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Over the past few months of the Africa Geographic Photographer of the Year competition, the talented Will Burrard-Lucas has taught us many a tip and trick in order to improve our wildlife photography. Now, with the second to last post in his series, and accompanied by some stunning entries into the competition, he is telling us all we need to know about photographing on manual mode while using auto ISO.

A stunning entry by Simon Cox showing simplicity in tranquility in Chobe, Botswana
A stunning entry by Simon Cox showing simplicity in tranquility in Chobe, Botswana

According to Will, this combination could be argued as one of the most powerful and useful exposure modes to set your camera to. It combines full creative control whilst bringing a little auto adjustment to keep you on track; essentially combining the best of both worlds.

The ISO adjusts the camera sensor’s sensitivity to light. So where the aperture has let in a predefined amount of light, the shutter has dictated how long that light hits the sensor, the ISO controls how sensitive the sensor is to that light.

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Traditionally, the ISO is adjusted manually when using aperture and shutter speed semi-auto modes. However, there is another semi-auto mode available that works in conjunction with the two above, and it’s a very powerful feature of most modern DSLRs.

In manual mode with auto ISO, you can select any combination of aperture and shutter that is required, and the camera will constantly adjust the ISO to suit. This means for any given style of shot you are trying to create, you know the ISO will always be at the lowest it can be for the given settings you have selected.

A hippo stands out against the green at Mana Pools. Entry by Corlette Wessels
A hippo stands out against the green at Mana Pools. Entry by Corlette Wessels

This is best used when lighting conditions change quickly, as it takes one less thought process out of the equation, allowing you to concentrate on aperture or shutter adjustments to achieve your desired result.

It also works with exposure compensation on many models of DSLRs, meaning you can still choose to add under- or over-exposure adjustments to tweak the exposure as required. When you dial in exposure compensation, the ISO will be adjusted either up or down.

Photo competition entrant Clint Ralph captured this stunning silhouette of a king at Moremi, Botswana
Photo competition entrant Clint Ralph captured this stunning silhouette of a king at Moremi, Botswana

It’s not fool proof, however, and although it works in many situations, especially those with changing light conditions, there will be situations in which switching auto ISO off and adjusting it manually will yield better results.

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Missed Will’s helpful tips and tricks? Sign up for his free wildlife photography course here. You can enjoy Will’s photography in his brand new book: Top Wildlife Sites of the World, a selection of which was recently featured in our online magazine article: Top Wildlife Sites of Africa.

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Think you have what it takes to be Africa Geographic’s Photographer of the Year? Enter here before it’s too late – entries close end of April 2016!

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Africa Geographic Photographer of the Year

The Africa Geographic Photographer of the Year Competition is brought to you by Land Rover and Canon, in association with At Close Quarters, Airlink, Klaserie Sands River Camp, Hideaways, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Thule and Rhino Tears. The competition will run from December 2016 to May 2017 and entrants can submit images via the online entry form or via Africa Geographic's Instagram channel. This profile will be used to showcase photographic tips from experts as well as blogs from our sponsors to set you on your way to becoming our Photographer of the Year!