How to Shoot in Manual Mode

manual mode

You don’t need to be a pro to shoot in manual mode. In this article I’m going to give you instructions on how to make good photos in manual mode.

There are 4 key options that influence the quality results:

  • Aperture (brightness)
  • Shutter Speed (brightness)
  • ISO (brightness)
  • WB (color)

Now let’s talk about each one of these parameters

manual mode


In other words – diaphragm. We all know what is diaphragm in human body. It’s a partition separating the thorax from the abdomen. The same thing with aperture in lens – it is a partition, which changes the opening size and thus regulates the amount of light that gets onto the digital matrix in camera.

Aperture is measured in notional value and is denoted by F. The highest aperture number is indicated on your lens. If you have zoom lens then there can be two values. The values of the open aperture at the extreme focal length, maximum open and closed.

Open aperture is the one with the lowest F. Lenses’ number depends on the aperture – open or closed. For example, there are 85 mm lens with an open aperture F 1.2, there are also 85 mm lens with the highest aperture F2. Kit lens usually have highest aperture (F 3.5 – 5.6), that means if focal length is 18 mm, the highest aperture is F 3.5, thus 55 mm – F 5.6.

manual mode

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is a period of time during which the light goes through the lens and onto the matrix. It is measured in seconds, in fractions of seconds. Usually the fastest shutter speed is 1/8000 or 1/4000 in more affordable models. The longest one is 30 sec. If you need a slower shutter speed – the cameras have manual mode. Shutter speed takes place when you hold the shutter button. And in this mode it may last a minute or more.

Shutter speed can be fast and slow.

For example, 5, 10, 25 seconds are considered to be slow, whilst 1/200 is fast and 1/8000 is the fastest. If we compare the numbers: 1/50 is slower than 1/150 and 1/10 is faster than 1/5.

manual mode


We all remember films from our childhood, with numbers like 100, 200, 400, 800. These numbers represent the film’s sensitivity to light. We use 100 when shooting in the day light, and 800 in the evening when the light is poor.

The same is with digital photography. The lower ISO number, the less light there’s going to be. Which means that if we shoot in manual mode in day light and the sun is shining bright – we set ISO at 100-200, when the weather is cloudy with drizzle – ISO is set at 400-1600.

The higher is the ISO number, the worse is the quality of the pictures, when number increases the grainy digital noise occurs. It was impossible to shoot with the first digital cameras when ISO was set at 800 – the quality was terrible. Modern cameras provide high quality even when ISO is up to 2500.

In case you are shooting in the evening with general ISO numbers, and as a result get very dark or blurry pictures – it is better to neglect the quality and set ISO at the most optimal number, up to 6400.

WB (white balance) – color settings in photography

Color in photograph is measured in Kelvin temperature. As rule, you can set your camera at 2500 up to 10000 Kelvin. As a rule, the temperature scale ranges from 2500K. to 10000 K. Depending on the light used for the shooting in manual mode, different color temperatures can be set in Kelvin or presets can be used (Cloudy, Sunny, Tungsten, Fluorescent).

For instance, Tungsten preset equals 2800K, and Cloudy equals 5600K. We change the color range (from yellow to blue) along with the color temperature in camera settings.

And what about adding other colors? For example, how to make yellow a bit more orange, blue – magenta and vice versa. For this purpose there is a shade setting in camera.

What if there are different light sources. For example, you are shooting inside in the evening using lamps, and it is still light outside – these are different temperatures. It’s 28000K inside, and about 6000K outside. In this case, the priority should be given to the main object. If you’re shooting something/somebody outside the window – choose settings for outdoor lightning, if it’s a portrait and the window is in the background – choose settings due to the indoor lights. Similarly, if you make a portrait at night outside with a flash where there are yellow street lights – set temperature at 5600K and as a result you will have normal skin color and yellow background. If you set WB due to the background to make it look natural – face color will turn blue.

Where can a creative person find the inspiration, or the easiest way to get out of the creativity crisis

How often do we wonder where to find the inspiration?

It is indeed pretty hard for a creative person, to be exact – a photographer or an operator, to find the inspiration just because of one’s mentality. I myself often think about this!
I found for myself a very easy way to get rid of the creativity crisis.

At first, I wanted to write about my Pinterest and how I watch others’ pictures so that the ideas for photoshoots would rush in, but then I realized it won’t help neither you nor me.

The best inspiration for humanity will remain the problems. Within my recollection all genius people, involved whether in the field of photography or even in business, have a feeling of deep dissatisfaction with their own lives. They always search for different ways of solving their problems and eventually succeed. That being said if you constantly feel good and you’re satisfied with everything – that is most likely the creativity crisis.

How often do we wonder where to find the inspiration

The problems arise in two ways: you can make them up by yourself or you can wait for a little while for them to overtake you. If in the first case the problem you’re solving is your life task, in the last case – the unexpected problem is like a flurry of a very heavy load and it’s very hard to solve it.

If you want to solve your “problems” you need to set a great genuine goal. Almost every dream of yours can become a goal, whether you’re a photographer or an operator – any other creative person, it is essential to believe in it with all your heart, with every cell of your body and you need to move in the desired direction all the time taking either big or small steps. This way you’ll never think about where to get your inspiration, your dream will lead you and offer you the ideas.

 How often do we wonder where to find the inspiration

Now it is time for an exercise:
think about what you want the most? When you answer this question – make a decision to move only to this goal. Everything else that has nothing to do with your goal is a rubbish and it doesn’t worth your time.

For example, you may set a goal of becoming the best newborn photographer in the world. For many people it may seem to be an unattainable dream. But! If we analyze the newborn photography market, we can see that achieving the goal takes no more than 5 years. All photographers offer all the same, so it’s not that hard to become the best. All you need is 1, 2, 3 – a specific set of actions.

Any goal is achievable! Just believe in it!

 How often do we wonder where to find the inspiration

Ask yourself a question: why do you need it? Why do other people need it?

Ergo, choose yourself a goal and go for it, and then everything will work out well!

Artemy Lebedev has well said: “How to motivate yourself to do something? – No how – stay in the ass”.

Wishing you stay inspired, Oleg Samoilov