Learn How To Shoot In Manual Mode

This article is a GUIDE for you to learn how to shoot in manual mode! Please feel free to use it, and download the photography cheat sheet at the end! Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog, so you can be the first to know about my FREE photography class on YOUTUBE!

How to Shoot In Manual Mode

Learn How to Shoot in Manual Mode

Do you have a blog? Are you a parent that just wants to take pictures of your kids? Did you buy a fancy camera thinking that shooting in manual mode was going to be super easy, but in reality, it was harder than it looked? No worries, most people do. They buy their cameras, try shooting in manual mode, and give up shortly after, so they end up shooting on auto again after the first few failed attempts at getting that perfect photo using manual mode!

So, I’m here to tell you to not get discouraged! A photography course can only teach you so much!

AND the secret to actually getting those amazing photos is to PRACTICE!

I can sit here and write about photography tips all day, but if you don’t get out and practice, then you will never improve!

So, I’m assuming everyone that clicked on this link has a camera already, but if you don’t have a DSLR, I recommend getting one of the following starter cameras:

The Nikon D3400

Nikon D3400 w/ AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR (Black)


The Canon Rebel

Canon EOS Rebel T6 Digital SLR Camera Kit with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II Lens, Built-in WiFi and NFC – Black (Certified Refurbished)

They are both reasonably priced and easy to use!

Okay, let’s get started!

Learning your Camera’s Dials

To start shooting in Manual Mode, you need to make sure the Mode Dial is lined up with the M!

 Learn how to Shoot in Manual Mode

Note: Entry-level cameras and professional cameras have different dials, so I recommend reading your Manual to see where they are located! You need to figure out where to change the ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed! I will go into more detail on my YouTube channel, so make sure you subscribe to my blog, so you are the first to know when the video is up.

Manual Mode

Well, first, what is Manual Mode?



Shutter Speed

That’s it! Those 3 words are Manual Mode! If you can learn those three things, then you can do ANYTHING! SERIOUSLY!

Oh, and they are going to be the three things that help you achieve those perfect photos! You know, the ones with the blurred backgrounds and sharp subjects!

So, let’s get started. We will start with aperture first!

Aperture/F Stop

The aperture is the hole at the center of your camera’s shutter. This is what makes your photos have that Bokeh (blurred background) effect, and that is what everyone really wants to achieve at the beginning of their photography lessons, but it takes a little time and practice.

What does Aperture Do?

Before we begin learning how to shoot in manual mode, we need to figure out what aperture does.

Aperture allows light to reach your sensor.

The more light you allow in, the blurrier your background will be. To achieve this, your aperture needs to be LOW. The picture below is an example of the aperture/f-stop being at a f/1.8. (An F-stop is a number on your camera that tells you how far opened or closed the aperture is.) The background is extremely blurry while the subject is in focus!

Learn How to Shoot in Manual Mode
Photo by JLH Photography

The less light you allow in, the greater the field of focus will be which means that the background of your picture will be more in focus. To achieve this look, your aperture needs to be HIGHER. If the picture above had a higher aperture, then the background would be just as in focus as she is.

Lenses to Help Achieve The Blurred Background Look

There are some great lenses out there that will HELP achieve those blurry backgrounds. Here are some of my favorite low light lenses. (Make sure that when you are shopping for a low light lens, you look for a lens that will go down to a low aperture such as a 1.4 or 1.8)

Here are a few low light Nikon and Canon Lenses:


Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras


Nikon AF S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G Fixed Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras


Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens

Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM – DSLR Lens with IS Capability

Shutter Speed

Your shutter speed is the amount of time your shutter is open allowing light to hit your camera’s sensor. Shutter speed is measured in seconds (1/80), and it can affect the sharpness of your photo.

Shutter speed controls motion!

How does it work?

