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.

Let There Be Light – Butterfly Season - […] I enlisted the help of Mrs. Brooke.  I didn’t get to read everything she sent me, but one thing I learned was I have a light […]

Week 3: Framed Up | 2017 Project 52

Number of ideas I had Wednesday through Saturday for our “framed up” prompt? Zero. Number of ideas I had Sunday and Monday. One. OK, maybe two.

But I told myself I was going to explore with my camera while I was downtown on Monday.

I made a few stops on the walk into the office. I carried my camera along to lunch. I had a lunch buddy that was willing to stop with me when things caught my eye and she even encouraged me to approach a setting that I liked when I had reservations. “If you need to get closer, get closer! Nothing’s going to happen – those guys are working, they won’t say anything.” She was right. And while I really like that image I’m talking about, it’s not the one I ended up choosing.

I was torn between two images so much that I ended up asking my teammate, and fellow 2017 Project 52 photographer, Christy to help me critique them. And everything she said made perfect sense.

framed up

Settings: f/2.8, 1/160 sec, 35mm, ISO 5000
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF35mm f/1.4L USM

I walk through a parking garage every morning and on my walk in on Monday, I stopped just outside of it. I peaked through the open brick wall and balanced my foreground in my viewfinder, and then I heard a car coming. I didn’t adjust my settings, just kept my back button focus pressed and fired off as a minivan drove through the garage.

When Christy and I started critiquing my images, she commented that this one not only fit theme better, but it was a different perspective of an ordinary parking garage. And she began to point all of the elements that kept her interest. The foreground framing blocks 2/3 of the image, bringing your eye to the center. A painted line on the pavement helps lead your eye further along to the minivan. The lights in the garage work well in black and white, shining on the doors of the van and creating texture along the ceiling beams. Your eye bounces around to all these different things even though in reality it was just a dark, dirty concrete jungle.

The longer I look at this picture, the more I like it. I really appreciate Christy taking the time to dissect the composition and elements because she pointed out things that I was overlooking. And truth be told, I have been grateful to always work with creative people, especially other photographers. Because while I’m not a creative professional like them, they’ve always been supportive and kind and encouraging. Those connections are part of the reason why I love doing a Project 52 with a group of folks.

The other image? I still really like it. But you’ll see it later. ;)

Week 4: Broken Down
due 01.25.17

Life is full of ups and downs, and no one really seems to focus on the downs. But as hard as we try to ignore the unfortunate, ugly and/or unhappy things that we see and experience along the way, they still happen. And as a photographer, we are sometimes drawn to find beauty in things that others may overlook.

Whether it’s the literal meaning, feeling, symbolism, direction, or your own interpretation, share an image that captures the phrase “broken down.” Photograph a house that needs some love. A treasure that may have been abandoned. An area of town that appears to be neglected. An emotional peak of a little one. A blanket or toy that was loved too much by a child.

This a prompt that can be described in 100 different ways, so write down your ideas and try to photograph the ones that make you the most excited. When you’re photographing your subject, look for different perspectives; get close, step back, change your DOF… you may surprised yourself.

If you post your images on Instagram or any other social media, use the hashtag #2017project52 so that we can find your work and give it some love!
Have questions about 2017 Project 52? You can find more about it here or in the Flickr group description. Please join us!

Blueberry Banana Oat Cups | On The Menu

In February 2016, I was on a mission to eat clean. I was hunting for new recipes on the weekends. Taking my time at the grocery store to find the perfect ingredients. Cooking a few nights every week, trying new things and just experimenting with it all. There were a lot of misses. But a few hits that I’ve hung on to. Enter Blueberry Banana Oat Cups.

Thanks to Pinterest, I found a recipe for a nice little breakfast cup that didn’t need flour. Just bananas, egg, oats, vanilla, baking powder and fruit. That’s it.

Well this year I’m having to watch what I eat again. Not by choice though. I have a pesky ulcer that if fed incorrectly can make me feel like complete crap for a few days. (Don’t worry, I have medicine too. And a doctor who knows more about my insides than anything else about me.) So I’ve been more aware of what I’m putting in my body – and how much. And these Blueberry Banana Oat Cups have been a nice little save come breakfast time. But I’ve changed up the recipe a bit each time to just try something different.

I do like blueberries best, but fresh strawberries and peaches work nicely too. I like adding a little cinnamon and/or nutmeg depending on the fruit. I’ve even added mini chocolate chips. And nuts. Oh, and honey – these cups aren’t very sweet, but a little honey can go a long way. Hell, just drizzle honey on top right before you eat, that’s the best way to add honey.

