A Beginner's Guide to Shooting in Manual Mode

Mastering manual mode is one of the most fundamental skills every photographer needs to develop to take better creative and technical control of their images. If you are new to photography and wondering how to decode the mystery of manual mode, this fantastic video tutorial will get you up and running in no time at all. 

Coming to you from Mango Street, this excellent video tutorial will show you how to use manual mode to take better control of your photography. While automatic and semi-automatic modes on cameras are quite advanced and capable (and even preferable to manual mode in certain situations), they cannot think creatively and they can be fooled technically, which is why it is so important to have confident command of your camera's manual mode. The best way to look at it is to remember that the three exposure parameters, shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, do not operate independently; changing one will force you to compensate with another. Much of working in manual mode is about choosing which parameter you want to control for creative purposes, then using the other two to compensate for technical needs. Check out the video above for the full rundown. 

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Graham Randle's picture

As an 'advanced amateur' can offer my advice.
Best to get into manual by first controlling 2 of the sacred 3 variables.

1. Lock in ISO to some thing reasonable - at least 400 or 800 - don't be afraid of high ISO's - they're not a problem with modern equipment.

2. Select Aperture priority and set what you' think is reasonable - midway between min & max of your lens is good place to start.
Camera chooses shutter speed - if it suits you, use it.

3. Select shutter priority and camera will select Aperture (f stop) - if it suits you, use it.

Quit trying to 'outthink' your camera - it's better at many things than you are.

Point is that controlling 2 of 3 variables is useful stepping stone to full manual where you have to cope with all 3.

Be sceptical about advice that says
- always shoot at lowest possible ISO
- always shoot manual
- always shoot RAW

And stop arguing with your camera - it usually (note, I haven't said 'always') knows what it's doing.

Happy shooting and stay safe.


anthony marsh's picture

Interesting comment, "Quit trying to outthink your camera". This is the problem with most photography today, cameras think for you rendering you a casual observer even more so with digital where the image is seldom the reality what with PHOTOSHOP, LIGHTROOM and myriad forms of manipulation and gimmickry. I own 16 manual no in camera meter film cameras and I'll be damned I think while using every one of them.