by - Wednesday, July 11, 2018

professional tips from marleylillys photographer

Professional tips from Marleylilly's Photographer

A Crash Course on Manual Mode

In our last photography hacks post, we went over the basics of composition. You brushed up on several rules to follow such as filling the frame, rule of thirds, and leading lines. To recap, these are meant to bring attention to your subject and take your photography skills to the next level! Like we said before, these rules do not have to be followed perfectly, but they will hopefully help guide your creativity.

Understanding your camera’s manual mode can bring out even more creativity in your work and help with taking higher quality photos in any kind of light! Shooting in manual requires balancing 3 different aspects of your camera. They are shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. To find the balance between a photo that is too dark or too bright, you must balance each of these aspects of your camera.  Here are some basic tips to help you get to know your camera a little better:

Understanding Shutter Speed:

Image provided by

Image provided by petapixel

Controlling shutter speed means you can control motion blur in your photograph. At 1/500 of a second, you will be able to freeze most movement within your photograph. At a l/2 of a second, your subject will likely show up blurry. Here are just a couple things to keep in mind when manipulating shutter speed:

A faster shutter speed (1/500) helps to keep images sharp and preserve detail
A faster shutter speed will not allow as much light into the camera and a slower shutter speed (½) will allow more light into the camera. So, depending on which you choose to use, your photos could come out looking very bright or too dark. There is a balance needed to properly expose a photo. 
Faster shutter speeds are better for sports photography or capturing just about anything where your subject is moving quickly. 

2. Understanding Aperture:

Your aperture is the little circular like mechanism inside your lens that lets you control how much light you let in and depth of field in a photo. This is designated by f/# and is also referred to as an F stop. Basically, lenses can range from having an aperture that can open up to f/1.4 all the way to f/22 and sometimes higher. If you reference the diagram above, you will see that a wide open aperture at 2.8 will allow in more light but create a very small depth of field (reference our last post to learn more about depth of field). This will make it more difficult to get everything in your photo sharp. A more closed aperture at 16 will help get more of your subject sharpened and in focus, but will not allow as much light in. Here are some extra tips to keep in mind: An aperture at f/2.8 can help you get a dreamy look with your photo. This is used a lot in today’s engagement photos and wedding photos. Be careful, however, because you could risk creating a photo that is too bright as you are essentially leaving the “window” wide open to let more light in. An aperture of f/22 is useful in macro photography and landscape photography. Since your subject will likely fill up most of the frame, you will want a deeper depth of field to get all that you want in focus.

3. Understanding ISO:

Image provided by precision art blog

ISO is your camera’s sensitivity to light. However, I’m going to keep it really simple for this part. ISO essentially creates fake light for your photo. A low ISO at 100 creates little to no extra “light” for your camera to work with. A higher ISO at 6400 creates a lot of “light” for your camera to use in a photo. Once again, be careful with this, as a higher ISO can diminish the quality of your photo. Use these tips to better utilize this function of manual mode: It is best to keep your ISO setting low in areas where there is a lot of light (for example, a sunny day outside). This way, you preserve image quality and reduce the risk of a photo that is too bright! Increasing ISO is helpful in areas where there is little light (for example, inside a building). For me personally, increasing or decreasing ISO is the last thing I do when I try to create a high-quality image. I try to balance my shutter speed setting and aperture setting first and then adjust my ISO to get the best picture I can.
High ISO creates “grain” or “noise” in an image, which can distract from your subject and reduce sharpness in a photo.

4. Sunny 16 Rule: The Sunny 16 Rule is super helpful when you start practicing using your camera manually. Basically this says that on a bright and sunny day, you will set your aperture to f/16 and then match your shutter speed with your ISO (1/100 with 100 ISO, 1/500 with 500 ISO). This will help you learn to get a well exposed image. As with most rules in photography, this can be broken as well (and I highly encourage it to better understand your camera!). On less sunny days you could set your aperture to f/9, and overcast days could be lowered even more to f/5.6.


Now go out and play around with your camera's manual modes! Each function is important to each other and it is essential to learn how to balance your shutter speed, aperture, and iso settings to get properly exposed images. So play around with these settings and find your style! Not every picture has to be perfect. It’s just up to you to find your style! Happy photographing!

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