo I review the histogram and look to see if the shape is as expected. If not think why, then adjust and carry on. Do not check exposure by how bright or dark the display looks, rather use the histogram as images in a dark space can look bright on the LCD but dull as ditch water back on the PC, and in sunlight outdoors the converse can be true.
The other thing you can do is get a good reference text. Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson is excellent. It has been recommended by many on here and having bought it and read it from cover to cover I can see why. It takes you through the factors that affect exposure including the relationship between aperture and shutter speed. It is easy to read and is full of examples of the effect that changing your camera settings has on the final result.
Thank you peeps for the responses. I will take them on board and give them a go.
+2 for LF - the answer is 'practice, practice, practice'. The key thing is understanding how your camera reacts to certain conditions and what you need to do to give you the picture you want.
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