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Tips for Shooting Manually – Link Up! | Day 11

Today we link up! Some of you – ahem – have been reading this like I watch exercise videos. Photography isn’t like like your Philosophy 101 class where you can read and think about it and get it. Photography isn’t a spectator sport. It’s a full contact, get messy, stomp in puddles, wade through waist-high grass in fields, shoot at dawn, be there in the moment, get off that swivel chair kind of activity.

There’s no cryin’ in photography.

General tips & reminders to get you started:

  • Turn off your flash.
  • Set the ISO as low as possible, initially. Make that the last thing you adjust.
  • Shooting slowly often requires a tripod.
  • Kids and pets generally cannot freeze motion below 1/125sec (1/250+ is better), if you’re a Manual Mode Virgin – a bowl of fruit or vase of flowers might make your job a little easier.
  • If you have subjects on many planes that you want in focus, you need a smaller aperture. Start by keeping your aperture smaller than the number of subjects in the photo that are in different planes. I prefer to start with # of subject x 1.5 and go larger if I can pose them well. So if I have 4 people, 4 x 1.5 = 6. I like shoot at f/6.3 or greater as a starting point.
  • Learn the “Sunny 16 Rule”: On a sunny day, shoot at f/16 with a shutter speed of 1/ISO#. So ISO 100 at 1/100s or ISO 200 at 1/200s. For overcast days, the rule is “Cloudy 8”. Start at f/8 with a shutter speed of 1/ISO# as a guesstimate.
  • Focus on your subject when you’re metering. If you focus on the sky or shadows, your camera will meter the light for those areas rather than the subject(s).
  • Keep the in-camera meter on zero for the proper exposure.

Ok, kiddos, errrr… grown men and women, let’s see what ya got. I only ask that you please include the exif data from your shots (as warned yesterday!) – ISO, shutter speed, aperture for each shot. Please encourage each other in our journey.


  1. now im scared… 😉 youre sending us out on our own. into the big bad world of M. ahhhhh! 😉 we have some family stuff planned tomorrow- Ill see what I come up with and post when I get home! Thanks again, Darcy., for all your hard work!

  2. I am really enjoying this 30 days of tips! Thanks so much for doing it, I know it must be a lot…

  3. Yeah ! I try this tonight ! Thanks Darcy for your work 🙂

  4. can’t wait to do this sometime today (C: I did try shooting only on manual last week at a soccer game, but I didn’t write info. down and I don’t have a program that tells me. It was fun and challenging

  5. How did you know I’ve been crying over this camera since I got it (and the manual, and the “dummy’s guide to Canon”? I’m a late comer to the “30 days” – so I will have to start at the beginning! This series may save my camera from being listed on eBay – thanks!

  6. I am loving these 30 days…SO much. Thank you!
    I read on Jasmine Star’s website (fab. wedding photog.) that on full sun days she sets her starting point at a wide app. like f2.8 and a fast shutter like 2500, rather than a slow shutter and smaller app. I’ve taken to that on full sun as my starting point and really like the results. I’m wondering how that fits in the ‘triangle’ lesson that you taught us, which I have marked as a favorite. 🙂

    • Yep – I tend to shoot that way, too. The Sunny 16 rule is just a way to start the mathy part – remember that whole doubling and halving thing??

      If f/16 ISO100 at 1/100 second meters well – then you can mathematically figure out how to increase speed in response to how much you increase aperture. Stop up aperture and stop up shutter speed in proportion to allow you the creative control you want, while maintaining exposure.

      When it’s very bright, it’s easy to blow out the image when your aperture is wide open. So you gotta be able to shoot really, really fast.

  7. How helpful was that whole metering scale post. Good grief woman! You are just FULL of useful knowledge!

  8. I’m loving these tips. I am getting my fancy cam in November, so I really can’t wait to go back through these tips and practice. Thanks for taking the time to write them!

  9. The math is still wigging me out with all the halving and stuff (never been a numbers girl), but I think the more I practice, the more I’ll get it. And we’re only a third of the way through your posts. What on earth do you still have up your sleeve? I’m going to be a pro by November. Score.

  10. I am sooo behind. I’m not going to link up but go back to day 1 (well, maybe tomorrow) and catch up.

  11. loving everyone’s entries so far!!! awesome work!!

  12. I linked up to my recent post on my entry. I’ve been trying to shoot on manual. I think sometimes they look a little yellow.



  13. I’ve been poking around through some pictures… Do you use manual focus or auto? I think speeding up the SS will help, but some of mine just look hazy. :-/

    • I shoot in manual mode but 80% of the time, maybe more, leave the fine focus on auto.

      Exceptions are:
      macro photography – eyelashes on babies, raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. 😉
      night photography – with all that darkness my camera can’t always find what it’s looking for.
      fireworks – these are so quick, it’s hard to focus. I set to infinity and adjust as needed.

