Step Out of Your Automatic Comfort Zone into Manual ~ The Beginner’s Guild to Manual Photography

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  • Post published:January 10, 2019
  • Post category:Good Idea

Start Looking Like a Professional Photographer!

Welcome back! Or if this is your first time here, WELCOME TO THE GLORIOUS WORLD OF ARMOR’S BLOG! One of our goals at Armor is to bring you helpful and valuable tech information that you can use in your everyday life. Today, I want to talk to you about the beginning steps to becoming a professional photographer. Today’s post is to help get people out of their automatic-setting comfort zone into manual. Now, let’s begin.

How to Set Up Your Camera and Why

On your digital camera, you’ll need to set it to manual. The reason why manual is so important is because it gives you total control over taking pictures. You can adjust the shutter speed, pick the aperture, and choose the ISO setting. Most digital cameras have one or more of the following standard exposure modes: Auto (green rectangle), Program (P), Aperture Priority (A or Av), Shutter Priority (S), Manual (M), and Bulb (B) mode. A, S, and M are sometimes called creative modes or Custom 1-3 (C1, C2, C3).

Here is an image showing how to be on Manual Mode on a cameraWhat’s great about Manual is how you can manipulate the exposure, ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. Watch how you can have a completely different picture with just a few setting changes.

If you really want to impress your friends, turn Raw Pictures on in your camera’s setting. This allows you to adjust the exposure and other parameters when you import the image into your photo editor. However, these files are much bigger than a normal jpg: this is because of all the data stored in the file.


Exposure is the amount of light that reaches your camera sensor. This is determined by just three camera settings: aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. The nickname for this is the exposure triangle.

This is the Exposure Triangle. It shows you how Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO work together to make a beautiful picture.


ISO (created by the International Organization for Standardization) is the sensitivity of your sensor to light. On a sunny day, you should use between 100-200 ISO. If it’s overcast or late in the day, then you should use 400 ISO. If you are working indoors or taking night shots, then you have less light and should use 800 ISO or higher. For really low light situations, like plays or concerts, you might need to use 1600 ISO. The lower the number, the more light you have to work with; the higher the number, the more noise you’ll have. Image noise is a grainy pixelation that varies in color and brightness. It is caused by missing data that your camera is trying to fill in using the pixels around the area.


Aperture controls the brightness of the image by letting more or less light in. A good example of this is the iris in your eye when you move from a lighter area to a darker one. One critical effect of the aperture is depth of field. Depth of field is the amount of your photograph that appears in focus. When you see an image that has a depth of field where the background is completely out of focus, it is called thin or shallow. If both the foreground and background are sharp, then they have a depth of field called large or deep. The aperture directly affects the shutter speed.

Shutter Speed

Shutter Speed is a measurement in seconds, or fractions of a second, of how long you let the shutter stay open while taking a picture. 1/100 means 1/100th of a second, or 0.01 seconds. Unfortunately, if your shutter speed is off, your photo can end up poorly exposed or blurred. You can avoid camera shake by using a faster shutter speed.

Every situation is unique and will require different camera settings based on what you’re looking for. Above is how the aperture and shutter speed work together.

Your Flash

When taking pictures, you want to be aware of what the flash is and what it does. The flash is an artificial light that takes out all of the natural shadows. Leaving your images looking flattened, unbalanced, and/or overexposed. The flash can also darken the background, making it hard to see the foreground.

So what can you do? You can buy what is called an external flash. This allows you to take pictures without losing that natural look. An external flash increases the surface area of the flash, making the shadows more pronounced.

Here are cameras that have different types of flashes on them.Above, you can see what some exterior camera flashes look like. They help balance the flash so you don’t lose your shadows.

If you’re in a time crunch and don’t have time to set up for your model, then I recommend taking a few pictures and seeing how they look and adjust the settings from there. If you have a tripod, you can take a picture with and without the flash then blend the two pictures together. That is, if you have very low light in the foreground and you are losing details to the shadows.

Lighting and Staging

If you really want to understand lighting and staging, practice. Everyone uses photography in different ways. You might want more light in the back to darken your model, or maybe you don’t want to see any background so you change the aperture and use a light on your model. For basic portrait lighting, you can get away with one light source. Some photographers like intense shadows, which is called chiaroscuro lighting. Or maybe you want the shadows to blend and not be so harsh. Then you would want to use multiple lights.

When taking a shot, remember that most people view them left to right. So think of what you want people to see when you are taking a picture. How much negative space do you want? You can follow the rule of thirds, which is when your focus area is taking, up to, 1/3 of your photo. It can help you create well balanced and interesting shots.

The Secret to Taking the Best Pictures

Practice, practice, practice, and practice more! When you first start, it’s going to take you a while to really understand the settings on your camera. It’s going to take you some time between each shot. That’s okay, don’t worry about it. The more you practice, the faster you’ll get and the more you’ll understand.

If you like this post, or have any blog topics you would like us to cover, contact Armor Techs to let us know! We love to hear your feedback on how we are doing.