Bird Photography: Which Exposure Mode Is Right for You? - Trust Me Shops

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Bird Photography: Which Exposure Mode Is Right for You?

Bird Photography: Which Exposure Mode Is Right for You?

B&H explora - All posts
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The technological advancements in photography could hardly be imagined by photographers using slow film with manual focus, non-stabilized lenses just 20 years ago. Go back further and cameras did not even have built-in meters. Photographers had to use an incident meter to determine a proper exposure, then dial-in the settings manually. Everyone had to know how to use manual mode!

Above image: Black-billed Magpie; manual mode; 1/2000 second; f/8; ISO 800

The above image was the ultimate exposure challenge. A high-contrast bird was flying in front of radically different backgrounds in rapidly changing ambient light. The background consisted of pale blue sky, sunlit snowcapped peaks, shadowed woods, and more. In addition, the sun was peaking in and out between fast-moving clouds. No auto-exposure mode was going to get the job done, so I switched to manual mode, and spun the shutter dial wildly back and forth as the sun came and went. Today’s bird photographers have it relatively easy, but few are taking full advantage of their cameras’ advancements. Let’s explore the various exposure modes and determine which one(s) are right for you.

Manual Mode (M)

Manual mode provides precise control but is a relatively slow process in many situations. You, the photographer, have full control and make all of the exposure decisions. You set your desired shutter speed and aperture along with a corresponding ISO to make a proper exposure. All of this pushing of buttons and turning of dials takes time while birds are often moving fast. Manual is an excellent mode in consistent light, for birds in flight, and any time a subject is moving rapidly past changing backgrounds. You determine the exposure, then set it and forget it, unless the light falling on your subject changes. Manual, however, is tedious at best in rapidly changing light and you must be keenly aware of subtle changes in light intensity. You will have to make regular exposure adjustments as the sun grows higher (or lower) in the sky and when clouds move in to block the sun temporarily.

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