Using Manual Settings Part 1

When I look back to when I first started shooting with a dslr,  I can remember how confusing everything was and wondered if I would ever get it right..

With that said I have decided to try to make this simple & to the point. The first thing I wanted to talk about is your equipment. Canon or Nikon? Maybe you have another brand. Most of the settings are very similar. But for those who have Nikon look for your M setting. It looks like this :


Canon below:


As you can see they are very similar. Okay so turn your dial to M for manual. Whoo hoo! Your almost there! Okay now..

There are three things that make up your exposure: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

You use these three components to get your light meter to be at zero. To find your light meter look through the view finder.

It should be that little line graph at the bottom that looks a little like this:

 – 2 . . . 1 . . . 0 . . .1 . . .2 + (there should be a little flashing vertical line or “ticker” underneath the graph, this is what you are adjusting)

Nikon look like this + 2 . . . 1 . . . 0 . . . 1 . . . 2 –

You want your little flashing ticker to be on the zero most of the time. If it moves towards the -1 or -2 your image will be under exposed ( too dark) . If you move toward the +2 it will be over exposed ( too bright) Try to keep your meter around . 1 . . . 0 . . .1 of each direction. When you are setting your aperture, iso or shutter you will use your meter to help guide you.

Understanding Aperture

Aperture is also known as f-stop. It is this setting that gives us those yummy blurry backgrounds! Like this


                                                              This image is set at f-stop 2.8

Notice the background is very blurry, you can’t see the blades of grass in detail because my depth of field is shallow. The lower your aperture is set the more blurry you get. The higher your f-stop the more your photo is in focus. Like this photo below:


                                                            This image is set at f-stop 5.6

Okay, so how do you know what f-stop to use? Some people use a few guidelines. If your shooting two people set it 2.0 if your shooting 4 people 4.0 . Practicing is how you learn. I usually  have mine set anywhere from 2.0- 2.8 <====my sweet spot. If your shooting a landscapes or buildings use a higher f-stop to have more of your image in focus. Now what if yours doesn’t go that low ? I have to stop and explain this 

YOUR LENS! The type of lens you use will determine the kind of aperture you have. I don’t want to get into lenses quite yet but most likely you have a kit lens that came with your camera.

lens1Here is the canon 18-55 mm with an Aperture lowest at 3.5 & highest 5.6

You might find it really hard to get blurry images with such a high aperture. To be honest I skipped the use of my kit lens as I found it really hard to create the images I wanted. I invested in a prime lens with an aperture f-stop 1.8. Can you believe they go as low as 1.2! 

Here is a Nikon kit lens 18-55 with 3.5 – 5.6lens2

Changing your aperture affects the amount of light in your shot.  The lower the number, the more light is brought in.  The higher the number, the less light.  Therefore, if you do a lot of indoor shooting, it is nice to have a lens with a lower aperture such as f1.8.

Remember: Lower number aperture = more light and more bokeh (blurry background) Higher number aperture = less light and more focus detailed background.

Understanding ISO

This is super easy. Remember when you bought film rolls? I know ages Remember how there was a number on the package 200, 400 and 800. If it was sunny day you would probably pick 200. If you were indoors you might choose 800. I never understood those numbers I just always bought 200. Then when you get your pictures back from the store you would see which pictures came out which ones were too dark or too bright .. yes I know you know what I’m talking

Well that is what ISO is all about! Its how much light you’re allowing to reach your sensor. If its super bright sunny morning you would want it at 100 . If the sun is going down you might want it at 400. The lower the number the less light.  Something to keep in mind about ISO is it can sometimes affect the amount of “noise” in your picture.  Noise is when your picture looks grainy or pixellated.  If your photo is properly exposed it shouldn’t matter what your ISO is set at because it shouldn’t be grainy.

Here is a great image ( by ) that shows the effect of different ISO


Below is a great info-graphic to help you understand:


To set your ISO use your manual to help guide you to find the settings. Follow the instructions. Each camera is different. Get very comfortable changing your ISO. Practice a few times when it’s really sunny outside then later in the day or indoors with a still subject.

Understanding Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is the amount of time that your shutter is open. They are shown on your camera as 1/ ( whatever #) of a second. This will change as to what your subjects are. If your shooting still images like you just decorated your living room you can afford to have a slower shutter speed. If your shooting little ones like two-year olds who move too much!! Like my son! You want to have a fast shutter speed ! 1/125 or more.

The lower the bottom number the more light will come in because your shutter is open longer.  The higher the bottom number means less light will be coming in because it is open for less time.  If you are in a low lighting situation and you are taking a picture of something stationary, you can lower your shutter speed to something crazy like 1/20 but just make sure you use a tripod!

Remember: Lower shutter speed – more light but you risk blurriness in the image, Higher shutter speed = low light but much more crisp image!


Here is f-stop 2.8      shutter  1/200  ISO 250

By adjusting these 3 components and using your meter to help guide you to shooting in MANUAL!

Another helpful tip. If you find yourself having a hard time grasping aperture or shutter speed. Maybe you understand shutter speed but are really struggling with aperture don’t worry there is a way to still shoot manual but have your camera help you. Find on your camera dial control


 See the AV ? That is a terrific setting. In a nutshell your camera will determine your aperture setting for you. I know cool right?! Say your shooting your little one and you’re not sure what to set f-stop. AV does that thinking for you. Use your meter to help guide the shutter speed.  Or say it’s the other way around . Set the dial to TV = time value. TV will determine your shutter speed. This is  a great way to help you while you practice with one setting. I did this a lot while starting out. I was able to build confidence in learning all about my shutter while my camera determined my aperture for me. Now go forth and practice. Get away from that green square.

I’d love to hear any questions you may have. Feel free to comment below.

HOMEIShare on FacebookITweet this PostIFollow me on PinterestIContact

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *