How to Shoot in Manual Mode Cheat Sheet for Beginners

The “Manual Photography Cheat Sheet-Reloaded” by The London School of Photography is a clean, visual way of showing you how to step-up your photography game from automatic to manual shooting. Not only does shooting in Manual Mode enable you to produce sharp well-composed imagery – but you’ll also gain a stronger understanding of the inner workings of your camera and just how all those curious settings work in synch with each other.

By shooting in Manual Mode you have full control of your shutter speed, ISO, and aperture, among an array of other settings that can further fine-tune your images. Manually controlling the aperture, for example, can help you achieve those beautiful portraits with blurred bokeh backgrounds. It’s also highly useful for changing shutter speeds, enabling you to achieve amazing shots of those fast-moving subjects like cars or cyclists in crystal clear motion without sacrificing quality.

You may often find yourself in a tricky lighting situation where everything appears far too dark, too light, or very grainy. Unfortunately, automatic mode can’t always hack these extreme conditions and often activates your camera’s flash at the smallest hint of darkness (making some photos appear positively awful). This is where learning to shoot in Manual Mode can be a lifesaver.

ISO

One of the most talked about settings on a camera is the ISO; a numerical value on your camera that controls light sensitivity. Your camera’s ISO allows you to adjust its light-sensitivity and allows it to pick up more light. Or on the flip side, to reduce your exposure on those bright sunny days for a well-balanced result.

I highly encourage experimenting with different lighting conditions to find your ideal ISO. But be wary of making your ISO too high in dark conditions as this will increase the amount of noise in your final images.

Aperture

Another common term you may have come across is aperture. This is essentially an opening in the lens that affects your exposure. It is also responsible for controlling the depth of field.

Generally, the lower the number (or f-stop), the larger the opening of the lens will be which will result in less depth of field – ideal for those blurry backgrounds. On the other hand, the higher your aperture the sharper the background will be – making it great for capturing all the tiny details in your scene (great for landscapes).

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is another key player that determines your image’s final outcome. It is essentially the exposure time of the camera’s inner shutter that stays open to allow light to enter and hit the sensor.

Generally, if you’re after blurred shots that illustrate an object’s motion (for example a racing car or cyclist) then a slow shutter speed will keep the shutter open for longer, allowing for a longer exposure time. A faster shutter speed, however, is perfect for a pristine action shot with no motion blurs.

White Balance

Another setting on your camera which also directly affects your images is your White Balance (WB). The process of setting your White Balance involves removing unrealistic color casts and ultimately using a setting that produces more naturally toned images.

It is especially useful in removing harsh yellow tones or redness on the skin. Alternatively, White Balance can be used in unconventional ways to refine your photographic style. For example, for edgier photos, the Tungsten White Balance preset can be used in an overcast setting to produce blue hues and enhance contrasts. With this in mind, it’s highly beneficial to experiment with the various White Balance modes to achieve your desired results.