I never knew I would love photography like I do. I never knew capturing light through my lens would bring me such joy. I'll take photos any time of day, but if I can shoot during the golden hour, I'm one happy camper. A lot happens during the magic hour that really adds to my photographing and it's all about the light. Golden hour light is soft, it glows, and it makes the subject of the photograph glow too. It took me a long time to capture photographs the way I do today, but one thing that has remained consistent is shooting in manual.

I'm far more comfortable shooting in manual now then I was when I first started, but it was shooting in manual that taught me about light. Shooting in manual taught me photography. I never understood why my college professor harped on shooting in manual, but I understand the importance now.  


Understanding why you're shooting in manual will help you understand it's importance. Shooting in manual forces us to take in all the different aspects of our photography process; from where the sun is, what the light is doing, where our subject is positioned, and how we want to compose our photo. We have the option to shoot in auto, or shutter priority, or aperture priority, but those settings don't give us full control over our picture making and that's what we need. We need to be able to control all the settings to create the photo we want.

Let's break down an example. If we choose to shoot in aperture priority, we pick our aperture, and regardless of what aperture we choose our camera will choose the shutter speed, the ISO, and the white balance. Say we begin to shoot an hour before sunset. We decide we want to shoot with an aperture of 2.8 and we spend the next 2 hours shooting. If we continue to shoot in aperture priority, without evaluating the light, then by the end of our photo session, the photos we create may not be what we want... and this is why.... When we shoot in aperture priority our cameras chooses our ISO and our shutter speed. As we loose light during our shoot our cameras may pump up our ISO resulting in un-wanted grain in our photos or poor lighting.

When we shoot in manual we are forced to evaluate our lighting as our photo session progresses. We know how long or short our shutter speed can be before the subject starts to ghost. We know how much light we need in the sky before we increase our ISO. We know how high our ISO can go before our photos get too noisy.


Every camera's meter has a sweet spot. Learning that sweet spot will help you create better photos while shooting in manual. When you're shooting in manual and you're reading your camera's meter you'll learn that your camera has a sweet spot in regards to how it reads light. One of my camera's has a sweet spot that is 1 to 2 stops overexposed, which means I know to get the best exposure I should test my light 1 to 2 stops overexposed. One of my other camera's has a sweet spot that is 1 or 2 stops underexposed, I know to get the best exposure I should test my light 1 to 2 stops underexposed. Shooting in manual and learning your camera's sweet spot will give you even greater control over the photos you create.


Understanding changes in light will help you create better photos when shooting in manual. If we start shooting early in the golden hour and shoot until the sun has set then we need to understand how those changes in light effect our camera settings and our photos. The beginning of our shoot will be golden and glowy, and our settings will be specific to that lighting. However, as the sun sets we will need to adjust our settings. Our photos will start out with a warm tone and by the end our photos will have a cooler tone.

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Shooting in manual can be very overwhelming, but it can also drastically change the way you make your photos. What are some of your surefire tips for shooting in manual? When is your favorite time to do photo sessions? xoxo. Samantha