How I use manual mode on a Lumix Camera

Setting up your Lumix camera to shoot in manual mode.

I think all camera shooting modes are useful, you just need to know how and when to use each mode.

One of my favourite ways of using my camera is in manual mode but to get the best out of this mode, you need to change a few camera settings.

Lets talk ISO for a moment

I shoot with a Lumix GX8 and a Lumix 100. Both these cameras allow you to shoot with auto ISO. When shooting in manual mode, you generally want to take control of all of the key camera settings that are related to exposure, ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed.

Shooting with auto ISO allows you to select a combination of Aperture and Shutter speed that is suited to your subject. It’s like another auto mode. This mode is practical when you want or need to maintain a constant aperture and shutter speed, leaving the camera to sort out the ISO settings. It’s only limitation is that you cannot dial in any exposure compensation. But it’s a fast way to shoot in manual mode.

However, If we want more control than this, then we have to switch to manual ISO. Knowing that you can switch to Auto ISO at any moment, means that, if you find yourself in a situation where you need to shoot fast and do not have time to consider all the variables, you can quickly switch to auto ISO.

Camera settings and function buttons

Like many camera models, Panasonic Lumix cameras have a number of menus and settings that you can adjust to help you make best use of your camera. This can be confusing. However, I have found that when shooting in manual mode I change the following settings.

General settings

  • Focus Mode – AFC (I set focusing to AFC as I use back button focusing)
  • Auto Focus Mode – 1 Area
  • White Balance – Auto (When possible, I like to take a white balance reading and set that on my camera)

Recording  Mode Menu

  • Firstly, I nearly always shoot in RAW and use manual ISO.
  • Photo Style – Std (Standard)
  • Metering Mode – Matrix
  • Fn Button – I have a function button set up to provide one push spot metering

Custom Settings Menu

  • AF/AE Lock – AF-ON (For back button focusing)
  • Shutter AF – OFF (Shutter on used to take picture no focusing)
  • Histogram – ON (help establish correct exposure)
  • Zebra Pattern – ON (helps avoid blown out highlights)
  • Constant Preview – ON (This is important, it allows you to see how your settings are affecting your photo or exposure)

Shooting Method

Everyone has a different approach to shooting images, leaving aesthetics of photography aside. I have a little mantra that I find useful. It stems back to the days of when I was a wedding photographer shooting analogue with Hasselblads and using a hand-held exposure meters.

The mantra went like this

  • Meter it ( set the correct exposure for the subject)
  • Focus it (make sure your focus is accurate for your subject)
  • Frame it (get your composition right)
  • Forget it (forget the technical details and concentrate on the picture taking, capture the moment)

Using the mantra above allows me to consider all of the important aspects of shooting images. Panasonic’s use of Constant preview in their Lumix cameras allows me to see in real time the effect of changing exposure settings.¬† The histogram and zebra patterns along with the ability to switch to spot metering ensures that my exposures are consistent and correct for my subject.

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