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Photography: Learning Manual Mode

If it seems like I am a walking advertisement for manual mode, it is because I am! Switching from auto-mode to manual mode will put the “wow”-factor into all of your pictures. That is, if you learn the settings first! If can learn (a working mom of three), then anyone can!

I get it. If you are learning about your camera, you are most likely overwhelmed! Personally, even after I learned all about my camera settings I still couldn’t figure out manual mode– until I learned one easy tip and my [photography] world was changed!

Basically, I had all the main ingredients for my recipe, but I was missing secret ingredient – the secret sauce.  Metering is your secret sauce.

If you haven’t done so yet, take time to understand the three major settings. You will see that with practice you have full control over your images.  With all the new capabilities, photography then becomes more of an art than just snapping photos. And if you are anything like me it becomes an addiction.

These settings include:

  1. Shutter speed– which allows you to capture images based on how fast they are moving
  2. Aperture– which allows you to focus on certain images while leaving the background ‘creamy’
  3. ISO– which gives you the ability to adjust the exposure of the image

You can also check out my 3 part video tutorial youtube videos in this post!

In the manual mode, you have to balance the three settings, which are often referred to as the “Exposure Triangle”. I started researching my camera and I saw images like this I had instant heartburn. JUST when I thought I understood it all this image made me feel clueless. THAT is when I learned about the secret photography ingredient- metering.


Metering evaluates the above settings for you! Manual mode was frustrating for me until I learned about metering. On your camera,  metering is used to measure the brightness of the subject. The camera evaluates the lighting to optimize the shutter speed, aperture (f-number), and ISO sensitivity, which is measured using a built-in sensor. It is like a built-in guide for manual mode. How great is that?

Here an image of my camera. The meter, is the scale you want to look at 

The goal is to be at or close to the ‘0’ mark. If you are to the LEFT you are getting close to being UNDERexposed (or dark), and if you are to the RIGHT then you are getting close to being OVERexposed (or too light). So focus on your image and check your meter. 

There are different types of metering available in your camera:

  1. Spot metering– looks at the lighting at a certain SPOT on your camera that you focus on (I prefer)
  2. Matrix metering– looks at the entire image
  3. Center-weighted metering– looks at the very center of the image

Regardless of what ‘metering’ type you chose to use, it is a great feature to assist you as you learn the different settings and how they affect the brightness of your pictures.

Beginner Tips

You will find own style and methods as you start your photography journey. However, I have being using the below flow for over 10 years– maybe I am a little biased, but I think it works fantastically for photographing kids or any moving subject!

Take a look at my free printable workflow guide to photographing children!

If you are more of a visual learner, check out my video on ISO and metering, and how they tie into using manual mode. Come on, you got this!!

Click here to download your free Ebook!

If you found this helpful, share it! Happy Snapping!

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Cherie Wallace

Saturday 3rd of August 2019

OMG. I've literally just had an "AHA" moment! As in I threw my head back and my mouth was wide open. I'm a weeks old DLSR user, I've watched and read your info on shutter speed, aperture and ISO and have learned so much. But metering! This has changed everything! Thank you xx


Sunday 4th of August 2019

I am so excited to hear that! That was me--- it never REALLY clicked until I understood metering! I have another post that explains all about metering too! Check it out here. So glad this helped you- that is my goal!!

Tips for Cool Winter Photography - Simply Snapping Mom

Thursday 7th of February 2019

[…] If metering is new to you, check out my post on metering and manual mode! […]

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