photography : shooting on manual for beginners

Most photography guides are overtly technical with rarely any reference to intuition or emotion. But what is a good photo if it doesn’t make you feel something?

I understand the dilemma when it comes to switching from automatic to manual on your DSLR. I’ve been there; I get it. And for someone like me, who shies away from the technical at every opportunity, it took me a good, long while (and much persistence from Daniel) till I finally took the leap. Why?


I was scared of missing the moment. I was worried that I would sacrifice the photo opportunity because I was too busy fumbling with my settings. From what I can gather, this is a common fear and whilst I might be generalising, I think it’s probably the major obstacle in most people’s photography journey.

But guess what? You’re going to miss moments. Every day. For as long as you’re taking photos. It’s part and parcel of the experience – there’s no getting around it.

So the very first step to becoming a manual photographer is to let go of fear and accept that many, many precious moments won’t be caught on camera. And that’s ok.

Next week I’ll run you through the three basic settings on manual – ISO, aperture and shutter speed.

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Showing 18 comments
  • Elisa {With Grace and Eve}

    Yep that is my fear! Looking forward to your next post x

  • Niki Kate

    Just using a DSLR scares me. I'm a scrapbooker and need to move past my phone camera to get the quality I need (the ex-husband took our 'good' camera and I've been making do ever since!) Is there a brand and model you love and would recommend for a beginner?


      It scared me too, at the start! I just got a NikonD3200 that I love, but I didn't get the standard lens that comes with it. I got a nice (reasonably priced) 40mm macro lens that really gets that 'blurred background' effect you see in a lot of great portrait/food/craft photos. It's -gorgeous- and I don't regret it for a second!

  • milliontinylittlethings

    I've missed so many potentially great shots, or captured some that are over or under exposed because I didn't get the settings right in time! But when you capture 'that' moment, with the settings just right, it's worth a thousand of the lost moments. Capturing an image on manual, when you get it right, enhances those precious moments, feelings and atmospheres we're trying to preserve xx

  • Bex Jenkins

    I am struggling with this exact thing! I've just done a great manual photography course but I've since missed so moments! So many black or totally white photos! I have gone back to aperture priority because I was so frustrated – perhaps I should keep persevering!

  • Rachel Holden

    So thankful for this post and the posts to come! Manual photography is one of my goals for 2015 as in previous years I have just felt too daunted. Bring on taking the leap and ridding the fear!

  • Yanic Arsenault

    Thank you for taking the time. I'm had my manual for years and have simply been using it as a glorified point and shoot. I'm looking forward to your series!

  • krittewitt

    Oh I'm looking forward to that guide! So wanna use the manual but.. Yes, just as you wrote!

  • Madelyn

    I'm so excited for this, Jodi! I am one of those people who are afraid of shooting on manual because I'm worried I'll miss the moment. Thank you!!

  • Natalie Britton

    I'm a total beginner with my DSLR and definitely have this fear. Can't wait to see your upcoming posts so that I can learn more! Thank you! 🙂

  • Miss Lynzie

    I started the 52 Project with the express intention of learning how to take better photos. I am really looking forward to this series! I'm such a photography novice and even though I've come to understand a little bit more about capturing light, I'm still quite lost with regard to anything else.

  • tales from a bungalow

    FEAR! It's why I am still on auto, but I have booked myself onto a one day course to 'get off auto'! This alongside your guide, I am certain I will be able to tackle manual easily and become a more confident photographer. I actually have a bridge camera, also because of fear! But if I can handle this, then one day I will upgrade…I can't wait. xx

  • Zena

    I use to take photos with a SLR and develop my own photos 18 years ago but haven't used manual for a long time. I recently was gifted a DSLR for our 10 year anniversary and I am a bit overwhelmed. Really looking forward to next week!!!

  • jacqui // dusty country road

    I started using manual settings a few months ago, and at first I was fumbling around and taking ages to get a photo, then all of a sudden I was using the manual settings without even thinking about it, and now it seems like second nature. After owning my camera for 2.5 years! You are right though, I tend to think more about capturing emotion and getting an image that makes you feel something, and all the technical knowledge in the world doesn't tell you how to do that. I look forward to reading your thoughts on it all.

  • erica @ to the sea

    Ahhhh! I totally have this fear. I know the basics of shooting in manual but cannot cannot cannot overcome this fear. Thanks for this post! Maybe I will now… 🙂

  • dos marias

    love this. so excited for these posts to continue!

  • lucinda smith

    defining the FEAR is so empowering in itself, thank you once again for the inspiration. xo

  • Kate @ Kate Writes

    Oh I hear you…but I'm trying! Thanks for sharing and inspiring me to keep trying

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