How To Shoot in Manual Mode and Why

You have heard professional photographers say that they shoot in manual mode and never had a chance to dig deep into why and how to shoot in manual mode?

We live in a time where we can no longer rely on the old staples (Shutter speed, Aperture, ISO) to just get it right in the camera.

In this article, I will explain what manual mode is and why you should use it.


What is Manual Mode?

Manual mode, as its name implies, is kind of the opposite of automatic, since you have to set yourself the camera settings. 

This gives you the ability to set what Shutter Speed, Aperture, and ISO your camera will use to capture a photo. This trio of settings impacts the quality of your image by calibrating the sharpness, the depth of field and brightness of an image.

There are just too many options that only manual mode can offer, and it makes your photos ten times better. Using camera manual mode takes time to get used to, which is why everyone loves automatic modes so much. That does not mean that if you enjoy a lot of features in automatic modes that you should switch permanently.

Pros and Cons of using Manual Mode

You might have already tried manual mode but found yourself wondering if there is any benefit to switching to this setting. While some photographers prefer the hands-on feel of taking control of their photo parameters, there are also some disadvantages you should consider before jumping in feet first.


  • More control on your settings

You can make the photos your own. Even if you take the same photo as someone else, the two will still look different because of how you set the camera.

This makes it easy to capture high-quality images that are perfectly exposed. It also allows you to capture unique shots that aren’t possible with auto modes like HDR or long exposures. With this type of control comes power; so, don’t be afraid to experiment.

  • Better understanding of photography

Manual mode will teach you more about photography than any other mode since you have to play with all settings and see their direct impact on your shots.

  • Using manual mode encourages experimentation

You won’t be afraid to experiment and risk taking a bad picture, because no matter what happens, it is a learning experience.

  • More room of creativity

The ability to control all the settings gives an occasion to explore creative ideas with your shots.

  • More flexibility

 It’s important to understand the impact of each setting and be able to interchange them when in need. There is no rule in stone keeping you from using ISO for brightness and keeping your aperture unchanged.


  • It takes longer to set up

Depending on environments, it can take a time to figure out which is the best setting for the shot desired. But this usually becomes less of an issue with experience.

  • You can miss out on shots

In an event where things are changing fast, you can miss out on shots the moment you want to adjust some settings.

  • It doesn’t handle lighting changes well

If for example, you are shooting a night show with ever changing lighting, it can be challenging to keep changing the settings to match the environment. Using the manual mode can make you miss some shots or have bad ones.

  • It’s Hard To Use Effectively

If you’re new to photography, manual mode may seem intimidating at first. You have to be able to understand what settings like aperture and shutter speed do, which can be tricky at first (but also really fun!). And once you get the hang of it, there are still some tricks that are hard to master like getting the perfect exposure when light conditions are constantly changing or shooting moving subjects without blurring them

Nyungwe National Park, Rwanda

How to Use the Manual Mode

Here are the steps to take a photo in manual mode:

1. Set a correct shutter speed

In order to set your shutter speed correctly for maximum photo sharpness, you must understand how much light is available and how much light you want to get into the camera.

If you are shooting in bright light, you will want to use a faster shutter speed so that you can capture all of the action without overexposing the image. If you are shooting in low light, use a slower shutter speed so that you can get the right amount of light in the photo without making it look too bright. You do not want your pictures to look washed out because they have been overexposed!

2. Set your aperture

The importance of setting your aperture correctly is often overlooked by beginner photographers. It seems that many people will set the f-stop without considering how it will affect their depth of field. The aperture is one of the most important parts of a photograph and needs to be chosen carefully. If you want a blurry background, you should set your aperture to a small f-value, if you want a sharp background, you should set your aperture to a higher f-value. You can check this article for more content about aperture

3. Set your ISO

Your ISO is a measure of your camera’s sensitivity to light. The reason that matters is that the different settings will affect how bright or dark the image will be.

You’re going to want to adjust your ISO based on how dark or light you want the scene to be. If you’re shooting in manual mode, it’s important that your ISO isn’t too high or too low for what you’re trying to achieve; this will help ensure that your images aren’t noisy or too bright when they come out of the camera.

4. Check that your settings match with your camera’s exposure meter

Your camera uses the lens you have on it from the time it takes a photo until the time it displays it on your camera’s screen, which can take up to a few seconds. During that time, the camera uses its exposure meter… and does so by comparing what the light levels are like between where you took the photo and where it displays it on your screen. If the two are really different, then you may end up with a photo that is underexposed or overexposed.

When moving between areas of high and low light, your camera will use this exposure meter to determine if things should be too dark or too bright. So, let’s say you’re shooting a sunset at an outdoor restaurant—you’ll want to make sure that while you’re taking your shot, there isn’t any other light source.


As we saw, Manual mode is powerful and if you have never used it, you should give it a try. We saw its power and on some occasions, you should avoid it. Now go experiment!