How to use manual mode

A photographer can never become a true professional unless he knows how to harness the full potential of the camera. Unlocking the full potential will, without a doubt, help you take a lot better photos. That is what the manual mode on the camera does. It allows you to take complete control of your photos. You can alter each and every aspect to get the best out of every environment. Let us learn how to use manual mode on your camera and step up the photography game.

Why shoot in manual?

Using the automatic mode is surely easy. While shooting in auto mode, you are not really learning more about your camera and photography. The camera is doing everything for you except clicking the shutter. However, when you move to the manual mode, you are controlling all the settings while improving your knowledge about different elements and environments.

The exposure triangle:

One of the most essential aspects of photography is the exposure triangle. The exposure triangle consists of three elements i.e. ISO, Aperture, and Shutter speed. With manual mode, you will be able to control all these settings according to the scene you are shooting in. Learning the details of the exposure triangle is necessary if you want to know how to use manual mode on your camera.


The ISO number decides how much your camera is sensitive to light falling in through the sensor. Various cameras come with different ISO ranges e.g. 100-1600. Setting a higher ISO means that the sensor will be more light sensitive and vice versa. Higher ISO helps while shooting in lower light conditions, however, being totally dependent on ISO to deal with low light is not recommended. Higher ISO values can produce grains in photos so stick with lower values and utilize the other two elements to get the best exposure.

Aperture - How to use manual mode

In simpler words, the aperture is the iris of your lens. It is represented as f/ (aperture value) e.g. f/1.8 or f/12. This value represents how much the aperture will be opened. One of the applications of the aperture is creating the depth of field by focusing on the subject. If the value is lower, then it will create a shallower depth of field. Similarly, when the aperture value is higher, the entire scene will be in focus instead of a particular subject. As it is the opening of the lens, it also alters the amount of lighting passing through the lens.
ISO setting on camera - - How to use manual mode

Photo edited in Lightroom.

Shutter speed:

The shutter speed is the time for which that camera’s shutter stays open. It is represented in the fractions of seconds e.g. 1/100. Along with the exposure of the photo, shutter speed also affects its sharpness. Basically, it depends on the time for which the shutter stays open. If the shutter stays open for a longer time, then more light will reach the camera sensor and it will also capture the motion that occurred in the frame during that time. Thus, the longer the shutter stays open, the higher the chance of getting a blurred-out image is. A faster shutter speed gives less light exposure but captures a sharp and clear photo. Shutter speed can be used in a lot of creative ways such as motion captures and astrophotography.

White balance:

Apart from the exposure triangle, another important manual setting that will help you get the best possible results is the White balance. Basically, the main purpose of white balance is to get a natural and balanced color tone in a picture.

Using the manual settings:

While using the manual mode, you must select all the variables carefully depending on your shooting scenario. Here’s a step-by-step procedure to use all of the manual settings discussed above.

Setting the aperture:

Decide whether you want a shallow or a deep depth of field. If you want a blurred background select a narrower aperture i.e. a smaller value and vice versa.

Setting the shutter speed:

Observe the environment. See if the object is moving or it is still. It also depends on the type of photography you are doing. If you want a sharp and focused subject, then use faster shutter speed. Shutter speed is also very helpful in low light conditions. Just remember if you are shooting at longer shutter speeds to cope with low light, then use a tripod or a stable surface as the smallest shake can ruin the photo.
Man using camera - How to use manual mode

Setting the ISO - How to use manual mode

After picking the right aperture and shutter speed, now it’s time for the last element of the exposure triangle i.e. ISO. Prefer the lowest ISO possible. You can always pump up the value if the exposure isn’t looking good. However, don’t go way higher to fix the exposure as it can produce grains in the photo.

Setting the White balance:

Digital cameras have various white balance modes e.g. Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Flash, and many more. You can also make a custom white balance preset according to the scene you are shooting in. We highly recommend experimenting with different modes before starting the photo session.

Conclusion - How to use manual mode

We hope that everything discussed above on how to use manual mode will help you in your next photography session. Your priority while shooting in manual mode must be to get the right exposure. It might be challenging at first. Only practice will make you a true professional.

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Have a nice photoshoot! 

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