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How to Take Photos in Manual Mode in 10 Easy Steps

Have you got a fancy camera but find yourself stuck on auto mode? Are you too scared to use full manual mode? Fear not, here is a simple guide to make the jump to manual mode on a DSLR camera!

I had the privilege of taking part in a Canon course with Paul Hames, the best and most unconventional photography course leader I have ever met.

When I got to Joe Blogs HQ, I was welcomed by Haydy and immediately felt at home. I was craving a cup of coffee, and within a minute, I had a latte in hand that would put Starbucks to shame. I want to work there! Not only is their coffee out of this world, but they have a popcorn machine, a blender for smoothies and even a candyfloss maker.

How to Take Photos in Manual Mode in 10 Easy Steps - light

Right, shall we get on with tips to improve the way you take photos?

First and foremost, always remember that the most important things when taking photos are…


The lens

The camera

Step 1: Go Manual!

Switch your camera to manual, and set the lens to autofocus. With auto mode, you are not in control of your camera and the flash (evil, evil thing) tends to pop up and like a Jack in the Box to ruin your photos.

Step 2: Get a decent SD card

Check your SD card. Has it got a number 10 inside a broken circle? Good! It indicates the speed class of the memory card, and 10 will give you good performance. SanDisk SD cards are reliable and can be bought on Amazon.

Step 3: Avoid using the built-in flash. It will not give you good results.

Step 4: Focus on the ISO.

It sets the amount of light needed for a well-exposed photo. With low numbers, you will need a lot of light. If you are outdoors on a bright day, 100 ISO should be perfect. Indoors, you might need to raise the ISO to 1,600 ISO or higher. The higher the number is, the more ‘noise’ (grainy result) on your pictures.

Step 5: The time element, or shutter speed.

Use the jog wheel to adjust it. Shutter speed is the length of time the camera shutter is open to bring light into the camera sensor. If it is fast, it can freeze action completely. If it is slow, it can create a blur.

Step 6: Aperture, or how much light comes in.

On any Canon DSLR, press Av and set using the jog wheel.  With low numbers (shallow depth of field) you get your subject in focus with a blurry background (perfect for portraits). High numbers ‘freeze’ the image and you get more of the picture in focus. f16 ISO100 are  good start for landscape photography to get rid of the distortion you would get by shooting through a smaller hole.

Check this great little infographic by Paul Hames:

Using Manual Mode - An Infographic - Credit Paul Hames

Step 7: RAW or JPEG?

I have always taken my photos in JPEG, but kept hearing about RAW. To put it simply, with RAW, you get all data recorded when taking your photo. When you take photos in JPEG format, a lot of information is compressed and lost. With RAW you will get higher quality images. You will also be able to correct issues you could not solve with JPEG, like exposure, white balance or clarity. Good news: you can shoot in RAW and JPEG at the same time, so keep in your comfort zone still using JPEG knowing you have RAW files there somewhere for when you get the confidence to post process RAW files later on. The only thing to be aware of is that RAW files take a lot of space.

Step 8: Experiment

Try to capture an interesting photograph that tells a story.

For portrait photography, focus on the eyes.

Remember the rule of thirds.

Try something new, like using bulb or panning.

Step 9: Post Production

You can always crop your photo afterwards or make adjustments.

Step 10: Rules are meant to be broken

“There are no rules in photography. Ok, there are basic rules but they’re meant to be broken.” Paul Hames

Try these:

Shoot from the hip, not looking at the viewfinder

Shoot into the sun

Less is more

Fill the frame – means you do not have to crop

Be brave

Take several shots so you can swap faces post production

Slice of life

Happy accident – right place, right time, right light – you can feel it when you take a good photo

F8 – good for street photography

Always shoot in colour and make it black and white afterwards

After a very informative session, we went for a walk to put what we had just learnt into practice.

We practised portrait photography, urban scenes and reflections.

Mel by Lucy

The wonderful Lucy at Supergolden Bakes, took this photo of me. I love it, since being behing the camera is one the the things I enjoy most.

How to Take Photos in Manual Mode in 10 Easy Steps - Portrait

Here is Nayna, at Simply Sensational Food.

How to Take Photos in Manual Mode in 10 Easy Steps - Sara

I love this shot of Sara (well, her hands), who blogs at Hello the Mushroom.

How to Take Photos in Manual Mode in 10 Easy Steps - Playing with Reflections

This photo of Mollie is one of my favourite ones from the day.

How to Take Photos in Manual Mode in 10 Easy Steps - Wild Flowers

A spot of nature in an urban environment.

How to Take Photos in Manual Mode in 10 Easy Steps - Reflection

Some more fun wit reflections.

How to Take Photos in Manual Mode in 10 Easy Steps - autoportrait

Using reflections to create my autoportrait.

I was invited to attend the photography course for free and was not compensated in any way for writing this post. 


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