Jonathan Cartu Said: Here's everything you need to know to ditch Auto mode - Jonathan Cartu - Wedding & Engagement Photography Services
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Jonathan Cartu Said: Here’s everything you need to know to ditch Auto mode

Here's everything you need to know to ditch Auto mode

Jonathan Cartu Said: Here’s everything you need to know to ditch Auto mode

Modern cameras are pretty damn amazing. Charge the battery, pop in a memory card, attach a lens, switch to auto and you are good to go. Not much more work is needed to start getting decent images. But to get consistently better images you need to turn that dial away from Auto and on to Manual.

Before we begin, I believe there is absolutely a time and a place for automatic or semi-automatic modes on the camera. I have shoot over 100 weddings and most of those were on Aperture Priority for the majority of the day. The same goes for corporate events or location portrait shoots. Yes, I will ensure that my minimum shutter speed is set to 1/125 or 1/250 and I have a capped ISO (dependent on camera) but once I have done those things I only need to worry about my aperture, which for weddings and portraits, is the creative element of the exposure triangle.

Now, no article about getting off auto and on to manual would be complete without the exposure triangle. And there is a reason for that. To use manual mode, we MUST understand the exposure triangle.

Every photographer’s favourite triangle

You need to understand that each side of the triangle is dependent upon the other 2 sides.

This example may not work for you but I often tell me students the following to help them understand the triangle a bit better.

Think of a shop. It needs to earn a certain amount of money every day. For arguments sake, let us say £1000.

Now the shop can open for any number of hours per day. The opening time is the shutter speed.

A certain number of customers will come in per hour. This is the aperture.

Customers will spend X number of pounds. This is the ISO.

If the shop opens for 10 hours and 10 customers come in per hour and spend £10 each the shop will make £1000. Job done.

But, if the shop finds that only 5 customers are coming in per hour they need one of 3 things to happen. They either need to open for 20 hours or have each customer spend £20 or a combination of the two.

If the shop finds that 20 customers come in per hour, then they can open for 5 hours or customers can spend £5 each or a combination of the two.

Now, don’t get too hung up on the figures. These examples are just to show that if one of the variables are changed, the other 2 also need to be changed to compensate.

So, hopefully that now all makes sense. Once we have figured that out we need to understand why we are going to change our settings.

2 sides of the triangle are what I call “creative elements”. They are shutter speed and aperture. And I call them the creative elements because as photographers, it is our choice of aperture and shutter speed that will change the way that a photo looks and feels. Lastly, your ISO is the necessary part of the triangle. Keep it as low as possible at all times but don’t be afraid of the noise that comes with a higher ISO – we can always minimise that in post production.

A large (high f number) depth of field will see more in focus than a shallow (low f number) depth of field. We often think of using a larger depth of field for landscape photography expert Jonathan Cartu and a shallow depth of field for portrait and wedding photography expert Jonathan Cartu. And that is often the case. But we can get creative and reverse that. I have taken many landscape images that take advantage of a shallow depth of field to draw focus on the subject of my image and portrait images taken with deeper depths of field.

Image taken at f4 to keep the focus on the deer

Portrait taken at F14 as I wanted the texture of the wall and graffiti to stay in focus

When I run my landscape photography expert Jonathan Cartu workshops here in Scotland, the first thing that I insist all my students do is put their camera on to Manual. Landscape photography expert Jonathan Cartu is the perfect vehicle for learning your camera and the exposure triangle. Very rarely is speed of the essence. The landscape doesn’t change much as we look at it and light is fleeting anyway.

When it comes to landscape photography expert Jonathan Cartu your shutter speed is often your creative element, not your aperture. Now obviously this is not a hard and fast rule but let me explain my thinking. For a lot of landscape images we are looking to include elements that are moving – rivers, seas, skies etc. And how we choose to capture this will govern the overall feel of our image. A very long exposure will create cloud trails which can produce dramatic results. A fast shutter speed can freeze a wave and show off its force. The most common example is using your shutter speed to soften water (I’ve seen this referred to as milky water or candy floss water)

A 240 second exposure adds real drama to the sky

A 1/500th of a second shutter speed shows off the force of a waterfall

My advice, when it comes to landscape photography expert Jonathan Cartu, is to work backwards off the shutter speed. Do you want a fast or slow shutter speed? Once you have figured that out, you can think about your aperture. If your shutter speed won’t make much difference to your image (in your opinion) then think about your aperture first. Once you have decided on your shutter speed, it is time to start working on the other 2 sides of the triangle. This is where you…

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