a journey for photo knowledge

Class 1 of 4: Dial M for Manual

My Camera

Above: My camera – the Sony Alpha 300. Apparently I’m one of two people in class NOT using a Nikon or Canon. But so far, I love my Sony.   

Saturday was the first of four consecutive weekend mornings I’ll be spending in photography class.  The course is held at Emory’s Briarcliff campus. It’s a small class, only 15 students.  The instructor is Lynn Lennemeier, an award-winning artist who blends painting and photography for some pretty thought-provoking results. She’s a delight. 

The first class covered just a small portion of the history of photography. And then we delved into the important stuff – how to use our cameras! Yes, the instructor made it very clear that she doesn’t own our cameras nor has she memorized our user manuals and that we had better commit to reading them and having them handy. That really wasn’t a surprise – but I could tell by the tone she delivered it in, it’s been a problem for other classes.


What was a complete and total surprise was the instructor’s response to a question from a student after she showed us one of her photos. “Lynn, what settings did you use for that photo? Was it on manual?”

“Oh god no,” she shrieked.  “I shoot very rarely in full manual mode. In fact, it’s pretty common for major photographers to shoot in program modes. Very few photographers use manual settings exclusively.” 

What the hell? Why did I just pay $400+ for this class? LOL. After I calmed down, I realized this statistic didn’t really change anything. I still need to know how to control a shot (to the degree one can be controlled). And I need to know more about programmed settings, when to use them and when to stay away. And I’ve already learned tons… only one class down. So, no… knowing that many serious photogs use programmed settings doesn’t diminish the need for this class. But learning that little factiod was definitely a surprise.


After the stories were told, the basics covered and we were all re-introduced to our owner’s manuals, assignments were handed out for the week ahead. And all assignments this week are to be taken only in “manual” mode. They include:

  • Exposure: Shoot a series of shots that intentionally demonstrate overexposure, under exposure and correct exposure.
  • Movement:  Capture movement frozen in time; capture movement blurred; and capture someone frozen in mid-air.

I spent some time after class on Saturday and a few hours on Sunday attempting to capture the right shots for the assignment. I think I have the exposure shots I want. The movement, not so much. I’ll post my assignment photos when they are complete.


This week’s golden nugget for me was “the exposure triangle.”  It would appear that all photography is the perfect harmony of 1. aperture, 2. shutter, and 3. ISO speed.


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