I know how easy it is to pin a new recipe on Pinterest and forget about it. Or have a go at one and it be a huge fail. So I’m sharing this one so you know there is a winner! And it’s easy to swap out the fixings with things you may have in your pantry. Find the recipe here.

Update: I found another banana oat muffin recipe that I love! It has similar ingredients, but a completely different texture thanks to greek yogurt and the blender. Check out Blender Banana Oatmeal Muffins from Well Plated as well!

If you have any healthier option recipes that are winners, tell me! I like to try new things and really hope to share more recipes that I love on the blog. So point me in the direction to one that you love!

Week 2: Transitions | 2017 Project 52

After coming off a hard prompt like “self-portrait,” I wanted to offer one that could be interpreted a thousand different ways. But even with so many directions to take the theme “transitions,” I had a hard time deciding which way to go. I had a list of ideas, some seemed better than others, but when it came time to actually getting up and taking a picture… I didn’t. You could say I was caught up in conversation while visiting with family over the weekend, or not in love enough with the ideas, but I just didn’t even try.

Way to go, Brooke. It’s week two and you’re already not trying. Jeez.

So I woke up Sunday morning determined to experiment. I even wrote it on my to do list even if only to have something to cross out later in the day. But I got to work. And had a lot of misses. The creative bug wasn’t there, I wasn’t connecting with these ideas or with the process I was taking. So while I was at my computer constantly sighing because no amount of Lightroom was going to make me feel different about these images, I started staring out the front window. It’s cold as shit right now – a balmy 24° just outside of Louisville – and I did not want to go out into it… but it was calling me. So I bundled up and walked out the door with my camera.

I love our neighborhood. We moved out of the metro almost two years ago now to a neighborhood that has a nature conservancy all around it. And while I don’t venture out into it often, I still love that it’s available to us. Nature paths through the woods and tall grasses, ponds to fish in and a beautiful series of waterfalls. So I walked down the hill toward the waterfalls. The plus side of winter is that you don’t have to watch for poison ivy, so getting around was very easy (minus the whole cold toes part), but every time a light or a shadow caught my eye, I took a picture. A quick little photo walk through a bit of woods, but inspiration all around. And this is the image I chose for transitions this week:

Settings: f/4.0, 1/800 sec, 24mm, ISO 1000
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8

So many transitions happening here. It’s winter, there’s ice everywhere but there’s also moving water. And there’s a passage down the creek, with a waterfall falling just a few feet in front of me. And the sun is beginning to set in the sky. The whole scene was transforming even as I stood there losing light.

I decided to soften the focus a bit on the image because there are so many strong lines and strong contrast – the intentionally blurred image holds my gaze longer than the one where everything is in focus. I think it lets the viewer step into the scene more, letting them bring it into focus themselves. I’ve never really done this before, but I really like the outcome.

Week 3: Frame Up
due 01.18.17

Creating a “frame” within an image allows you to draw a viewer’s eye to your subject or a single point. There are framing opportunities all around us in architecture and nature. When you look through your viewfinder ask yourself, “Will this add to, or take away, from my image?” And think about the whole picture, not just the frame; doing this allows you to give context to the viewer, where you are and what you are doing. Experiment with exposure and create depth with layers. Tell us a story with your image.

Bonus Challenge: Use micro composition to frame your subject. Micro composing involves composing the background (or foreground) of your image and then waiting for your subject to enter the scene in a desirable way. It requires patience and forces you as the photographer to observe the scene more, but it’s a way to capture moments (especially at home) or control the story you want tell.

If you post your images on Instagram or any other social media, use the hashtag #2017project52 so that we can find your work and give it some love!
Have questions about 2017 Project 52? You can find more about it here or in the Flickr group description. Please join us!

Doggin Love No. 30 | BDD Kisses

Disclaimer: I’m not a person who lets their dog lick their face. I think it’s gross… because I know what they eat, what they throw up, what other things they lick… so it’s a no-go for me.

There have been a few times when Chevy has surprised me. And those are gross.

But the reason why she can sneak in a lick is because everyday she gets as close as she can my face. The BDD will put her furry face in my hair, smell my ear, or if I’m on the same level she is, she will lean in super close and just sniff. And sniff and sniff and sniff.

95% of the time there is no tongue. (Thank goodness.) Being the weird person that I am, I actually find this to be quite an adorable quirk of her’s.

When I had my camera setup to take my self-portrait a week or so ago, she joined me on the bed. After I got her to face me, she just leaned in as close as she could… and… sniffed.

No kisses were exchanged in this scene. Dog breath was not shared. But I walked away with a new favorite photo of me and my BDD. ♥

Rachel - Roxy does the same to Brian. She has sniffed his eyeball intently before! Funny stuff.