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How to Shoot in Manual


Sweet, sweet Hezekiah. It’s been a while since I have done portraits of him. It seems no sooner do I finish up a photo wall, then my kids grow and change and it seems completely outdated. While I love summer and it is hands down my favorite season, the fall light in our woods is absolutely delicious. So delicious, I pulled ten-year-old Hezekiah away from his school work the other day to take photos…boy-in-the-woods

Yes, my friends, this tree is right in our yard…perfect for portraits… boy-in-woods

I love little boys..the torn jeans and converse…doesn’t get any cuter.boy-in-woods  boy-in-the-woods boy-in-the-woods

While I was out shooting this, my friends, I thought of many of you who own DSLR cameras, but haven’t quite moved out of auto yet…So I switched my camera into auto and took this photo:20140916_8864blog copy

As you can see, if you were stuck with auto, you would very likely think that it was just “too dark” to take a photo in that spot…and perhaps you would have moved your subject.

But when I chose my own settings, in manual, look what I was able to achieve:boy-in-woods


As you can see, there was plenty of light, I just needed to tell my camera what to do. This image was shot with my Canon 5D Classic and my Canon 85mm 1.8.

My advice to you? Don’t get stuck in auto! Go out, switch your camera to manual and play around. See what you can come up with.

How to shoot in manual for the first time: 

You have three settings you will choose on your camera:

The aperture (or f-stop) will control how much light comes in and your depth-of-field. In simple terms: large number = less light, larger depth of field. Small number = more light, smaller depth of field (the often desired “blurry background”).

The shutter speed will control how long your shutter is open. Large number = shorter length of time and less light. Smaller number = longer time the shutter is open and more light.

ISO is the film speed. Higher number = lets in more light. Lower number = lets in less light.

Personally, I always, always choose my aperture first (because I want to control the depth of field) and then I choose my other settings.

So go on, move your camera out of auto and into the “scary” manual mode…then come back and post a picture or link in the comments. I’d love to see what you come up with!

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  1. Tony

    That 2nd photo is just about perfect. Wow. I love black n’ white ‘moody’ photographs. Reminds me of photographs from another famous photographer whose name I can’t quite recall at the moment.

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