You probably know someone who shoots in manual. (actually, I know you know at least one…I almost always shoot in manual!) There’s so much more you can do if you leave auto mode, but you don’t have to go directly from auto to fully manual. There are a ton of options in between.

Step one:
understand why you’re doing this.
Your camera makes pretty good guesses most of the time. It gauges white balance, light levels and shutter speed pretty well. But sometimes it just guesses WRONG. And often, it thinks it should use flash, and you just know better. So the more you learn, the more you can control those situations when your camera isn’t as smart as it thinks it is.

This was taken in automatic mode. I couldn’t choose the focal point. (no flash; it’s bright enough in the Florida sun not to need it)

Not a bad picture, but just wait to see what will happen!!

Step two:

Learn about your options.

I’m not going to focus on white balance or the photographic triangle right now. This is just about seeing what you can do when your camera is confused.
You can do several different things to give yourself more control without having to do all the thinking just yet. (it’s pretty fun to get to the point that you can set every single dial yourself, but when you’re taking pictures of kids, it’s pretty nice to let the camera do part of the work so you can just chase them!)
–the modes that most cameras now have are a great way to explore the camera’s options. —If you go to a concert or a baseball game, try sports mode. It knows things are moving quickly but won’t use flash to get the shot. Instead, it bumps the ISO to speed up the shutter speed. (if you aren’t familiar with the photographic triangle, just ignore that last sentence.) The down-side with this is that many cameras choose for you where you’ll be focusing, and you can’t override it. That may not bother you as much as it bothers me.
—the “night” mode is a slow shutter speed to get things like fireworks. You need to have it sitting on something stable, though, or you’ll get horrible blur. (ask how I know).
—“portrait mode” is good for, well, portraits. It does use flash frequently, though, which is a downfall in my book. You may end up with really washed out subjects, so I’ve rarely used this mode.

–The second direction you can do is go to the “P” mode. This still uses automatic shutter speed and aperture, but you can tell it flash or no flash, you can adjust the white balance if you want to, and you can change the ISO if you just don’t want the noise that high-ISO pictures can get. It’s a good, safe way to try to adjust things without going too crazy.

“P” mode: (I could choose the focal point and the white balance.)

The colors look better, and the focus is right on his face instead of wherever the camera decided to focus for the top one (I think the neckline of his shirt)


–A (AV on Canons) is a really fun setting. You don’t really need to understand what all the aperture does, but it’s a fun way to experiment.
(quick explanation: the smaller the number, the more blur in the background of the picture, and the shutter speed will be the quickest, which is great when your room/area is on the darker side. The higher number is good for getting a landscape-type picture, though then you’ll start getting slower shutter speeds.) This is the setting I usually leave mine on.

Aperture priority (choosing f/2.2 for my aperture, which is my favorite for shooting a picture of one person)

Look at the difference!! Check out the blurred grass!! It gives so much more emphasis to his beautiful face! 
(disclaimer: I used my 50mm f/1.8 lens. Most lenses and cameras don’t give that kind of blur for the grass. But it does still change things tremendously!)


–S is shutter speed. I don’t recommend using this one as often as A/AV. It’s good for if you want to get a “panned” look picture, like getting someone riding their bike and getting blur behind them but keeping them in focus. (warning: this is a HARD shot to get!) It’s also good for waterfalls, because if you have a tripod, you can do a longer exposure and get that beautiful soft look.

(I didn’t get one in shutter priority for him, because I wouldn’t have changed anything.)

Which mode are you going to try? Come share some samples of what you get when you try a new mode on Charm Box Studios’ Facebook Page!
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