Manual Mode: Day 2; LIGHTS, Camera, Action

I still remember sitting in j-school (journalism school) listening to the professors drone on and on about lighting this, lighting that.


As I’ve played around with taking pictures on manual mode – I’ve realized they were totally right.

The key to taking good pictures is 100% lighting.

As I mentioned in my first post of my personal Manual Mode challenge – I am a beginner. I’m writing this series as a beginner to beginners – because I’ve read so many instruction manuals that are beyond what I can understnd.

I am going to talk in beginner terms and it’s all going to be rudimentary (perfect for my (and your) first venture into manual mode!).

exposure triangle basics

Come along with me as I learn the basics of lighting. Let’s start with the exposure triangle.

I’m talking in basic terms because I’m the kind of math person who doesn’t care why 2+2=4 … just that it does. So that’s what we’re doing here.


With a low number you’ll get LESS LIGHT. With a high number you’ll get MORE LIGHT. So that means when you’re outside – stick with a low number. When you’re inside, click over to a higher number.

CAUTION: The higher the number, the more “noise” there is. The picture gets fuzzy/pixelated – and the quality is not as good as when it’s low.


This is my favorite element because it’s name makes sense. This is how fast the shutter clicks shut and open.

If you want to freeze your fast-running child you’ll need a faster shutter speed. If you want to see some blur – you’ll need a slower shutter speed.

I’ve noticed my kids are pretty good around 1/60 to 1/100 at their regular crazy speeds.

Of course this is important because of lighting. If your shutter speed is fast it doesn’t have a lot of time to get light in. If it’s slow – it has plenty of time to get light in.

Low number (1/4000) is a super fast snap – so very little light gets in. High number (1/30) is a super slow snap so gets a lot of light in.


When you have a high number you will capture the background. When you have a low number you are getting a blurry background.

Lighting wise – remember this is part of a lighting triangle – the lower the number, the more light. The higher the number, less light.


One last thing – these three things need to fit in harmony with each other. If you want a properly exposed picture – you’ll need to check out the light meter on your camera.

If the tick mark is at the zero (as pictured) you’re good. If it’s toward the left – it will be too dark. If it’s toward the right – your picture will be too bright. Adjust until you get it where you want it to be!

What your DSL looks like

Try just messing around with the settings. That’s what I’ve been doing in my first week on manual mode (ever!). Here’s some of my practice shots with different settings.

Notice when the ISO increases so does the light.
fstop for beginners
With a large f-stop (aperture) the background is more in focus. As that number gets smaller (to the left) the background gets out of focus and you’re focusing mostly on the pink tulip.

What do you think every beginner needs to know? Share your practice shots with me!



4 thoughts on “Manual Mode: Day 2; LIGHTS, Camera, Action

  1. Another way to think of ISO is, “Is the Sun Out?” If it is then your camera doesn’t need to be as sensative to the light and can be lowered, if the sun isn’t out ie you’re indoors or it’s cloudy then your camera needs to be more sensitive to the light so you need to INCREASE the ISO.

    Liked by 1 person

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