  14. I just found that my camera has been set to ISO Auto this whole time. I had no idea!

  15. leigh ann says:

    surely there is a cheat sheet out there somewhere that figures the math out for us beginners???
    please say it’s so! b/c, I’m with you, Kendra….the math totally wigs me OUT!

  16. I DID IT, I DID IT, I DID IT!!!! Everything makes sense now!!! Thank you! The metering made all the difference! I have light bulbs going all over the top of my head!!! Thank you, Jesus! These lessons are an answered prayer!

    • Ahhehaeaha! I love this comment.

      That’s exactly how I felt when the lightbulb went off for me, too.


  17. I recently learned of your 30 days series so I’m a bit behind, but very excited to read through them all!!! I have a question on shooting manual.
    I was testing it out outside with the kids on a sunny day. I set my ISO, aperture, and shutterspeed was set according to my exposure meter. The first shot was properly exposed, but the second shot the meter read would be under exposed unless I adjusted the shutter speed. As far I could tell the lighting hadn’t changed. I was standing in the exact same spot!!! Do I just need to be quicker with my fingers and keep adjusting the shutter speed with each and every shot?!?!! THANK YOU!!!

    • You were either –

      metering off something different – skin one time, sky another, etc.

      the light may have indeed changed slightly. moving clouds, moving branches, etc can cause the proper exposure to shift slightly.

      When in doubt, check your histogram!

  18. AHA!!! You are exactly right! Since I photographed the kids playing I didn’t always meter on an eye. Sometimes it was a shirt, elbow, etc. So this means I just need to get quicker fingers with resetting the shutter speed? I also read that I should always take a test shot with the gray card to set my exposure and then just shoot away. I’d love to get to the level where I edit less and less! Thank you! This series is so wonderful!!!

    • If you meter off the skin and the light truly doesn’t change, then you theoretically shouldn’t need to change exposure for the remainder of that moment’s shoot.

      If you’re shooting kids who tend to move around a lot, yes – you may need to stop up or stop down your SS a bit.

      And you’ll love the difference between skin tones with a grey card! Sooo much less time required in post!

      I’m so glad it’s helpful!

  19. Dear Darcy,
    Thank you so very much for providing this! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this. It’s helped me a LOT!

    I really like your line in the first paragraph of this post about photography and I’m wanting to use it, if that’s okay with you. Please e-mail me your answer; I won’t proceed without your permission. Also, if you do release it, I’d like to know how to give credit 🙂

    Feel free to visit me! I welcome any input you might have.


  20. I have been reading this a bit faster than one post per day and I must say, the metering post was the most eye opening! Thank you so much!

  21. Hi Darcy

    I hope you are still responding to queries raised here…

    Im not sure why there are so many women readers here, but I find this site has been extremely valuable in learning, and would recommend this to all the **guys** I know!

    Can I just ask – you say dont use flash, and make the ISO the last thing you change. Well, I was trying to take photos of my girl (2 yrs) this was inside, near a window, with bright sunlight outdoors. I tried in Manual mode, setting apeture at f2 – but the camera was saying this isnt bright enough (Thanks for the tip on the built in meter.. I always wondered how photographers knew what to aim for!). I couldn’t really decrease the shutter speed, as the subject was not keeping still long enough! When I tried setting the ISO higher, it did eventually claim to be bright enough – but at an ISO of around 3200-6400 – which I thought should not be the case for indoors on day

    Anyway I messed around with settings, but to no avail. Then I cheated by setting on auto, and seeing what it thought was a good setting. However, when fired, the flash came up too.

    My query is this – I have been told to almost always use flash – indoors or outdoors (as fill flash) and it will improve photos – Do you agree ?

    (Using Canon 7D)

    • Love my girlly girl readers! I don’t get many men who comment – several who read, though. They are quiet lurkers.

      That seems strange that if there was bright sunlight outdoors and you were near a window that your camera would go to such a high ISO. I would expect that at dawn or dusk – or a dark, rainy day – esp at f/2.

      I typically try to shoot 1/250 or faster with small children – so it’s good you didn’t go too slow.

      I’ve had to go to high ISO like that when it’s dim indoors, or at places like the zoo, or when it’s twilight. But not indoors.

      But no, I never use the on-camera flash. My camera has one – it’s never been fired. To get in more light I typically will either 1.) shoot slower if possible. 2.) open up the aperture 4.) increase ISO in that order.

      Your camera may allow you to compensate with exposure compensation. This will often allow several stops of light more or less exposed – indicated with a +/- and a decimal. +0.7 for example. When you can’t shoot any slower, and you don’t want high noise associated with high ISO and your aperture is as open as allows – that is a final Hail Mary to get the shot.

      Hope that helps!


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