Many people ask me, “how is manual mode any different than auto mode on a DSLR camera?”

These differences are worth knowing if you are to become a better photographer and not just a lazy one who takes snapshots!

Knowing how to use manual mode properly and confidently will instantly take your photography to the next level and improve your images ten fold!

So why I need to use manual mode on my camera? The camera does not know what you are trying to photograph, therefore when you are using auto mode the camera is seeing what it wants to see, which is the brightest part of a scene. When the camera exposes a scene, it will naturally favour the brightest parts and expose your image as a neutral grey tone. The image will turn out looking like rubbish, which is never your intention!   

You will need to learn to override the camera’s auto setting, by using manual mode (M).  This allows us to manipulate the exposure, basically telling the camera how we want a scene to look.  One example I often use; think about when you are taking a portrait of your friend in front of a window inside a room. The result 90% of the time will be the friend turns out very dark, and the background will look nice and bright. Your goal was to photograph your friend, not the scene outside the window, that should be secondary to the portrait.

To manipulate those situations, knowing how to use the camera settings on Manual and learning the rules of exposure are vital to successfully capture a great photo. .

You will learn how to understand the aperture (A), shutter speed (S) and ISO settings (ISO) all together to make the recipe for correct exposure.

Aperture: is the opening in the lens that controls the amount of light reaching the cameras sensor. It also controls depth of field (DOF), the blurred background effect.

Shutter Speed: Controls the fraction of time the light is exposed to the cameras sensor.

ISO: is a standardised setting for the sensor sensitivity, exactly like the film days when you when and grabbed a roll from the supermarket ISO 100 for sunny outdoors shooting and ISO 400 for indoor or dark situations. Now digital camera can range from 100 ISO to 12800.

Controlling all three settings will help to achieve the correct exposure. The correct exposure will create an image that looks the way you intended. Detail will be more obvious in the white/bright parts of the scene and also the dark/shadows.

Are you interested in learning manual mode in more depth? From a real person, using everyday terms and not an instruction manual? Contact me, grace@gracecosta.com for one on one photography tuition. I’ve been photographing for 20 +years in a professional capacity and have a passion for sharing my knowledge in an easy-to-understand language. I’d be very happy to help you on your journey to becoming a better photographer!