Camera settings are what manual mode is all about but they are not easy to figure out and understand at first. Today I’m going to show you some baby steps you can take to help get you on the way to shooting photos in full manual mode. It is not always easy, and Mom worked on it for over a year before she finally made the leap to full manual. Be ready for bad photos, but know that they are simply a part of learning. There are different cameras out there, and you need to know which one is right for you.
For those new to DSLR cameras, they make it easy to learn in steps. There are some things you need to do which are not that hard.
- Shoot in RAW. If you have good editing software you can change so many things with edits, such as the white balance. Mom shoots in both RAW and JPG because sometimes she isn’t up to using Lightroom and it’s easier to quickly edit a photo in her photoshop program. RAW does tend to make for better photos after editing.
- Set the white balance. We have ours set to cloudy most of the time which works for us. Sometimes indoors we use automatic because of the funky light bulbs that are being used it is hard to know what to use. We can then change it when editing with a RAW file.
- Choose your ISO. Mom says if you happened to use film in the olden days like she did, it makes it easier to understand. ISO is the camera’s sensitivity to light. 100 film was for outside, 400 was for inside, often with flash. On a DSLR it is similar in that 100 is for bright light outdoors. If you would like to shoot inside without flash, you may want and ISO of 1000 or higher. Each camera is a bit different, so play around with it. The higher the ISO, the more grainy your photos will be. We try to stay at 1250 or less most of the time.
Partial automatic settings will help you understand settings and how to set manually eventually. Looking at the wheel with the various shooting modes you will see M, A, S, and P. Different brands may be slightly different in appearance but the modes are about the same.
M is for manual, the goal you should aim for. Once you try it for a while you will never go back to any other mode!
A is for Aperture Priority Mode, probably the most fun mode. If you choose this mode the camera will automatically set up the shutter speed, but you choose the aperture and ISO on your own. What is aperture? It is what allows you to blur out the background, or have your entire photo in focus. It also creates those fun bokeh effect photos.
Your choice of lens will dictate the range of aperture you have to choose from. One of our favorite lenses has 1.8 (the f-stop) as the lowest aperture. Note in the above photo how I am really the only thing in focus.
In this second photo we set the f-stop to 16. Now you can see the entire house behind us clearly.
The ISO was not changed for either shot. In this case, you would want a higher ISO setting to keep the photo from becoming darker with the higher f-stop of 16. This is the setting Mom used most of the time for months to learn about choosing settings. The camera sets the shutter speed on its own, so you don’t need to worry about that.
S is for Shutter Priority mode. In this mode, you choose the ISO and shutter speed. The aperture is chosen by the camera. We have no clue why anyone would let the camera choose the aperture but it is one way to practice setting your shutter speed. Shutter speed is very important as it is the amount of light let in to expose the camera sensor. If you have a dark, still setting, 1/30 may be a good choice, but for movement in bright conditions, 1/4000 may be best. Shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second.
Olivia is one who needs a fast shutter speed to keep her from being just a blur. This was taken with an ISO of 400, aperture of 3.5, and a shutter speed of 1/2000 with a 70-200 mm lens. At this point, don’t worry about the lens as much as getting your settings right.
P is for Program Mode. This mode is pretty useless. The camera lets you set the white balance and ISO, but it chooses the aperture and shutter speed. We don’t see any point in trying this one.
Once you have practiced with the partial settings and you feel comfortable, give manual a try. We won’t lie, going 100% manual is a scary step. When Mom had important photos to take, she would often fall back to auto, but the more she tried manual, the easier it became and soon she never looked back. Manual is the only way to shoot if you have a DSLR. We hope some of you that have a DSLR but haven’t tried manual yet give these baby steps a try. Learning camera settings is fun and will make you a better photographer.
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