How to Use Manual Mode on a DSLR Camera


Many people shy away from Manual mode when it comes to taking pictures with their DSLR camera. They think that it’s too complicated and that they won’t be able to control the outcome of the photo. This isn’t true! Manual mode is a handy setting that can help you take great photos, especially if you’re still learning about your DSLR. This blog post will go over what Manual mode does and how you can use it to improve your photography skills!

Manual Mode: What is It & Why You Should Use It? 

Manual mode gives you total control over the camera. You can control essential aspects such as light however you want. Consequently, the image comes out exactly how you want it (depending on your photography skills), eliminating the surprises that come with auto mode.

Backstory: I photographed my first wedding in 2005 when I was a senior in high school. I photographed it on AUTO because I didn’t know any better. The photos turned out great, but I was constantly moving the subject to get the photo “right.” If I had my DSLR set to MANUAL, I would have changed my settings on the fly instead of constantly moving the subjects.

Now, 11 years later, I have photographed over 1000 families and over 500 weddings – all using manual mode. Trust me; if you want to better your photography skills, you should never have your DSLR camera set to anything else. If you really want to dial in your photography skills, I recommend getting yourself a Canon AE-1 35mm camera – and try shooting film. Once you can do that – you can do anything with your digital camera. I am using my Canon AE-1 – I love shooting film for fun whenever we get on vacation. You can find tons of inexpensive film cameras on eBay.

girl smiling at camera

Manual mode is recommendable for several situations and uses, including:

  • Repetitive photographing – Auto mode constantly changes, leading to inconsistencies when photographing the same thing repeatedly under the same conditions. Adjusting the exposure settings via manual model guarantees consistency.
  • Photographing under changing lighting – Leaving the camera to recalculate and adjust the exposure with every shot as lighting changes can result in inconsistency. Instead, exposure remains constant under manual mode, ensuring consistency.
  • Shooting videos – Aperture and shutter speed significantly impact the quality of video footage filmed using a DSLR camera. Manual mode allows you to control these factors, giving you control over the video’s quality.

beautiful tree at milwaukee domes

What Manual Mode Does

When you’re in Manual mode, you control all the settings that go into taking a picture. This includes the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. In addition, you get to decide how much light is let into the camera and how long the shutter stays open. This can be really helpful for beginners who want to learn more about how their DSLR works.

How to use Manual Mode on Your Camera

Now that you know what Manual mode does let’s go over how you can use it!


First, you’ll want to set your aperture. This is how much light is let into the camera, measured in f-stops.

A lower f-stop number means that more light is let in.

For example, if you’re taking a picture of a person in front of a bright window, you’ll want to use a lower f-stop so that their face isn’t too dark.

Shutter Speed

Next, you’ll want to set your shutter speed. This is how long the shutter stays open, and it’s measured in seconds.

A longer shutter speed means more light is let in, but it can also create blur if your subject moves.

For example, if you’re taking a picture of a person walking down the street, you’ll want to use a faster shutter speed so that they’re not blurry.

taking photos at the milwaukee domes


Finally, you’ll want to set your ISO. This is how sensitive the camera is to light, and it’s measured in numbers.

A higher ISO means that the camera will be more sensitive to light, creating more noise in the photo.

For example, if you’re taking a picture of a person in a dark room, you’ll want to use a higher ISO so that you can see them better.

pink cactus

Manual mode is recommendable for several situations and uses, including:

– When you want to have more control over the photo

– If you’re still learning about your DSLR camera

– When you want to experiment with different settings

– If you’re taking a picture in low light

– If you’re taking a picture of a moving subject

Using Manual Mode in Day and Night Settings

When capturing during the day, it is critical to use a low ISO and slow shutter speed while keeping the aperture wide open to limit light exposure. However, when shooting at night or in low-light situations, the problem is reversed. Manual mode is required to take high-quality pictures during the day and at night.


Now that you know how to use Manual mode go out and try it! Experiment with different aperture, shutter speeds, and ISO settings to see what works best for the photos you’re taking. Manual mode can be a great way to improve your photography skills, so don’t be afraid to use it!

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  1. Sunny says:

    Good job 👍 but I think that your recommendation for day light photos with low ISO, , low shutter speed and wide aperture is misleading. You can use wide aperture and slower shutter speed at night for better exposure

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