FRANKLIN, TN fine art PORTRAIT & elopement photographer 




Photo Tips

What is Manual Mode and Why Should I Use It?

July 10, 2024

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I still remember my early days as an aspiring photographer. I mostly remember feeling overwhelmed and frustrated when I realized the images my “fancy camera” took were nothing like the ones I had pinned on my inspiration Pinterest board. I couldn’t understand why.

I mean, I had this great, expensive camera. I got all the props. I dressed my son in the cutest outfits. All I needed to do was aim and click a button, right? So, why wasn’t it working?

Some examples:

While there are many aspects to creating a great image, one of the most critical and often overlooked factors is shooting in manual mode.

What I didn’t understand at the time was that when I shoot in auto mode, I am basically giving my camera all the control. The camera becomes the boss and decides how the image will look. By letting my camera make all the decisions, I lost the freedom to actually create art. The camera does not care about my style or my vision; all it cares about is creating “technically correct images.” It basically functions like a point-and-shoot camera.

Things like a dreamy, blurry background do not exist in auto mode. In auto mode, the camera assumes you want to see ALL the details in the frame, including those in the background. It also won’t allow you to play with magical light and do things like backlight your subject because that kind of light confuses the camera, which will typically expose for the brightest part of the image, thus ignoring your subject.

These are only two examples of what you cannot do if you give your camera the ability to make all the choices, but there are so many more things you will miss out on.

Understanding Manual Mode:

Manual mode allows you to control three key settings: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Understanding and mastering these settings will give you complete control over your images.

  1. Aperture: This controls the depth of field in your photos. A wide aperture (small f-number) will create a shallow depth of field, giving you that beautiful blurry background, while a narrow aperture (large f-number) will keep more of the scene in focus.
  2. Shutter Speed: This determines how long your camera’s sensor is exposed to light. A fast shutter speed can freeze motion, while a slow shutter speed can create motion blur, adding a sense of movement to your images.
  3. ISO: This measures the sensitivity of your camera’s sensor to light. A low ISO is best for bright conditions to avoid grain, while a high ISO is useful in low light but can introduce noise to your images.

By adjusting these settings yourself, you can achieve the exact look and feel you want for your photos. Manual mode is all about giving you the creative freedom to bring your vision to life.

Why You Should Use Manual Mode:

Switching to manual mode allows you to:

  • Create Consistent Images: You can maintain a consistent style and look across your photos by controlling the settings yourself.
  • Adapt to Different Lighting Conditions: Manual mode lets you adjust to various lighting situations, whether you’re shooting in bright sunlight or a dimly lit room.
  • Develop Your Own Style: Experimenting with manual settings helps you understand what works best for your style and helps you create unique images.
  • Learn and Grow: Using manual mode forces you to learn the fundamentals of photography, which will make you a better photographer in the long run.

My photos after understanding manual mode:

So YES, if your goal is to create art, develop your own style, and master photography, I 1000% recommend making the switch to manual mode to be in full control of your images. 🙂

xoxo More


If you’re eager to learn how to use your camera to its fullest potential, mastering manual mode and understanding camera settings is crucial. My Photography for Beginners course is perfect for you! It will guide you through the basics of manual mode, teach you how to adjust your settings for different lighting conditions, and help you gain full control over your photography. Discover the joy of creating stunning images by harnessing the power of your camera. Check out the course and start your journey to becoming a confident photographer today!

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