Firstly, it is very simple once you apply the 3 simple steps involved to ensure that your images turn out the way you intended.

Once this has been mastered, with a little thought and practice, you will discover that taking photographs with mood and bokeh backgrounds are as simple as taking fine art and abstract images of fast-moving subjects with crisp and sharp results without loss of quality. Another amazing fact is you will no longer have to concern yourself with noisy or grainy images. These are a few things that one cannot achieve shooting in automatic. 

Firstly, set the ISO

This is a dial that controls the sensitivity of the light, which will result in differently depending on the quality of your sensor. Without getting side tracked, ISO, when used correctly. illuminates’ noise from your images. Noise is a common occurrence, when shooting in automatic as the camera will work on default, you might have the correct exposure, but the image will be noisy. This occurs mostly in low light environments. Ideally, you should set your ISO number as low as possible, as a high ISO number will lead to noise.

Different cameras have different values, the more expensive models have a larger range, although, rule of thumb says, don’t go higher than 2000 in deep shade, no matter how high your ISO option allows you to believe. If you have doubt in my suggestion and decide to push the value, zoom into your screen and take a good look.

Note that noise cannot be removed in editing without changing the look and the feel, as well as the quality of the photograph.

So, identify the lighting environment that you are shooting in and preset the ISO. Only change the ISO when the lighting environment changes. Presetting the ISO will resolve having to think about this setting every time you take a shot.

A guideline for setting the ISO:

Bright sunshine           100 – 200

Shade                          400 – 640

Deep shade                 640 – 2 000 Depending on your camera values

Note that shooting inside, or in the evening will require a flash or an alternative light source or method of shooting.

Secondly, set the Shutter speed

The shutter speed works with the movement of your subject, just find the dial to see the values. So, to keep things very simple, a static subject will not require a fast or high shutter speed, where a fast-moving subject, like a bullet, will require a high shutter speed number to freeze the movement in order to ensure a crisp and sharp image. Shutter speed is measured in seconds, 10th of seconds, 100th of seconds, and lastly the fastest, 1000th of a second. When you locate the dial, don’t be overwhelmed with the choice of values. You will never set up to meet someone at 10h22,5 for a coffee, it will rather be 10h30.

So, when you are shooting a static object, like an apple, never handhold the camera on less than 1/125th , as your heart beat will cause a slight camera shake. This will only be apparent and visible when you zoom in afterward on the screen and your image is soft. So late she cried… If you a little “shaky” rather set the shutter speed at 1/160th to absorb your movement.

So, to prevent having to change the shutter speed each time you are taking a shot, a great tip is to again, like the ISO, preset the shutter speed according to what you would envisage being the fastest thing you intend to shoot at the time. If you are going to have to continually worry about changing the shutter speed for each shot, you are going to stress and probably miss the moment.

A guideline for setting the Shutter speed:

Static images                           1/125 – 1/160

Portraiture/small movement 1//160 – 1/200          

Events and functions              1/250

Street photography                1/250 – 1/320

Sport                                       1/320 – 1/1 000

Don’t be lazy, change your shutter speed to suit the situation, don’t just set it to 1/1 000 and hope for the best, it will not always work.

Finally, the Aperture

The aperture may be simply compared to the pupil of the eye, but instead of your brain making a decision as to what is over or underexposed, you will need to manually adjust accordingly, using the camera settings to open or close the lens. This is measured in f-stops and my suggestion is that you watch a YouTube tutorial on this as it affects your DOP (depth of field) which can change everything, not difficult to understand, but worth finding out more on. This blog article, remember is just to get you in the race confidently when shooting in manual. There is always something to learn that will improve your style and ability to achieve that “perfect shot”.

Fortunately, all digital cameras have a light meter, which is visible and you control when composing your shot through the viewfinder. Adjusting the light meter will make your image either lighter or darker, depending on the look you want to achieve. What makes this final step really simple, is that all you will be doing is to compose and adjust the dial to what I call “the sweet spot”.

Now, take the shot. You will find that each lens will have a different “sweet spot”, so experiment. The above is a basic set up with minimal effort to work in manual and get great results. So remember, the quicker you are able to apply this sequence, the sooner you are able to add 95% of your attention to what you are shooting, and 5 percent to the camera settings. So, let’s get to it…

If you still having any concerns regarding these settings and steps provided, or wish to explore and take your photography further, I suggest you consider enrolling for a short photography course or workshop just to “polish up” your skills and confidence and of course meet like minded people to bounce great ideas with.