How to Shoot in 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.

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  1. nikon d3300 camera

  2. Muy útil.

  3. Is there a guide on how to glimpse a perfect model or subject ?

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