Solo Build It! Case Studies

Manual Settings in the Digital World

by Amy Renfrey

Amy Renfrey

Amy Renfrey

With all of the digital camera equipment now available, many ask why cameras have any manual settings at all. An experienced photographer will be able to point out all of the “flaws” or “failings” of presets, and that photography calls for a great deal more than a few turns of the dial and clicks of the shutter.


Getting to the manual settings on even a basic digital camera can sometimes be tricky and require maneuvering through some onscreen menus, but knowing how to leave the automatic features behind is a great way to ensure that any sort of picture can be taken.

So, the first thing to do is bust out the user’s manual for your particular camera and learn how (and if) you can go into a fully manual mode of operation. Next, you are going to need to understand that your digital equipment is actually very similar to that first 35mm SLR camera you may have encountered years earlier. There is still the lens to focus, the shutter speed to select, the ISO (film speed) to set and the f/stop or aperture of the lens.

Knowing what each of these features will do is the only way to accurately record the image in the way you want. Let’s first look at the lens and the power of being able to manually focus. Most modern digital camera users have dealt with moments of intense frustration as the camera chose to focus, refocus and refocus AGAIN on the wrong part of a scene. It may have cost the photographer the shot and is usually a mystery to the camera user.

It is important to note that many modern cameras have sensors in their lenses that can do everything from recognize faces to focus on a variety of areas in the frame. This can get annoying when a straightforward focus is required, or even when a more artistic “blur” is the desired effect. Once a digital camera is in manual mode, the photographer will have complete control over focus.

The next issues have to do with the way the sensor is going to see and record the image. The ISO is what used to be known as film speed, since digital cameras have no film, the ISO is basically the sensitivity of the sensor to any light that reaches it and the lower the ISO the less light will affect it and the finer the “grain” in the image. Naturally, the higher the ISO the more sensitivity and the grainier or “noisier” the image.

The shutter speed simply determines how much time the sensor is going to be exposed to the image. Generally a faster shutter speed will freeze action and a lower one will be used to allow the sensor to “see” the image long enough to compensate for smaller apertures and ISOs. Aperture is f/stop and determines the actual size of the opening in the lens. This determines how much of the image is in focus, including the background.

A thorough understanding of these settings is required of anyone who wants to take successful images in the manual camera mode.

Amy is a professional photographer who teaches enthusiasts how to take stunning photos quickly and easily. For more the best and most professional information on how to improve photography

Sign up for her monthly photography ezine and watch your photography transform.

Click here to post comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Digital Photography Questions.


St. Judes Children's Hospital

A portion of all proceeds from this site are donated to St. Jude's. If you are looking for a place to give, I highly recommend this hospital. Your own personal donations may be made by clicking on this banner.