Quickest Path to Understand Manual Mode for Beginners in Seven Days - Day 7

October 07, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Wow!  Day 7!  Did you skip 1 through 6?  Did you just land on this page through a Google or Bing search?  If you said yes to any of those, go back and start at day 1.


Assignment:  Use manual mode to repeat the look and feel of some of your previous photos.

If you followed through all seven days, congratulations and you are ready for manual mode.  You have played with aperture priority and shutter priority.  Now it is time to start playing with manual mode.  In the beginning, you can keep ISO on auto for a few shots and it is actually something I do sometimes when doing wildlife photography.

Whether ISO is on auto or manually set by me here are some thoughts I have:

  • In all situations, I would prefer to have ISO as low as possible to get the best color and quality photo.  But in some cases, you have to move your ISO to a higher setting.  For bird photography, I start at 1600 ISO to ensure I can get a faster shutter speed.
  • If I am doing portrait photography I am pushing hard to keep m ISO as low as possible

ISO is my setting I may adjust first to ensure my shutter and aperture are at settings that I want for the look I am trying to capture.  Let me give you some examples.

Friday night High School Football games. 

  1. I may set my ISO to 400 at first with the understanding I may have to go higher depending on the lighting.
  2. I want a relatively fast shutter speed to freeze some action so will be shooting at about 1/500 to 1/1000 of a second.
  3. I don't want a super shallow depth of field so my aperture will be at about 4.0 to 5.6

For portraits, I want to control the aperture settings.  (this is without flash)

  1. Set my ISO to 100
  2. Set my aperture to 2.0 or 2.8
  3. Set my shutter speed to what makes those settings work and trying to keep it 1/50 or higher.

Are you ready for the secret of manual mode for your digital camera?   There isn't one. That is the secret.  You have to practice and just think through what you are trying to capture with your photo.  What you are trying to capture can be a workshop all by itself.   The purpose of this series is to get you using modes other than automatic and get you playing with manual mode.

There is no "right" mode.  However, there are some effects that can only be accomplished (or is much easier) in manual mode.  For example, sunsets and long exposures.  Fireworks is much better in manual mode.  Most portrait photographers are in full manual mode.

Here are some tips for which mode to try while progressing through shutter priority, aperture priority, and manual mode.

  • If you are just starting, try aperture or shutter priority.  But choose the one that is right for the situation.  If you are taking photos of your children's soccer game you would want shutter priority, so you can freeze the action.  If you are taking landscape photos, then aperture priority would be better.  I also like aperture priority for street photography.
  • If you are improving and using manual mode a lot, then consider falling back to shutter priority or aperture priority if the light is changing quickly and you are unable to make the adjustments fast enough.  This is one of the reasons why I like shutter priority for wildlife and bird photography.  You don't know when the subject is going to be in the bright or darker background.
  • If the photos are very important to you, use a mode you are comfortable with.  Don't miss the moment while you are learning.  Those sentimental photos don't care what mode you used.


Assignment:  Use manual mode to repeat the look and feel of some of your previous photos.

Keep practicing, you will get better.   I will create some how-to blogs for projects that are best suited for manual mode.


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