Manual Mode Made Easy

I guess I should say Manual Mode Made Easier.  Because great photography isn't exactly easy.

When we got  our camera I spent about 20 minutes looking at the manual and gave up.  It was way too much information making it way too complicated for a newbie DSLR user like myself.  It was just TMI.  All I wanted was the basics.  Just enough for me to understanding the most basic function of each setting.  A year later I sat down, did some internet research and pared down the volume of information so I could figure this thing out.  Finally, instead of randomly changing the settings around until my image stopped being black I was able to make educated guesses about what settings to use in different conditions.  I spent all last weekend taking pictures at home trying to get better at this.

There is so much to learn about manual mode and how to take great pictures.  This barely scratches the surface.  Once you understand the settings there is still a lot to know about how to manipulate them in relationship to each other to get the shots you want.  Never mind all the skill and practice it takes to really be good at it.  It's enough to get started without making it more complicated then it has to be for a beginner.  Everyone's brain works differently so this may or may not be the key to unlocking the mystery of manual mode but it's been very helpful to me. 

Shutter Speed
Amount of time that the shutter is open. Length of time that your image sensor ‘sees’ the scene you are attempting to capture. Measured in seconds (i.e.:  1/60 or 1/80)
Example: Think of how window shutters work.  The speed at which you open and close them controls how much light gets into a window.  The lower the bottom number is the slower the shutter is being closed and more light is allowed in.   

Slower Shutter

  • Lets in more light
  • Brightens image
  • Captures speed and movement in an image
  • For use with a Tri-Pod

Faster Shutter  
  • Lets in less light
  • Darkens image
  • Freezes the moment and reduces the effect of camera shake.
Window :: Aperture   //  Shutters :: Shutter Speed [photo credit: Christophe]

Size of lens opening with which the picture is taken. Measured in F-stops (i.e:  F7.0).  The larger the F-number the lower the Aperture.  Example: Think of it as a window that lets in light.  A larger window (larger aperture) lets in more light and will have a smaller F-stop.  This one gets a little confusing because large equals a lower number.

Larger Aperture (Smaller F-Stop Number)
  • Larger hole (more light gets in)
  • Brightens image 
  • Large Depth of Field: Most of your image is in focus with clear background details
  • Landscape shots
Smaller Aperture (Larger F-Stop Number)
  • Smaller hole (less light gets in)
  • Darkens image
  • Shallow Depth of Field: Only part of the image will be in focus with blurred background details
  • Portrait shots
Here I am wearing my low ISO Sunglasses outside // Please excuse the duck lips, don't know what I was thinking

Measure of digital camera sensor’s sensitivity to light. The image sensor converts an optical image into an electrical signal.
Example:  Sunglasses.  Dark sunglasses block light so we wear them to lower our eye's sensitivity to the bright sun.  So think of using a low ISO as putting on sunglasses when you are outside because you need to lower the amount of  light getting into your eyes. When you are inside you don't need to block out light, you actually need more of it to see so you take your sunglasses off. 

Lower ISO 

  • Less sensitivity to light
  • Darkens Picture
  • Outdoors or in a well lit area 
  • Sharpens Image
  • Still Shots
  • Tripod

Higher ISO 

  • Greater sensitivity to light
  • Brightens image
  • Indoors or in a dimly lit setting
  • Add grain to image
  • Action Shots 
I gathered a lot of this information from Digital Photography School.


Stevie C said...

Whoa. This is excellent information. I used to shoot B&W film, so you'd THINK i'd know what I was doing but I picked up my DSLR and forgot everything I ever knew. I love these analogies and will definitely remember them!

Whitney Cypert said...

Yay! I knew pretty much all of this surprisingly. I think my problem is just getting myself to actually take my camera to places instead of just getting cell phone pictures! I'm definitely going to use this as a reference when I'm getting frustrated.

GranTurismo Driver said...

Nice post, great blog, following :)

Good Luck :)

ffprncez said...

Good info! Thanks for sharing. There is a lot of great info out there. YOu should check out Click it up a notch for some great tips and fun ideas too!

Janna Renee said...

This is all DEFINITELY stuff I need to learn! I haven't taken my camera off Auto yet :/

The Lady Okie said...

Great post! Manual mode is super confusing, isn't it? I read the entire manual front to back and still had to make myself a cheat sheet!

Jamie Sefcik || Hello Little Scout said...

This is so great!! Thanks for sharing :)

Anonymous said...

Cameras very much overwhelm me. I honestly don't even use the flash on my iPhone because I can't operate it.

Thus why my blog pics look so sub-par!

BYW, you have the best skin!