PHOTOGRAPHY BASICS : SHOOTING IN MANUAL

My journey with photography begun my senior year of college. I had decided I wanted to learn photography so I took "Intro to Photojournalism II." While I did learn some basics of photojournalism what I mostly took away was the basics on how to properly shoot with a DSLR. It was ingrained in me from that moment to always shoot manually, and now I'm not sure I could shoot any other way.

For all those that are in the process of learning to shoot with a DSLR. thought it would be helpful to share what I learned. Everything I am sharing are things I have learned over the years.

(The above photos include one of my very first photo shoots, on the right, which was shot with film.)

Lets start with talking about shooting manually. The minute you begin to shoot manually, while it is difficult, it will begin to change your photos. Every day that I walked into that class my professor would yell, "You better be shooting manually!"

When shooting manually there are three things that you will be working with all the time; shutter speed, aperture, and reading your meter. 

Shutter Speed is the rate in which your shutter opens and closes. The larger the number the faster the shutter will open. The smaller the number the slower your shutter will open.

Aperture is how wide your lens will open to let light in. The smaller the number of your aperture the more light will enter. The larger the number of aperture the less light will enter.

Reading your meter is kind of tricky. Each camera meter has a different sensitivity to the light. When you look through the view finder of your camera at the bottom of the screen you'll see a scale with a plus sign on one end, a minus sign on the other end, and a 0 in the middle. When reading your meter you want the scale line to be even with the 0.

When I shoot I set my aperture first and adjust by shutter speed to create a proper exposure. For example the photo below was shot at f/1.8 (aperture), 1/500 (shutter speed), 50mm(lens).

Different lighting, the amount of people, and different events will all require different sittings when shooting manually. Sporting events require a higher shutter speeds. Low lighting requires a lower shutter speed. The more you practice the better you will get at knowing which settings to use.

Until next time:

  • Break out that camera manual and learn what all the buttons and dials do on your camera.
  • Practice adjusting your aperture and take notes about which aperture sittings you used. Use something small as your focus point, like a mason jar to see how it looks using different f-stops.
  • Practice adjusting your shutter speed and take notes about which shutter speed sittings your used. Try to shoot things in motion and in different light setting; well lit areas and low lit areas. Practice shooting indoors and outdoors.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice.

Have questions? I would love hear them.  Leave them in the comment section below, or shoot me an email. Share with us your photography tips.