Photography Basics | Master Manual Mode

Photography Basics :

When you start first as beginner photographer you always rush to take noticeable pictures but you never get it. Why?

Because your camera is like an airplane with auto mode, semi auto and manual mode functionality, if you put your camera on auto mode the camera will decides everything instead of you. As result, there is a chance the camera may pick inappropriate exposure and you pictures will look like shit.

Hmm, Do want your pictures to look like woww?!!!

Of course you do.

So, to capture noticeable pictures with proper exposure you need to use the Manual Mode where you tell the camera what to do and what exposure to pick.

Hence, in this article I will show you how to take professional pictures using manual mode and I can assure you by the end of this article you will master photography basics as well as Manual Mode.

Let’s get started..

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Photography Basics Overview:

But first you have to remember that the camera brand is not that important you have to be concerned about. Hence, If you have a Canon, Nikon, Sony or any other brand they all provide the same options with little changes in terminology. Therefore, for the purpose of this article I am going to use the a Canon DSLR camera.

In this article the following parameters and what impact they will have on your images will be clearly explained.

  • Focus Points
  • Exposure Triangle (Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO)
  • Exposure Compensation
  • White Balance
  • Metering Modes
  • Image Quality and Format
  • Picture Style

Focus Points:

As the name it self indicates, the focus points are the particular zones or spots your camera uses to focus on a subject. By default all the focus points are active in your DSLR camera which is not a great option to go for because your camera lens physically focuses at one particular point at a time.

Therefore, your camera decides which focus point (s) should be given a higher priority. Therefore, as photographer you have to change and deactivate all focus points and instead keep one focus points active based on your need. By doing so you force your camera to focus only on a particular zone in the camera frame. So, I recommend you to keep only the center focus point active.

All AF Points are Active
Center AF Point

Exposure Triangle Parameters (Shutter Speed | Aperture | ISO)

Exposure Triangle is the key to better photography. If you don’t understand the exposure triangle parameters you probably will never will be able to capture noticeable images. Therefore, as Photography Basics the most important thing you need to learn is the exposure triangle parameters and the impacts they put on your images.

  • Shutter Speed: shutter speed is the length or duration of time which you camera shutter is open and allows the light to enter and reach the camera sensor. Shutter speed is basically measured in seconds or fractions of a second e.g 30”, 1/2000. Hence, the higher the shutter value the faster the shutter speed, similarly the lower the shutter value the slower the shutter speed.
Shutter Speed

What Shutter Speed you should be using?

If you are shooting a moving object or you want freeze a motion, considering lighting condition and other exposure parameters you should go for a proper higher shutter speed. You have to remember higher shutter speed allows less amount of light into camera and if the shutter speed together with other parameters are not selected properly there is always risk of getting darker images.

Whereas, if you are shooting a non moving objects or want to create something like light trails or smooth water flow go for lower shutter speed but with a lower shutter speed you have to use a tripod otherwise you will definitely end up with camera shake and motion blur.

  • Aperture (F): Aperture is generally defined opening in the lens which allows the light to travel through and touch the camera sensor. A wilder opening means you let more lights to enter into your camera and a narrower or smaller opening means inlet of less lights into your camera. Aperture is basically measured by f/number. Therefore, if you use a lower f/number like f/1.8, f/2.8 or f/4 it means you have a wilder opening in the lens which will result more light to enter into your camera. Similarly if you use a higher f/number like f/11, f/16 or higher you will have smaller opening in the lens and less amount of lights travel into your camera. Aperture is also responsible for controlling depth of field. Depth of field means the area of an image which is in focused. Thus, if you use a lower f/number the depth of field will be shallow and a particular area in your image will be in focus which will then result a beautiful blurry background. Whereas, if you use a higher f/number the depth of field will be larger and the whole image will be in focus instead of a particular area.
  • ISO: ISO another essential parameter which controls the image quality. ISO is basically defined the sensitivity of image sensor of the camera to lights. ISO is measured in number values (100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 and so on).
  • What is Sensor Sensitivity? Practically sensitivity means if you use a higher ISO like 6400, 12800 or… your camera sensor will be more sensitive to light and less amount of light will be required. Similarly, if you use a lower ISO like 100, 200, 400, 800 your camera sensor will be less sensitive to light. Therefore more amount of light is needed to capture an image with proper exposure.

Impact of ISO on your Images:

As mentioned ISO responsible for image quality. If you use a higher ISO you will definitely end up with more noise on images. Thus, it is recommended to choose a lower ISO value like 200, 400. 800 to reduce the amount of noise on your images. If you are shooting in a darker situation work on shutter speed and aperture to allow more light in your camera instead of increasing ISO. Of course for this purpose will need to use a tripod to avoid shake or motion blur.

Exposure Compensation:

Exposure Compensation is an important parameter of photography basics which is ignored by many beginner.

