How to use manual camera settings

manual camera settings

When you’re first starting out, manual camera settings can be scary. But with some practice you will prefer to use manual camera settings. When it comes to starting out, get to know your camera. Learn where the buttons are and what they do. When it comes to manual camera settings there are a couple things that you need to know. We will discuss what they are, and in no time you’ll be out there shooting like a pro.

Precise Focusing

When taking a photo, you might need to be precise with your focusing. In those circumstances, you can use this method at achieving manual focus.


What you will want to do, if using a zoom lens, is zoom all the way into the subject. And set your focus. If you are using a prime lens you will want to use live view. Then you will want to zoom in using the magnify tool to check to see if your subject is in focus.


Zooming with live view allows you to see individual pixels. Verify that the picture will be in focus when viewed at full size. This is impossible when looking through the viewfinder.


Don’t bother if you’re not using a tripod or if your subject is moving. The movement will be too great for you to benefit.




One of my favorite manual camera settings is aperture. A lens’ aperture works like the pupil of an eye. The wider it is, the more light it lets in. The more light it lets in, the shorter the shutter speed needs to stay open to expose a picture. Aperture is a measurement in f/stops, such as f/4, f/8, and f/22. The smaller the number, the wider the aperture. Thus, f/4 is wider aperture than f/8 and f/22.


Besides controlling the amount of light that enters the lens. Aperture is the easiest way to control depth-of-field. With a shallow depth-of-field, out-of-focus subjects are very blurry. Also sometimes known as bokeh. With a long depth-of-field, out-of-focus subjects can appear to be in focus.


The only way to understand aperture and depth-of-field is practice. To remember which way to adjust the aperture, remember this:
low f/stop number, low background sharpness. High f/stop number, high background sharpness.


Pro Tip: If you want to get as much of a scene in focus as possible, try this:

  1. Zoom out or use a wide-angle lens.
  2. Focus about 1/3 of the way through the scene.


If you want a blurred background, try this:

  1. Choose aperture priority mode.
  2. Adjust the main dial to select the lowest f/stop number possible.
  3. Zoom all the way in or use a telephoto lens.
  4. Get as close to the subject as your camera will focus.
  5. Choose a location with a distant background.


Shutter Speed


Another manual camera settings you need to know is shutter speed. Pictures capture what happens while the shutter stays open. If the camera or the subject moves while the shutter is open, the camera will record blur.


The shutter rests between the lens and the sensor and blocks light until you take a picture. When you press the shutter button. The shutter opens for the exact amount of time needed to get enough light to expose your picture. Then the shutter closes again.


Typical shutter speeds range from 1/40th of a second to 1/1250th. Yet, many cameras can take pictures at 1/8000th. Night photography often requires exposures taking more than seconds.


When taking pictures, you often don’t need to think about shutter speed. Yet, the picture will be blurry if either the camera or the subject moves while the shutter is open.


Pro tip: If shooting hand held don’t go slower then 1/60th to avoid camera shake.


The longer the shutter speed, the more motion blur the picture captures. For instance, if you want to capture the motion of a water fall you will want a longer shutter speed. If you are shooting sports and want to capture a basketball player mid jump. You will want a faster shutter speed.


ISO settings



The last manual camera settings you need to learn are ISO. ISO controls your camera’s sensitivity to light. Low ISOs (like ISO 100 or 200) increase the quality of the image, but need a longer shutter speed. Higher ISOs decrease image quality, but need a shorter shutter speed. So, you should always use the lowest ISO that will allow you to get the shutter speed. The one you need for capturing the moment. When talking about quality, we are referring to the noise one would see in the photo.


Every camera has different amounts of noise. So you should experiment with your own camera at different ISO speeds. Take pictures of the same subject at 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 and up. Then, take a look at your pictures on your computer and zoom in to see the amount of grain or noise that is there. Especially look in the shadows, you’ll notice more noise in the higher ISO pictures.