The 4 Step Guide to Shooting in Manual Mode
Are you still shooting on automatic? ( It’s totally OK if you are 😉) Do you ever wonder though how to shoot in manual mode? If you said yes, I’ve got you covered right here with your 4 step guide to shooting in manual! Manual mode can be a little intimidating and overwhelming, I get it. But, it will give you so much more creative control over your pictures and you will be so glad you made the switch! Keep reading and you’ll learn just how to get off automatic mode and using manual in 4 easy steps!
1. Set Your Shutter Speed
Your shutter speed is the speed at which your camera lens will stay open. The slower you set the shutter speed the more light will filter through because the shutter will be open longer. This is great if you are in a low lit area. However, setting your speed too slow, it can create blurriness, especially if your subject is moving. Slower shutter speeds work great if you are working with a tripod.
The faster the shutter speed the less light will come through. Faster shutter speeds will also capture quick objects like they are frozen in time. This is great for fast moving toddlers or trying to capture running sports players or drips of splashing water. If you will be holding you camera by hand, even the slightest movement can cause some blur. Shooting with a higher shutter speed can stop that from happening.
The speed of the shutter is in terms of a fraction of a second. The smaller the fraction (or the bigger the bottom denominator) the faster the speed.
There are a couple things to really think about before you decide where you will set your shutter speed.
- What is the focal length of your lens? Make sure to set it at least double the length. (ex: 50mm lens.-shutter speed a t least 1/100), 100mm lens-shutter speed at least 1/200)
- Are you shooting hand held? If so you might want to set the shutter a little faster than usual.
- Is your subject moving (even just slightly)? If yes, set your shutter speed faster.
- Are you in a dark place? The shutter speed may have to be set slower.
Check your camera manual to see which dial or button you will use to change your shutter speed.
Once you have selected what you think will be a good shutter speed, now it’s time to think about the aperture.
(Here the shutter speed is set fast- 1/100th of a second on a 50 mm 1.8 lens. This helped capture the fast moving water drops for the hose)
2. Adjust The Aperture
Your aperture will determine your depth of field OR how blurry or clear the background will be in the photo. It is also referred to as your f stop. The wider your aperture, the smaller your f stop number will be. The wider your aperture is, the blurrier parts of your photo will be. (EX: wide aperture=f/2.2)
Wide apertures or small f stop numbers mean that the lens is opened up wider and more light will also come in through the lens. This can be particularly helpful if you are in a low lit area.
Be very aware of the placement of your subjects when setting your aperture . If you choose to set the aperture wide, your subjects should be on the same plane (ex: Line them up in one straight line). Remember that aperture affects the depth of field, so if the subjects are placed several feet behind on another, one is bound to be out of focus.
If you want the entire picture to be clear, set your f stop at a higher number or a narrower aperture (ex: f/5.6). This will help to ensure that more of the picture will be clear. It will also give you more flexibility in posing your subjects farther or closer in the depth of field. (ex: they could be in several rows rather than in one line)
(Wanna learn more about aperture and getting blurry backgrounds– Listen to Episode #4 of The Stay Focused Podcast here: How To Master Getting Blurry Backgrounds)
Check your camera manual to see which dial or button you will use to change your aperture.
Once you have selected what you think will be a good shutter speed and aperture , now it’s time to think about the ISO.
(Aperture here set wide at f/2.2 to create a depth of field where the subject is in focus but the foreground (flowers) and background are blurry)
3. Move the ISO
Once you think you have selected a good shutter speed and aperture, now it is time to adjust your ISO.
You might be scared to move this dial any higher than 100. I get it, there’s a fear that your image will turn out grainy. Don’t be scared though! Think of your ISO as your “helper” to get your exposure correct. Your picture will turn out much more grainy if it’s not exposed properly and the ISO can help you do this! Keep reading below to see how the light meter will help you pick the correct ISO.
4. Watch the Light Meter
When you look into the viewfinder of your camera, you will see the light meter at the bottom of your camera. It looks similar to this:
Finding the correct exposure is not a guessing game. That meter will show you when you have great exposure! Aim your focal point directly at your subject (if it is a person, aim for their skin). Push the shutter halfway down and the light meter will start to move. If it lines up in the middle-BINGO!- your exposure is good.
If it’s to the right- it’s overexposed. If it’s to the left- it is underexposed. So what will you do then? Keep reading…
(Wanna learn more about manual mode– Listen to Episode #9 of The Stay Focused Podcast here: How To Confidently Shoot in Manual Mode)
What if It’s Underexposed?
If that meter is too far to the left, now is the time to crank up the ISO. (Please see your camera’s manual for where the ISO dial or button is) Keep moving it up until you notice your light meter start to get closer to the middle.
What if it’s Overexposed?
Look through your light meter. If it is too far to the right, your photo is probably overexposed. If that is the case, keep the ISO where it is at. Then adjust your shutter speed faster (or a higher lower denominator number) to keep too much light for coming through. Or you can narrow up your aperture (higher f stop number).
Don’t be too concerned with lining up that light meter exactly. It is OK sometimes if it is slightly to the left or right of that center line. Take a few shots and adjust if needed. Start by following these steps to get your subject correctly exposed. ( Once you master that, know that there are more ways to work with that light meter- but don’t overwhelm yourself just yet!)
So let’s see what you’ve got! I challenge you to get off automatic today and try to take a picture in manual. And then keep practicing. You will love the creative control you have over your photos once you’ve mastered shooting in manual.
Let me know how it went for you! I love hanging out over on Instagram, so if you’re there too and you post a shot you’ve taken on manual, tell me about it! Just tag me in your photo or mention me @cozyclicks, so I can check out what your creating!
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