Stepping Into Full Manual Mode. Easy as 1, 2, 3

Easy as 1, 2, 3? Hmm, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. However, these steps have helped me to feel confident enough to step out of the auto modes on my camera and into dabbling with full manual.

For a little background, I’ve had a camera in my hand for as long as I can remember. (You can find out more here.) However, it wasn’t until just a little over a year ago that I first put a DSLR in my hands and it was my very own DSLR. I learned the way most probably do and that is by reading everything I could find, and mostly by trial and error. I began shooting everything within my sight. I took more pictures in three months than I had taken all of my (insert 24 here) years on this earth! I’ve learned a great deal by hands-on experience. And so when I decided to take a venture out of auto and into the world of manual, for whatever reason, I just wasn’t gettin’ it!

Then one day, it clicked! I remember emailing my dad (who is an avid photographer) and asked, “Is this really all I need to do to start?” I just couldn’t believe that by doing these three simple steps, I could take photos that were halfway decent and say I shot them in manual.  All I was doing was “playing” with my camera, started snapping and it worked.

Anyway… (yes, that was a long introduction) I figured if this clicked with me then perhaps there are others who are not even as advanced as I am (Ha! I just called myself advanced! That’s funny. And no, I’m really not but do know there could be others who may have recently come to this particular place in their newfound hobby), and who could benefit.

Here we go:

  • 1) Set ISO – this is determined by the available light you have. If the available light is: Brighter = use lower ISO number; darker = higher number
  • 2) Set your Aperture or Shutter Speed – this depends on your subject. If shooting motion*, set shutter speed; If still object**, set aperture
*If motion, shutter speed – faster shutter speed to freeze motion; slower shutter speed to “see” motion.
**If still object, aperture – lower number (higher aperture) for shallower depth of field; higher number (smaller aperture) for deeper depth of field.

  • 3) Now move your exposure level indicator (what you see inside your viewfinder that has numbers on it with a zero in the center. Yep, I’m talking kindergarten here, but sometimes that’s just what we need!) until it is set at 0. (If you had set your Aperture in Step 2, now you will adjust your shutter speed. If you had set your Shutter Speed in Step 2, now you will adjust your aperture) and…snap!

That’s it! That’s how I took the venture into dabbling in full manual mode. I know, I know – there’s much more that goes into it to achieve greatness in your photos but for those of us who have been somewhat apprehensive to take the dial off of auto, this very well could be of assistance.

Now it’s YOUR turn!

Please share with me a tip or two (or three or four) of what YOU did to step out of auto and into manual. I LOVE learning! And I know I can benefit greatly from your experiences.

Thanks in advance ~ Debbi


5 thoughts on “Stepping Into Full Manual Mode. Easy as 1, 2, 3

  1. I love manual mode. Its all I shoot with, pretty much. The best way is to experiment. Take different photos of the same thing with different settings and then note what is different. Also, when you see other people’s photos that you like and they post their camera settings you can use that info to influence your own work and reproducing similar shots.

    Cabin Fever in Vermont


    1. Thanks Jen! I wanna be like you when I grow up. LOL. I vowed, when I first received my camera, to never use Full Auto mode and therefore I don’t. But using the partial manual modes of Aperture or Shutter/Time Value is what I’m comfortable in. However, I really want to master full manual. And like you said, I just need to DO IT using the different settings until I find what works. I think I’ll reserve a couple of days this week to do just that. practice practice practice. Thanks for always giving me your input. It blesses me!


  2. If you want to go manual, you just have to get on with it
    and make the switch. They only thing I did was to read up how the
    apeture works and how it effects the focus depth. After that I got
    used to differences in exposure and learned when to use the meter
    and when to ignore it.


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