Photographing manually

After a couple of years with fully manual photographing, there is a couple of things to reflect upon.
Before I start, this is what I mean with “fully manual”:

  • No auto focus
  • No light meter
  • No aperture-/shutter-priority

How it started


Donna. Kodak Tri-X


A couple of years ago, just after I began with the digital format, I sold my kit lens (your everyday 18-55mm) in favor for a 50’mm prime, every photographer (first) “go to” lens.

However, instead of getting a 50, I found something more interesting – the M42 lenses.   <- Click to read more!

The M42 system is an old lens mount first developed by Carl Zeiss during the late 1930’s.
Since these old lenses lacks modern features like auto focus, they’re often sold for a very low price, so one could often make quite a bargain.
(Unless it’s a rare lens of course, but that applies to pretty much everything..)

So instead of a modern 50 mm lens, I ended up with two primes: one Pentacon 28 mm and one 35 mm, both with an aperture of f/2,8 – AND a beast of a zoom-lens by Tokina.

Areku spring photo

The camera that I’ve been using as my daily driver since I entered the digital world, is the D3000 by Nikon.
However, this means that I when using lenses without a chip I have no access to light metering or priority-programs, which can sound a bit frightening. This is due to the D3000 lack of built in metering. However, my old main camera was the Minolta SRT 100 with a malfunctioned meter, it felt like home, haha!
If I was to shoot sports, this might have become a problem, but the majority of my motives doesn’t move that very fast.

I often considered buying a light meter back in the analogue days, but such a devices are expensive and a bit clunky to carry around. Instead, I found and learned the so called Sunny 16-rule. With that one can easily calculate a fitting exposure, that often turns out pretty well.
With a digital camera however, there is no need – you just estimate and see how it turns out without having to wait.

“The Vending Machines” – now Transcoded


What have I learned?
To break up with many of the modern features (except for the instant picture display) have been mainly a positive experience. Raised with manual photography, it felt quite natural.
At the same time, there are shots I’ve missed whenever I’ve miscalculated the exposure or been to slow changing focus. But this have also made me changing setting and focus quicker than a gunman draws.
I’ve also learnt to “see” the exposure, and to think twice before I snap a picture. By this, I end up with less shots that I later will just end up scrapping.

In summary: I think that anyone with an interest in photography could benefit from trying to “limit” themselves by going all manual.

You’ll gain another way of working, learn the ways of exposure and it’s relation to aperture and ISO, becoming more present in the moment, and maybe better understand the roots of photography.


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