Professional Photography Simplified

Manual ModeThe dreaded capital M in the settings of pretty much any decent camera… I know it seems as though you would have to go to some school of photography to even have the nerve to attempt taking photos in Manual Mode, but I assure you it isn’t as complicated as you would think.The purpose of this article is to simplify photography so that the casual camera user can get that “professional” look. If you are looking for a professional guide to photography, there are thousands of websites that will go into this ad nauseam. You really only need to understand 3 things:

  1. ISO
  2. Aperture or f-stop
  3. Shutter Speed
And really, you will only adjust 1 of these most of the time. I am going to explain what these do and how to use them.. Not how they work…

ISO

What Does It Do?

It makes your image lighter or darker and increases or decreases graininess. That’s it…

How To Use It

The lower the number = The less grainy and the darker the image

The higher the number = The more grainy and the brighter the image

Usually you will leave this setting at the lowest number (usually 100) as you will end up with the least amount of graininess. While the image may be dark, this can usually be fixed with the Aperture/f-stop and/or the shutter speed. The only time you would want to increase the ISO would be in very dark environments or where you want to create that grainy feel (which can be re-created in photoshop).

Aperture or f-stop

What Does It Do?

It makes your image lighter or darker, and increases or decreases your depth of field.

DOF or Depth of field – How clear or blurry objects in the foreground or background appear
 

Depth-of-Field

The images on the left have shallower depths of field (lower f-stop)

How To Use It

The lower the number = The smaller the depth of field (items in the background or foreground will appear blurrier) and the brighter the image.

The higher the number = The larger the depth of field (items in the background and foreground will appear clearer) and the darker the image

Often times what makes “professional” photographs seem so professional is the depth of field. So generally you will want this set to the lowest number possible to give this look. If it is just too bright (even by adjusting the other settings) or you want the background in focus, then you may want to increase it.

Shutter Speed

What Does It Do?

It makes your image lighter or darker and increases or decreases bluriness of moving objects. That’s it…

How To Use It

The lower the number = the blurrier moving objects will be and the brighter the image will be

The higher the number = the clearer moving objects will be and the darker the image will be

This will be the setting that you will adjust the most… When it is bright or you want to capture fast moving objects, you will want this set faster (higher number). When it is darker, you will want this slower (smaller number)

My Settings

Because I am normally taking pictures of people, I usually want the most depth of field I can get with the correct brightness…So here are the settings I use 90% of the time.

  1. ISO – As low as it goes (Usually 100)
  2. Aperture or f-stop – As low as it goes (Depends on the lens)
  3. Shutter speed – Adjust for brightness.

And that is all folks.. I hope this sheds a little light on what tends to be an amazingly confusing topic.