Manual Exposure vs Automatic Exposure


What does exposure mean?

When planning a shooting, one needs to make sure that the picture is not too bright or dark. Exposure adjusts the amount of light in the image. It defines the amount of light that will be captured by the camera. As a director and photographer, proper exposure is the key to create the desired mood.

The Exposure tool

Most digital cameras will offer a built-in tool to control the exposure, among other digital features, and they work the same way as our eye works – Our pupil (the black dot in your eye) is controlled by the iris, which adjusts the amount of light that will go into the eye. When facing a bright light, the iris will constrain te pupil, and in a dark room, the iris will enlarge our pupil. The exposure tool on the camera will affect all of the items in the images.  We can’t make only the table lighter in the image or only make a wall darker.  The only way to make an object in an image lighter or darker is in the color correction stage of post-production. Play with exposure in your camera before you start shooting with it.  When you play with the exposure tool, you will also notice the different effects you can create with it. for example, you will see that the more exposure you’ll allow in the image, the more focused it will be, and when you reduce the amount of light in an image, you’ll be able to create a selective focus, which will help you in creating a depth of field ( having something in the foreground of your picture in focus and everything beyond that out of focus)

What is auto exposure (AE) in-camera?

The exposure is determined by the aperture, the shutter speed and ISO. Automatic exposure mode is a feature that allows the camera to control these three variables and decide what is the right combination for your image. That’s why it’s called “automatic” – you don’t have to think about these things. In automatic mode, you can concentrate on composition and framing, rather than worrying about exposure settings. However it doesn’t mean that you can’t change any of these values manually – you just have to press a button or turn a dial to do so. In other words, in automatic mode you can be creative in terms of composition and framing, but not with exposure. If the scene is too dark or too bright, then there is nothing you can do about it other than changing your position or waiting for the light conditions to change (which may take hours). This can be useful in situations where you don’t have time to fiddle with manual settings. You can also use auto exposure in combination with manual settings to get the exact look you want. IF the camera will not measure the amount of light correctly, you need to use manual exposure.

What is manual exposure and how to use it?

Manual exposure is a feature that allows the photographer to manually set the aperture, the shutter speed and ISO to determine the brightness of the image. Most professional photographers use it to have more creative control over the image. Manual mode lets you create the image as you imagine it -sometimes a darker image is the right artistic choice and sometimes a lighter image is in order. The computer in your camera can’t make these artistic decisions

How to use manual exposure?

To understand how to handle manual exposure I really recommend understanding what are the shutter speed, aperture and IOS. So let’s talk about it a little bit. As said before, the shutter speed, aperture and IOS determine the exposure and the overall brightness of the image, but it can also affect the sharpness and the depth of field of the image. If you set the shutter speed to 1/500 and the aperture to f/5.6 and the IOS to 100, you’ll get a correct exposure of a scene that is middle-bright (for example, if you are shooting on a sunny day). If you want to overexpose it, you need to increase the shutter speed or decrease the aperture or lower the IOS (or even lower all of them). If you want to underexpose it, do just the opposite. Now let’s talk about what are shutter speed, aperture and IOS. The Shutter Speed is how long light can hit your sensor while taking a picture. It’s measured in seconds and looks like “1/200”, “1/1000” etc., or in time like “0.5
  • The shutter speed controls how long the camera’s shutter stays open. The longer it stays open, the more light gets into the camera and creates a brighter image. You can get blurry images when you have a slow shutter speed because it takes too long for one image to capture all your movements.
  • The ISO affect how sensitive the camera will be to the light in the room. When the camera is set to manual exposure, you can increase the camera’s light sensitivity.
  • The aperture determines how much to open the lens. The more we’ll open the lens, the more light will get in and create a lighter image.
The aperture opening also determines the depth of field. When we open the lens to a wider aperture, the depth of field becomes smaller and there will be more things in focus. The smaller aperture will have a larger depth of field so there will be fewer things in focus.   To adjust your camera exposure, you need to take these steps:
  1. Turn your camera into manual mode.
  2. Play with all the controls you got. Usually, they will be Aperture, Shutter speed and ISO. Start with the Aperture if you are interested in creating a depth of field and the Shutter speed to have a more focused image.
  3. After the first adjustment, please take a look at your monitor, and see how it looks. 
  4. You might want to zoom in to see the details
  5. Keep adjusting until you are satisfied with the picture.
When shooting your first film exercise, you will want to use the auto-exposure a lot, but that is a habit, you’ll need to lose as you move along. Most cameras’ auto-exposure features will create the world 18 per cent grey. In many images, you will see that it turned a solid white wall into a grey one. To get the best auto-exposure setting, you need first to test it in a different location (with different amounts of lights) and see how it handles the 

What is the AEL button on the camera?

The AEL mean AE lock and it’s a function that allows you to reframe the scene while keeping the exposure the same. In most cameras, there will be two options: Hold – which means you need to hold it while shooting and Toggle, you simply need to push the AEL button. What’s important to remember is that everyone works differently. With time, you’ll learn when to use the AE button and when to go manual. The truth is that Whether a manual mode is useful or not is dependent mostly on the photographer.