I remember the day I bought my first DSLR. In fact, I remember the weeks leading up to it perfectly. I had finally saved up enough money and was so excited I was finally going to get the camera I needed to take amazing photos.
I lived in a tiny town and the closest Best Buy was about an hour away. I did research online and visited this Best Buy several times leading up to my purchase. I would go into the store, hold all the cameras, take test shots, and pretend I knew something about how to use the cameras. I assumed that since I had been using a point and shoot for years I knew everything I needed to know about photography and this camera was my logical next step. I also assumed that having a DSLR would automatically give me better photos.
Boy was I wrong! I bought my camera, took it out of the box, and had no idea how it worked any different than a regular point and shoot camera. For 10 years I used that camera on auto mode. I remember carrying it around hoping no one would notice I had it on auto. If someone would ask if they could take our picture I would say, “let me put it on auto mode for you” and then I would pretend to change the dial so it would appear like I had been using the camera in manual mode all along.
My struggles to learn manual mode
I took hundreds of pictures everywhere I went and occasionally got one I liked, but it wasn’t because I’d done anything differently. I was frustrated, but had no idea how to use the camera or where to learn. I watched tutorials, but nothing ever really clicked.
I started taking more photos with my phone than I did with my camera.
I wasn’t really enjoying photography anymore and thought I probably just didn’t have the ‘eye’ for it.
My camera sat for months at a time sometimes.
What changed and made me learn manual mode
Then we had our first baby and I just wasn’t getting the photos I wanted. I felt like I was missing the moments I so desperately wanted to hold onto. This was the moment I decided I would turn my camera dial to manual mode and never look back. I didn’t want my camera to be in control anymore. I wanted to be in control. I wanted to create my images the way I wanted rather than my camera doing it for me.
I read book after book, took tons of classes, watched you tube tutorials, and did everything I could to learn my camera. Finally I started seeing progress in my photos and it was exciting. I was no longer stuck when an image didn’t turn out the way I wanted. I was able to change the way the image looked by changing the settings within my camera.
What you need to do to learn manual mode
Through all of this learning, the single best thing I did was put my camera in manual mode and leave it there. I tell all my students to do the same. You cannot learn and progress without failure. You will get photos you don’t like and miss some moments in the beginning. Don’t give up. If you give yourself the time you need and commit to practicing, adjusting your settings will become second nature and you will love the results.
Photography isn’t just about learning manual mode. Knowing these settings and understanding exposure will improve your photos tenfold, but you will want to keep perfecting your craft. There are no hard and fast rules in photography (many photographers would disagree with me on this one and I’m ok with that). There are however lots of tricks and techniques you can learn that will guide you to finding your photographic voice. And when you find that sweet spot. There us no stopping you. You will have too many photos to print. You will want to share all your images with family and friends. Most importantly, you will be able to document your life, your story, in photos you are proud of.
Your next steps to learning manual mode
- Take your camera out of auto. Put it in manual mode and commit to keeping it there. (If you don’t yet have a DSLR and are ready to make that purchase, this is the camera I recommend to anyone for their first camera. You may also want to read this post, 7 Questions to Ask Yourself when Buying a New Camera.”
- Understand the basics of what is happening inside your camera and how each setting works.
- Get a firm understanding of exposure and the 3 pillars (settings) that affect the exposure of your photograph.
- Start looking at light everywhere you go and learn to assess the light. Figuring out how light affects your photos will help you in so many ways.
When I first started my journey in DSLR photography I was so frustrated with these foundational steps. I knew if I could just learn how to use my settings, I would start enjoying photography again.
Let me go on this journey with you and hopefully move you along much quicker than I did. I created a course just for you and it’s free. You can sign up for “Manual Mode Made Simple”, right here and be on your way to better photos. Learning manual mode can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to. I have broken down each step in easy to follow video lessons. I hope this course gives you the boost you need to learn manual mode on your DSLR so you can have complete control over your images.