Lighting Journey: Manual, Manual, Manual

How I expanded my aperture priority horizons to include manual camera settings. For the past decade, I've enjoyed a long, monogamous relationship with aperture priority settings. My modus operandi is ...

How I expanded my aperture priority horizons to include manual camera settings.

-2.jpgFor the past decade, I’ve enjoyed a long, monogamous relationship with aperture priority settings. My modus operandi is a 3.2 aperture and 1/100th shutter speed. I thought I’d spend a lifetime with AP–and then came along my new lighting director with his off-camera flash units in tow. What I love about my Canon ETTL is its camera flash auto-metering–it’s been years since I touched my light meter. But the incorporation of detached strobes into my photographer’s toolkit necessitated dredging up the light meter from the (well-organized, neat-freak, immaculate) recesses of my lovely San Francisco Bay Area studio. Once my lighting director and I began experimenting, however, I realized that working in a manual setting is a blast–it challenges me to see in deeper, more nuanced ways, allows me to exercise more control over my photography, and provides increased consistency with my images. It’s also easy.

The digital camera exposure viewing capability coupled with the histogram allows me to take test shots, make adjustments, and modify my exposure using a basic conversion chart. Although I don’t rely exclusively on manual, folding it into my repertoire has expanded my skill set. I feel more confident and empowered as a photographer. Considering making the great leap to manual settings? See my forthcoming Lighting Journey blog that provides some hot tips for photographers old and new, released next Wednesday, July 14.


One of the best post you have made and points you have made. I can not express enough the importance of the lesson you learned here. In this day in age of Seminar photogs “Endorsing” products and trying to sell newbies ETTL and wizbang auto everything flashes and cameras. To truly be a “Versatel” photographer and a “Capable” one in all types of situations and challenges one needs to truly understand the basics of lighting and exposure and how it works. Without these basic skills your only as good as your auto canon camera and auto canon flash is… When you do anything else or those items are not available then what? your dead in the water. Also to really understand what is going on and more importantly “WHY” things look on a image the way they do you need to do things “MANUALLY” Thats all I ever do.. I rarely and I mean rarely use anything with auto its strictly manual for me. Auto is fooled very easily “White walls in a room versus a flash shot outdoors at night” and many other variables. Its like shooting everything auto focus “Yikes!” This principle of thought needs to be taught and not shamed by those photogs that are the teachers of our day. So many these days try to endorse or promote the latest 24 zone auto focus?! come on… Look at commercial shooters of today we dont use auto anything why? because we are control freaks. We do not leave things to “Chance” we use manual because its consistent as it does not change unless we change it. Also to be really honest it really is no harder to learn than all the ETTL control and ratios of auto everything set up.. But what you will gain in using Manual settings is enormous on many levels.. I highly recommend those out there learn it.

Hello Ernst, i am firing the off-camera strobes via Profoto built in pocket wizards.

Hi Catherine,
Thanks for the info. on your marketing resource guide!
If I understand you correctly, you are firing off-camera lights on e-ttl mode, right? Couple questions; are you shooting wirelessly with Radio Poppers PX or Pocket Wizard Flex?

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