Mentionable Finds: How to Shoot in Manual Mode

manual mode DSLR

I get so excited when people get cameras and they start taking pictures of everything – because I did it too. I was ecstatic when Mike surprised me with my first camera, a Canon RebelXT, in late 2007. I took pictures of EVERYTHING! Random stuff around the house, the poor dogs barely saw my face for months, I took it everywhere and took pictures of everyone – I was woman possessed. I started out on the green box in auto-mode, using the flash far too often. I eventually began to understand light (my 50mm prime helped me make that connection) and made the change to Aperture Priority mode because I liked controlling the depth of field to tell a story.

I learned how to shoot in Manual Mode not long after, but I wasn’t fast – and that pissed me off. I understood exposure and knew how set my aperture, shutter speed and ISO to balance it, but I didn’t know my way around my camera very well. So I only used manual mode when I had time and a subject that didn’t move. But I think it was in 2015, when I wasn’t doing as many photo sessions, I told myself I was only going to shoot manually. It was the only way I was going to learn it. And it was frustrating as hell. At first. When I upgraded my camera body this past year to a Canon 5D Mark III, I rarely move the dial from M spot.

Anywho, I tell you all of this to say I know it can be hard. I know it can be frustrating. But once you know how to find the controls on the camera to change the settings, it gets easier and you get faster.

My sister-in-law and niece both have dSLR Canons now. And we’ve talked photography a few times… but it’s hard to just talk about it and learn anything from that conversation. You have to go through the motions for the knowledge to stick. And I feel bad that they’ve had to listen to me ramble when there’s actually some really good teachers out there already. So instead of reinventing the “how to shoot in manual mode” blog post, I’m offering up some mentionable finds and sharing some link love.

Reasons why you should shoot in manual mode.

This is a really simple blog post from Photography Concentrate, but it gets to the point quickly: When you control the settings of your camera, you can control the outcome. I like how they recommend shooting in Aperture Priority first, so you can learn how to control aperture and ISO while the camera will take care of shutter speed.

But they’re right. Shooting in manual mode allows you to be more consistent with your photography. 2016 was a year to get back into shooting for myself, but I believe doing it 100% manually helped me find what I love again and really develop my own style of photography.

The know-how of understanding exposure.

People communicate and learn differently, so there’s no one true, right way to explain how aperture, shutter speed and ISO work together. So I did a little homework for you guys and found three different examples in the hope of one of these being the right one for you.

Pretty Presets has a blog series explaining manual mode – this was the most simplest layout I found and there are picture samples included which is really nice.

Popular Mechanics had a nice post as well, providing a complete breakdown of all the variables to successfully shoot in manual mode, including flash compensation and spot metering.

CNet had the most in-depth review of manual mode, so if you know nothing I wouldn’t start with this article. It’s a lot of words, not as many pictures, but it’s still a good resource.

Cheat sheets are my fave.

You can find plenty-o-cheat-sheets on Pinterest when it comes to understanding exposure and shooting in manual mode, but this one from Esther Beazer is my favorite. I’ve shared it with a dozen people already, but her visual breakdown is one that I really admire and I love the tips she includes. But the reason why I really love this cheat sheet? It’s easy to print out and keep in your camera bag. When you learn something new, have a lightbulb go off or really like an image and want to remember the settings, write it down on the cheat sheet! Make too many notes? Print out another one and keep learning.

YouTube to the rescue!

YouTube has become my favorite place to look for help because video tutorials help me learn faster – I can pause, do whatever it is I’m trying to learn myself, and then press play again to continue.

I’ve watched WAY too many videos the past couple weeks trying to find the perfect ones, but I finally did. Mark Wallace with Adorama has some of the best how-to videos when it comes to photography. (You can find Mark’s YouTube channel here.) Mark has a great way of covering a topic and explaining it fully without over simplifying it or leaving anything out. And he’s good in front of the camera, which is actually really important to me when I’m trying to learn something. I’ve linked up a few of his videos below, but these are some great ones to help you learn more about shooting in manual mode.

  • Basics of Exposure: Learn how aperture, shutter speed and ISO all work together.
  • Understanding Camera Settings: Mark walks you through the process of deciding what settings you’ll need based on your scenario and your equipment.
  • Introduction to Metering and Different Metering Modes: These two videos are actually really good and I learned something new as well. The metering settings on my camera have always confused me, I’ve set it to whatever I had on the previous camera I owned, but Mark explains it all and it’s starting to make sense. I’ll probably have to watch them a second time.
  • How to Shoot in Manual Mode: A complete walk through of how to shoot in manual mode.

Practice makes perfect, but you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time so start slow. When you have time, have patience or a subject that won’t move on you, experiment in manual mode. No one will see these pictures unless you share them. And don’t beat yourself up; just keep trying different settings, working in different lighting and you’ll have an a-ha moment before you know it.

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