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Sunday 22 September 2013

Learning to Shoot in Manual: Photography tutorials (Part One)

When I began shooting, as a small child, I was fortunate enough to have a great teacher to show me the ropes on a SLR camera. My Grandmother was a shutterbug in her day and had a very nice Olympus which she carried around to all the family reunions and trips she took. When she got on in years and was no longer able to get out with the frequency she wanted she allowed me to continue using that camera which I did right up to just over a year ago. When I made the switch to digital I transferred the camera strap from her camera to my new DSLR and now every shot I take I feel like a part of her is instilled in the picture.

Anyway I reminisce, The point I was going to make was although even then point and shoot cameras existed, Polaroid, Kodak, and a variety of others, I always shot on a SLR. The difference though is that those SLRs did not have an auto function at all, also the price for failure was somewhat expensive. After my Grandmother passed on and before I purchased my DSLR I equipped and used my own darkroom which helped cut some of the costs, but still it was quite pricey to make a mistake. That my friends is the beauty of the digital age. You can make mistakes and it costs you no more than time.

So I guess my question to you is why are you still using your camera in auto mode. You don't have to, going full manual is fun, exciting, and will feed a side of you just begging to be born. Now I'm not saying to turn off auto and never go back, if you are shooting something very important and you don't fully understand manual, stay in auto then when you have time to explore and practise go back to manual.

In this blog series I will endeavour to take you on a journey of exploration and excitement. We will together have moments of joy, at getting that perfect shot. Moments of frustration, trying to get that perfect shot. Finally moments of anguish when we entirely miss that perfect shot, but in the end we will grow and learn from each other.

So grab you camera lets go and make some mistakes. I promise the experience will be rewarding and you will feel that same sense of accomplishment all photographers get when they get that perfect shot.

The first step is of course getting your camera into manual. Now you don't necessarily have to have an SLR it's just that I do, many cameras today have manual or semi manual modes, it's just a question of finding it on yours. You can check your cameras manual, if you still have it, or look at the top of your camera. All DSLR have a button on them with different "modes" M being manual.

You can see all the different modes in the picture to the side. We will look at these modes in depth as we go but for now I just want you to locate manual mode. Remember that this is the first step to opening yourself up to a whole new side of creative photography so make the switch and without doing any thing else take some pictures.Leave your camera lens in auto focus and just shoot. What do you see? The odds are nothing, very few of you might see some sort of picture but most will either see nothing but black or white but certainly not what they shot. You see there are a few settings you must adjust to get the picture you want.

You see what your camera used to do on it's own in auto was adjust 3 variables that you as a photographer needs to become intimate with. They are ISO, Aperture, and Shutter speed. This is known as the photographic triangle. each of these plays off the other and none can be ignored or the photo just won't turn out.

For now just keep in mind that each of these three elements go hand in hand, I will explain them each in depth, but for now put your camera back in auto and look at the settings when you take a picture. From there, looking at your cameras manual, figure out how to adjust each of these settings. Don't hesitate to play around in manual mode change your aperture, change your shutter speed just watch the exposure indicator to ensure that a proper exposure is being met. If you don't know where the exposure indicator is then please open up the owners manual and read through it, things will be clearer as we progress through this series.


  1. Great series choice Chris. I must confess to using the auto option in most cases. I look forward to gaining some knowledge and taking more risks!

  2. Risks are the most rewarding aspects of life. If you always stay safe you never get suprised. I love suprises.

    Thanks for following:)

  3. Excited about learning more! I have a Nikon D3000 and have played around with manual settings and gained more knowledge of what this kind of camera can do. Having said that, there is still much more to discover and learn as a camera such like this is capable of so much more...which is mostly explained in "photography language" and at times difficult to understand. So thanks for bringing this on :)

    1. Thanks Kimberly. I will do my best to not use photo language but if there is a question you have feel free to post or email me and I will do my best.