There is so much value in taking a photo exactly how you want. Don’t understand what I mean? Let me put it this way - it isn’t hard to pick up a camera and shoot a clear photo in auto. The difficult part is adjusting settings manually to make the photo perfectly exposed, with solid depth of field and little noise.
There are three main settings you will need to get comfortable with when shooting manually – ISO, aperture (F-stop), and shutter speed. These three settings are known as the exposure triangle in photography.
Depending on the lighting and setting, I adjust these settings constantly – some more than others. Typically, the first thing I think about is whether I’m in a bright or dark environment. When you’re in a bright environment, your shutter speed becomes your best friend. On the other hand, when you're in a dark environment, your ISO becomes your best friend.
So, what are ISO, aperture, and shutter speed and how do you use them?
I think about ISO as my camera's sensitivity to light. If I am in a dark environment and need more light to brighten my photo – I increase my ISO to say 1600. The only issue with increasing ISO that scares many photographers, is the possibility of noise. However, it is perfectly possible to take a photo with a high ISO and get a clear photo without noise. If I’m in a bright environment, I keep my ISO at around 100. This means that there is little light getting through my lens.
Have you ever wondered how people take photos with their subject clear but everything else blurry? That is all thanks to aperture, or f-stop. If you can correctly manipulate aperture, all of your photos will look professional! So, how do you manipulate aperture? Setting your aperture depends on what you want and what you are taking photos of. If I am taking a portrait and only want the subject to be clear, I would set my aperture to f/1.4 or f/2.8. Also, since this is a large, wide aperture, more light comes through my lens resulting in a bright photo. In contrast, if I’m shooting landscape photography, I would want the whole photo to be in focus. This means I would set my F-stop to f/22. Keep in mind that with a very small, narrow aperture like f/22, there is little light coming through the lens resulting in a darker photo.
The last setting you will find very handy, and fun is shutter speed. Shutter speed is the length of time the shutter is open. Have you ever seen those photos of highways in slow motion where cars look blurred over time? That is thanks to shutter speed! Slow shutter speed photos can capture water, cars, people dancing, and more. A slow shutter speed like 1/30 requires a tripod to keep the subject in focus. In contrast, action shots are done with a fast shutter speed like 1/500. Shutter speed photos can vary by tenths of a second.
Photography is simply adjusting and compensating your ISO, aperture and shutter speed. While automatic settings allow for great images, there is nothing like being able to think for your camera. There is so much power in being able to manipulate these settings to get photos exactly how you want.
So, how do you learn more and get on your way to becoming a better photographer?
1. Watch YouTube Videos
There is a wealth of free knowledge on YouTube about all things photography. Whether you want to learn more about shooting in manual, editing, or what gear to get – YouTube has it all!
2. Follow Photographers You Admire on Social Media
I think one of the best ways to spark creativity is by following other creatives you admire. People share free tips on social media all the time – you just have to be willing to search!
3. Challenge Yourself (Manual) Before Taking the Easy Way Out (Auto)
Shooting in manual is difficult and there is a learning curve. Embrace it! There is no shame in perfecting your craft. If anything, it should make you proud that you're taking the next steps in your photography career.
4. Put Yourself Out There
Talk to other photographers about where and how they got started. Follow, message, shadow that photographer – whatever you can do! Everyone starts somewhere!
5. Never Stop Learning!
Podcasts, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Udemy and more! There are so many resources both online and in-person that can help you learn about photography.