Exposure Compensation is basically used to over exposure or under expose your images. Therefore, if you want to override the exposure provided by your camera press quick access button (Q) on the back of your camera and go to Exposure Compensation then use (+) sign to over expose and (-) sign to under expose your images.

Exposure Compensation

White Balance:

White balance is another important parameter which allows the camera to pick white color as a proper white and white balance is measured in Kelvin value .By default there are different white balance presets available in your camera which gives you the flexibility to choose any of them them based on your need like (auto white balance, day light-5200K, shade-7000K, cloudy-6000K, tungsten-3200K, white fluorescent light-4000K, flash and the custom white balance).

The key point is if you use a white balance of 5000K or blow 5000K your image will end up with more bluish color. Similarly, if you take an image with a white balance of 6000K or above your image will be more yellowish color. So, make sure to go for a proper white balance.

White Balance

Press quick access button (Q) on the back of your camera then go to white balance parameter and choose any white balance presets based on your need or even create a custom white balance for you self.

What White Balance You Should Be Using?

Practically there is no certain answer for this question. Therefore, if you don’t know which white balance is proper for your images while you are shooting in the field I highly recommend you to go through each of them and experiment with different white balance presets or even create a custom white balance then compare the result of your images and choose which white balance looks proper for you.

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Focusing Modes:

Generally there are three focusing modes available which you must remember as Photography Basics .

  1. ONE-SHOT for Canon and AF-S for Nikon
  2. Al FOCUS for Canon and AF-A for Nikon
  3. Al SERVO for Canon and AF-C for Nikon

Press quick access button (Q) then go to focusing mode or simply press AF button on the back of camera to enable this option.

  • ONE-SHOT/AF-S: This is basically used for none moving subjects. When you press the shutter button half away the camera focus will be locked on a particular subject. Therefore, if you are shooting a static subject and you intend to recompose the sense just press the shutter button half away down to lock the camera focus on the subject and then move your camera to recompose the sense.
  • Al FOCUS/AF-A: This option works as a bridge between ONE-SHOT and Al SERVO. When you lock the camera focus on a static subject and suddenly the subject starts moving then the camera automatically switches from ONE-SHOT/AF-S to Al SERVO or AF-C.
  • Al SERVO/AF-C: Is typically used for a moving subject. When you lock the camera focusing points on a moving subject as the subject moves your camera continuously focuses along with the subject movement. Therefore, if the subject is continuously moving start shooting with Al SERVO or AF-C.

Metering Modes:

For better understanding the camera metering modes let me give you an example. Suppose you are shooting an elephant in beautiful day light. The sun light which hits the elephant is called incident light and the light which is reflected back from the elephant is called reflected light.

Now, your camera only reads the reflected light from the elephant and then provides you a proper exposure. This is basically determined by your build in camera metering elements. Whereas, the incident light is measured by an external light meter not by build in camera metering.

To choose metering modes press quick access button (Q) and then go to metering mode on the camera screen. Depending on your camera there are three different metering modes are available. As,

  • Evaluative/Matrix Metering Mode: This metering mode has various zones or segments arrange through out the frame of your camera and every zone calculates its exposure from the particular sense then all the exposure will be averaged and provide a proper exposure. Or to make it simpler for you the evaluative or matrix metering mode read and calculate the light from the whole sense your camera is pointed at and then gives you an average exposure from that sense.
Evaluative Metering

One more thing you have to remember that in evaluative or matrix metering mode the active focus point(s) will be given a higher pointy for exposure calculation rather then rest of the frame.

  • Center-Weighted Average: In Center-Weighted metering mode the center portion of the camera frame will be given higher priority for exposure reading than rest of portions in the frame. Therefore, use this mode to properly expose your object in center of the camera frame.
Center Weighted Average
  • Spot Metering Mode: The spot metering mode is smilier to center-weighted mode. In spot metering mode instead of center portion of frame, the active focus point (s) will be considered for exposure reading and calculation.
Spot Metering

What Metering Mode you should be using?

The better option is to use Evaluative/Matrix Metering Mode. Because it gives you a long of range of flexibility and does not restrict you in a single focus point(s) like spot metering or center weighted metering mode. However, if you are facing a complex lighting condition where Evaluative/Matrix Metering Mode does not provides good results then go for center weighted or spot metering modes and experiment with them.

Image Quality:

Simply press Q button on the back of your camera and then select image quality option to see the variations. In the image quality window you may see different image qualities starting from large, medium, small, RAW+Large and finally RAW.

Therefore, depending on your choice and need select any one of them. But what I recommend you is to select RAW+Large. Because if you messed up with exposure or white balance the RAW image allows you to balance them in post processing using adobe photoshop or adobe lightroom.

Image Quality


It was all about photography basics if you want to master photography you definitely need to experiment all the key features included in this article because better photography comes only with practice and experiment.

I hope you find this article useful. For further photography basics stay tunned.

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