DSLR Photography for Beginners: When Should You Shoot in Manual?


When many people get their first DSLR camera, they are afraid to leave their comfort zone of “auto” mode. However, one of the best parts of taking pictures with a DSLR camera is the amazing pictures you can shoot when you venture out of “auto” and into manual mode.

But why would I want to? Isn’t the camera “smart” enough to figure out the best settings for my circumstances in “auto”?

It’s true that your DSLR camera is pretty “smart”, but you’re smarter. Your camera can’t read your mind. When you tell the camera what to do, the picture turns out exactly how YOU want it to, not the way the camera wants it to.

There’s nothing wrong with using “auto” mode once in a while, especially if there is ideal lighting and your subject isn’t moving. But shooting in manual really isn’t as scary as it sounds. You just might be surprised when you play around with the manual setting on your camera and come up with some amazingly unique results.


In manual mode, you can control everything, including ISO, shutter speed, aperture, and more. When the camera isn’t “smart” enough to figure out what type of picture you’re trying to take, you can tell it through the manual controls. Here are a few situations that are perfect for trying out the manual mode on your DSLR camera:

  • Moving Objects- Have you ever tried to take a photo at your child’s soccer game, but your shot of the winning goal came out blurry because the ball was moving so fast? That won’t happen again if you shoot in manual mode. If your subject is moving quickly, turn your shutter speed up and adjust your aperture and ISO accordingly for the lighting, and the photo of that next goal will be sharp as a tack.
  • Low Lighting- No matter how much photography experience you have, shooting in low light is always a challenge. There are 4 ways to get more light into your photos: aperture (low f-stop number), exposure (high), shutter speed (slow), and the camera’s flash. Play around to find the perfect sweet spot with those 4 aspects, and you could end up with a fantastic low-light photo that you’d never be able to get in “auto” mode.
  • Blurry Backgrounds-  Aperture is the key to focusing on what’s right in front of you and making the background blurry. A good subject to practice this tactic on is individual flowers– turn your aperture to the lowest f-stop number (letting in the most amount of light), adjust your shutter speed accordingly for lighting, zoom in on that bloom, and see just how well you can capture its beauty.
  • Creativity- Maybe you want that black and white wedding photo to look grainy to give it a more “classic” feel– turn the ISO all the way up! Or maybe you’re shooting at a track meet and you want the subject’s feet to look blurry to show motion– slow down your shutter speed! Remember, photography literally means “drawing with light”– your ability to be creative is limitless!

The key to mastering these techniques is practice. The beauty of digital photography is that you can take as many pictures as you want without wasting film on the bad ones. You can also see the results immediately on your camera’s screen. So snap as many shots as it takes, and make adjustments until you get it right.

As always, feel free to contact us with any questions, and let us know how your adventures in manual mode photography are going!

The post DSLR Photography for Beginners: When Should You Shoot in Manual? appeared first on Advanced Media Integration.

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