Low shutter speeds will allow more light in allowing the image to be more prone to blur! If you are shooting at a low shutter speed, then bring a tripod with you, so it keeps the camera steady and the picture sharp. Even if you are shooting with a high shutter speed, you can still use a tripod! It keeps things steady! Check out the one I have listed below!

AmazonBasics 60-Inch Lightweight Tripod with Bag

Fast shutter speeds will allow less light in allowing the image to have a sharper subject


The ISO is the camera’s sensitivity to light. It also helps with how much noise you will see or not see in a picture.

How does it work?

So this one is a little more complicated to explain, but it will be worth the pain! lol

The lower the ISO number, the more light you will need to get a good exposure on your picture and less noise.

Higher ISO numbers will allow you to shoot in low light conditions. (But you still might have some noise)

Now that you know about the three main things to shooting in manual mode, we are going to put it all together.

Putting Manual Mode to Use

Now, it’s time to put what you’ve learned into use!

Once you figure out how to use your camera, you will be able to do more things. You will also realize that everyone’s preference is different. Like for me, I will usually overexpose my pictures or underexpose them. I never expose the photo properly because of my editing styles, but you can learn your own style once you learn how to properly expose first.

Before we start, make sure you know where your dials are to change the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

So, let’s go properly expose a picture now!

Step One: Check Your Exposure

You are going to look through your viewfinder, and check your exposure.

There is a line of numbers at the bottom of your view that looks something like this:

2…1…0…1-…2- (Nikon)

-2…-1…0…1…2 (Canon)

Learn How to Shoot In Manual Mode

Step Two: Pick a Shutter Speed.

You can determine the best shutter speed to use based on the subject you are shooting. Lighting will also help you determine this.

Remember that holding your camera while shooting can cause blur if you are shooting at low shutter speeds.  Therefore, if you are shooting in a low light situation, try not to let your shutter speed fall below the focal length number. For example, if I am using a 50mm lens, I would keep my shutter at 1/60. If I am using a 100 mm lens, I would keep my shutter at 1/150.

Please see the infographic below to help determine what your shutter speed should be based on the subject and light.

Learn How to Shoot In Manual Mode

Step Three: Adjust Aperture

To get most of or the entire picture in focus, then set your aperture (f-stop) at a higher number such as a 5.6. If you want your background to be blurry and your subject to be in focus, then set your aperture at a lower number such as a 2.5 or lower.

Remember: The smaller the F-stop number, the larger the aperture opening is meaning you are going to allow more light in. The larger the F-stop number, the smaller the aperture opening is meaning you will let less light in. Please see the infographic below for more help.

Learn How to Shoot in Manual Mode

Step Four: Pick an ISO setting.

Once you have a shutter speed and aperture selected, it is time to adjust your ISO. When you are changing your ISO, look inside the viewfinder and find the line of numbers because you are going to use this to set your proper exposure.

As a general rule, it is recommended to keep the ISO as low as possible.

If you are outside, you should try setting your ISO low.


When you are in a low light situation, your ISO needs to be higher.

Please see the infographic below for more guidance!

Learn How to Shoot in Manual Mode

Step Five: Check your light meter again, and if it is lined up to “0,” you have properly exposed your picture.

Now, push your shutter halfway down, so you are able to see the light meter. Change your ISO, look at the meter, and if you find yourself lined up in the middle, then your exposure should be good to go!


Now that you have learned to shoot in manual mode, go out and practice!

Don’t be afraid of your camera! You are very capable of producing amazing photos! So, let’s see what you’ve got!

Also, if you used this article and want to share your photos, then send them my way!

I’ll be featuring your photos on Instagram, so please tag @justmyday__  and let me know that you used my tutorial if you want a chance to be featured!

Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog! I’ll be posting my first YouTube tutorial on shooting in manual mode soon!

AND Don’t Forget Your FREEBIE!

Learn How to Shoot In Manual Mode
Here is your Manual Mode Photography Cheat Sheet! Make sure you right click and save image as!




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