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Learning how to use your DSLR in manual. Did that phrase just send shivers down your spine? Did your heart start racing? Deep breaths my friends, it’s not really as hard as you might think! But trust me, I know this is a scary topic for many who have chosen to upgrade to a DSLR. I have to admit, I was pretty scared of switching the dial on my camera over to that frightening letter “M”. When I first got my camera I shot mainly in portrait mode, but knew that just wouldn’t cut it. I liked the effect it gave my photos, but I wanted more control over the end result.

Now, I’m no photography genius. I’ve only owned my DSLR since January, but I’m self-taught and I think I do a pretty darn good job! All it took was an afternoon, a bunch of bananas, and and I’ve never looked back. 1 week into owning my first DSLR camera and I was shooting in manual, adjusting all of my settings to fit each environment and I’ve even been able to show Cory a thing or two!

I’m not trying to brag (I promise), but I want you to know that it’s not that hard. If I can do it, so can you! Now sit yourself down in a well-lit room with a bunch of bananas (or any fruit, vegetable, or stationary object of your choice) and let’s get started!


Setting the aperture regulates how much light you let into your camera. It also adjusts how much focus is placed on your subject. The lower your aperture, the more focus on your subject, the blurrier your background + the more light you let into your camera and therefore the brighter your picture will be. It’s that simple! If you’re outdoors on a very sunny day or trying to take pictures of your quickly moving kiddo I recommend raising your aperture to a higher number. This will increase the area of focus, prevent your photo from becoming washed out and increases the likelihood that you’ll actually get that quick-moving kiddo in focus!

This post has perfect examples for what to expect with each different aperture setting.

Shutter Speed:

You cute summer hairstyles tumblr photo know those amazing sparkler pictures that you’ve seen all over Pinterest? They’re working with shutter-speed and a tripod! It’s that simple. The higher your shutter speed, the faster the shutter closes. The faster the shutter closes, the less light let into the camera. The lower the shutter speed, the slower the shutter closes and more light is let into the camera. I use high shutter speeds when I’m outdoors and it’s very, very bright. I also use a higher shutter speed when I’m taking pictures of Alea because that’s the only way to get her in focus!


I honestly don’t know what I’d do without ISO. This saves my caboose on cloudy days when I need to get pictures taken for my blog. I always make sure to take pictures by a window, but on cloudy, rainy days sometimes that doesn’t even cut it. ISO helps to brighten up your photos and add a little extra light when you need it most. I use this solely for indoor photos, otherwise I just set my ISO to “auto”. You have to be careful with how you use ISO though. The higher your ISO, the more light and the more grain. A lower ISO means less light and less grain. If you’re in need of a lot of light, I wouldn’t bump up your ISO as high as it could go, because then you run the risk of creating a more grainy photo. And unless you’re into that more vintage feel, it’s not going to be what you want.

White balance:

There’s really not a lot to say about white balance, but it can really make a difference in your pictures. If you’re indoors with artificial lighting, pictures tend to turn out with more of a orange hue. To cancel that out, depending on your lighting, you can set your white balance to either “white florescent light” or “tungsten light”. This will cancel out any unwanted hue and help create more “true” colors in your photo. I recommend playing around with this feature a little bit and you’ll see exactly what I mean!


If you have any questions, feel free to sound off in the comments below. It’s really just a matter of reading, practicing, and remembering what each setting means and what the numbers associated with each setting can produce. Once you get the hang of it and get the numbers down, it’ll be a cinch!

And if you missed it, and at my 5 camera bag must-haves!

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