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Photographing in Manual Mode

Last week we covered ten extremely important tips for photographers. If you missed it, you can check out the blog HERE.

Speaking of, the post did so well, today we will discuss using your camera to photograph in full manual mode. By the end of the blog post, you will have a better understanding of how to set the shutter speed, ISO and aperture to photograph your portraits with excellence and poise. And a lot of practice like the rest of us!

Let's get to it, first let's discuss some vocabulary:


Aperture: The opening size in the lens, (measured in F-stops - noted below). It is the variable opening in the lens though which light passes to the digital sensor.

Tip: The smaller the hole, the less light you get in. The larger the hole, the more light you let in.

Don't let the numbers confuse you, f2.8 has a larger hole whereas f11 has a smaller hole.

Depth of Field: The distance between the nearest and farthest objects in your scene which is in focus.

Tip: A small or "shallow" depth of field (f2.8) will have the closest object in focus but a blurry background. A larger depth of field (f22) will have both the foreground and background in focus.

Exposure: The total amount of light reaching the digital sensor. This is controlled by setting the aperture, shutter speed and ISO.

F-Stop: The measure of the aperture opening in the lens defined by dividing the focal length of the lens by the aperture diameter.

Tip: Common F-stops: f2.8, f4, f5.6, f8, f11, f12, f22

Remember, the smaller the hole size, the less amount of light you let in. The larger the hole size, the more light you let in.

ISO: This acronym stands for International Standards Organization and represents the sensitivity of the camera's digital sensor to the light. Tip: The lower the ISO number (ISO 100), means it is less sensitive it is to the light. The higher the number (ISO 3200) the more sensitive it is.

For example, on a bright sunny day, you would use ISO 100-200; for an indoor event with low lighting, you might use ISO 1600.

Shutter Speed: The amount of time the shutter is opened during an exposure. This what controls the motion.

Tip: The faster the speed (1/2000th of a second) will freeze motion like a football player running. Or using a slower speed (1/4 of a second or longer) to blur a moving object.


Now that you have some of the vocabulary down, we can move into putting these words into action. Also, please try not to get overwhelmed by memorizing the vocabulary. You will become a better photographer by practicing, not reciting. If you get anything from this post, it was the previous sentence.

Let's continue.

Below are a few photographs taken on a bright, summer day in Houston, but in the shade. Remember from last week, check your surroundings. I don't want to be out in the full light because I might miss out on the details of the subject matter, especially with individuals -- no on enjoys a squinty-eyed photo! So, grab your notes from above and try and point out the differences you see with the settings!

ISO 400

f 4.5


Things to notice:

1. Blurry background as well as most of the rocks (f 4.5).

2. Nice exposure.

ISO 500

f 11


Things to notice:

1. Background more in focus than first image (f 11).

2. Exposure too dark.

ISO 200

f 4


Things to notice:

1. Background blurry (f 4).

ISO 400

f 5.6


Things to notice:

1. Background more in focus than first image (f 5.6).

2. Much brighter than all the images (1/60)


ISO 800

f 11


Things to notice:

1. Background and foreground more in focus than other images (f 11).

2. Exposure is okay and we're able to see most details in foreground AND background.


Congratulations! You made it through some of the most difficult aspects of photography! You are now on your way to new and better skills. Remember, learning and understanding exposure and lighting are keys to become a successful photographer -- so keep practicing!

Also, if this post confused you or you do not notice a big change in the images don't worry, this is quite normal. Just know, the more you practice with exposures and the settings of your camera, the more your eyes will pick up on the changes.

If you are up for a challenge this weekend, please follow the directions below and document the changes you see. Feel free to tag me in your images so I can take a peek! #SOHchallenge


1. Photograph a still life subject with an ISO of 200, 400, 800.

2. Photograph a still life subject with f-stops at: f4, f8, f11 (more if you would like)

3. Photograph a still life subject with shutter speeds at 1/60, 1/125, 1/320.

Happy photographing!

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