How to Shoot in Manual Mode on Your D-SLR

Shooting, Videos

If you’re brand new to shooting in manual mode on your camera, this is the video for you! Your camera has many modes of photographing – from automatic to aperture priority and shutter priority. On automatic mode, your camera will automatically set the ISO, the shutter speed and aperture for you. If you are in shutter priority mode, you will first set the ISO, then set the shutter speed and your camera will set the aperture for you to receive the correct exposure. When using aperture priority mode, you will choose your ISO and aperture and the camera will set the shutter speed for you.

Shooting in manual mode means you’re setting the ISO, aperture speed and shutter speed according to the meter. The camera isn’t setting anything for you. When you shoot in manual, you have full control of the settings! It’s definitely the way to be improving your images and understanding of your camera.

If you’re just starting to shoot in manual, the first thing to understand is ISO. ISO is from film days and is basically the camera’s sensitivity to the light. ISO 100 will be used on the brightest of days and 1600 ISO will be used indoors when you don’t have much light. ISO 200 would be bright day, but not the brightest day, ISO 400 on a cloudy day, ISO 800 maybe just as the sun is going down and the light is behind the mountains, etc.

The longer you shoot, the sooner that you’ll understand how to use ISO, and which setting it should be at. When I was shooting in the forest in this video, I was setting my ISO around 400-800. Basic rule: the brighter the environment, the lower the ISO. The darker the environment, the higher the ISO. It’s very important to set that first.

Next, we’re going to set the aperture or f/stop. I love to shoot with an aperture of around f/1.8 – f/2.2. There’s still a great blurred background, but it’s not as risky as f/1.2 or f/1.4. After I’ve chosen ISO and aperture, now I need to set my shutter speed. Now, in order to know what to set my shutter speed at, I need to read my camera’s meter.

Your camera has a built-in meter across the bottom and it will be a scale of -2 to +2. On your camera, there are 4 different metering modes:

Centre-Weighted Metering
Camera reads the whole frame, but it’s places a priority on what’s in the centre of the frame.

Whole-frame Metering
Metering for the entire frame, everything is given the same priority.

Spot Metering
Your camera will read the three percent of the frame in the centre.

Partial Metering
Camera reads the centre 10 percent of the frame and uses that percentage to set the metering.

When I’m photographing, I prefer to use centre-weighted metering. Before I take a photo, I’m evaluating the scene. Is there lots of bright light behind the subject or in the frame? If there is, I want to set my meter to “+1,” knowing that my camera will want to read the white as ‘gray.’ If there’s lots of dark/black in your frame, once again, your camera’s goal is to make everything ‘gray.’ So you’ll need to set your meter around -1 based on how much darkness is in your frame.

I hope this information on manual mode helps you!

Shooting manual is a bit like learning to speak a new language (not that I can speak another language, haha) – but when you learn it, it will become second nature to you. You won’t have to think about your settings, your fingers will be mastering the meter before you can think about it.

If you want to see the results of the images in the video, with all settings included, pop over to grab the Manual Mode freebie. Thanks for reading!


Comments +

Add Your Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Jennifer H

    November 7th, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    Hi Jamie! When you say “set my meter to “+1″”, are you saying to set the exposure compensation to +1, or are you saying that you want to adjust the shutter speed until the meter that you see in the viewfinder at the bottom changes to +1?

Hey there! I'm Jamie and I equip photographers to build flourishing businesses with creative marketing, stand-out client experiences and profitable pricing. I'm glad you're here!




Client Experience


post by category

youtube channel

jamie delaine watson

Learn how to calculate your business costs and set profitable prices for your services. Includes tips on communicate pricing to clients and how to strategically increase your prices!

profitable pricing guide

watch the latest

Need a clear next marketing step?

You're ready to work, but you need ideas. Bingo! Got your back. You can download my list of over 50 ideas to attract new clients ASAP in that business of yours!

Back to Top

All Content Copyright Jamie Delaine Watson

legal / privacy policy

jamie delaine watson

Helping you build an in-demand photography business through actionable marketing strategies.

free resource
Finding new clients always feeling like a struggle?

Download 50+ marketing ideas you can start taking action on in your photography business this week. Download your copy!