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  • Writer's pictureAmy Demidow

Shoot In Manual Mode: Manual Camera Settings

Updated: Apr 23, 2023

I remember being a beginner photographer. Holding my brand new camera in my hands and, looking at all of the buttons and switches. I found myself wondering why I thought I was smart enough to master it. Shoot in manual mode? No thank you!

At the start, I always shot in automatic mode. I couldn't wrap my head around what any of the settings meant and thought I would get the best outcomes if I just let the camera do all of the manual work. Oh how wrong I was.

If you are feeling this way, trust me, you aren't the only one. Many other beginner photographers feel this way abnout shooting in manual mode. There will be many who continue to feel like this in the future too... especially as smart phones become more popular in photography e as .

Anyway, like i said. A lot of beginner photographers struggle to get to grips with using their manual camera settings which means they resort to using modes where the camera does all the work for them. This is great and can certainly be helpful when they are experimenting with finding their style and vision. However, we have to remember that the camera can't always get it right. (Crazy, right?)

Using anything other than manual mode really hinders your progression as a photographer and doesn't allow you to understand the full capabilities and settings on offer. Therefore, let's get the learning out of the way! It's like riding a bike or driving a car: once you have learned this you will never have to again!

So, this blog post aims to focus on the different settings on your camera, what they are used for and ideal settings for certain environments. By the time you have read this you'll hopefully become a Manual Master!

Shutter Speed

Your shutter speed can be thought of as the amount of time your camera’s shutter is open to allow the light to hit the sensor and take the picture. It is typically denoted as a fraction of a second (e.g. 1/125). Your shutter speed will have an effect on the sharpness of your subject.

Lower shutter speeds let in more light because the shutter takes longer to close. It makes your image susceptible to motion blur and requires an unhumanly possible steady hand or tripod. (Even if you don't think your hands are shaking, trust me, your camera tell you otherwise).

It is key to remember that anything slower than 1/60 will mean you will get motion blur- use this wisely! Shutter speeds slower than 1/60 are mostly only good for when you are using a tripod.

On the contrary, faster shutter speeds let in less light because it closes quicker. It will give you you a sharper subject and an image less susceptible to those shaky hands of yours. Using faster shutter speeds is the most common. I use them for almost everything: portraits, gig photography, events.


If you are looking to shoot in manual mode on your DLSR, you have probably heard of aperture. The aperture is the hole at the center of your camera’s shutter. If you’re aiming for a blurred background you must set your aperture correctly; it can basically be thought of as a way of adjusting how much of your picture is in focus.

The lower the f number (anything lower than f/4), the more light reaches your sensor because it is wider open. This also means that more of your background is blurred too.

The higher the f number means that more of your picture will be in focus. In other words, low f-number gives more light with a blurrier background; high f-number gives less light and a sharper background.


ISO can be thought of as your camera’s sensitivity to light. As a general guideline, shooting outside on a sunny day, ISO 100-200 is a safe bet. If you’re shooting indoors under low lighting you want to be in the higher ISO numbers.​​

The lower the ISO number, the more light is needed to get a good exposure and the less noise in your images.

Higher ISO numbers help you shoot in lower light conditions, but create more noise in your images.

Two basics to remember when picking an ISO: a) Raising your ISO means that your pictures will have more light in them b) Raising your ISO also means that you will have a poorer quality image. Choose wisely!

White Balance

Think of it this way: is your image looking very cold and blue? Or is it looking warm with reddish, orange colours? If you think your pictures have one of these qualities then the white balanace is off. You want the colours to be as true to life on the camera as you can.

I will admit that this is the only setting on the camera that I keep on automatic beause most of the time it does do a good job. However, I would always advise that if it doesn't then this is easy to solve in Lightroom afterwards.

Bonus Tip: Use the Histogram to Check Exposure

One of the most useful tools in manual mode photography is the histogram. The histogram is a graph that shows the distribution of brightness levels in your photo. By checking the histogram, you can ensure that your photo is properly exposed. A well-exposed photo will have a histogram that is spread out across the entire graph, with no areas that are too dark or too bright. If your histogram is skewed to one side or the other, you may need to adjust your aperture, shutter speed, or ISO to achieve a better exposure.

Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO Chart

So now you have taken in all of the important information regarding how to shoot in manual mode, save the picture below to help you whenever you need a recap!


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