16 Jan 2014

Photography // Stepping out of auto

Hello. I’ve got a different kind of post for you today. A photography post!! I am so so excited, as I love photography so much! For my 2014 new years resolution, I wanted to improve my photography as well as some other personal things. But for this to happen, I had to understand and figure out how to use my camera in manual mode since I always use auto, since getting my camera in August last year. I’ve done my research and put together a little tutorial for you with a free printable sheet to carry around with you in your camera bag. Also just so you know, I've said this is for beginners, because this is what I'm teaching myself right now - I am a beginner myself so don't be put off.

The first step is to step out of auto mode. I’m not saying that auto mode is bad. There are times when you need to get your camera out real quick and a auto mode would definitely save the day. But in low light - by that, I mean anything that isn’t bright outside, my DSLR isn’t very good at taking bright photos in auto. Especially when I am inside taking product and tutorial photos for the blog. On your camera, you might have many manual modes, each one allows you to change different things. This is great for practicing with the different settings, before moving on to full manual because you get to play around with things one at a time and the camera will do the rest in auto to your commands (your setting change). But in full manual you have to adjust each different thing to match the other thing in the right light conditions etc.

So what are all these ‘things’. There a three parts that make up your photo and the light. Remember science class - light makes up the photo and the world. These three things are aperture, ISO and shutter speed. Adjusting them each as necessary creates the perfect photo - don’t worry, I’m a long way from that

Shutter Speed //
Shutter Speed is to convey subject motion.
A faster speed causes moving subjects to freeze while a slower speed will create motion blur. Something that photographers sometimes want
For Example: 30” is a slow shutter speed will 1/4000 is a very fast shutter speed

ISO //
ISO is the level of sensitivity of your camera to the available light.
The lower the Iso number, less sensitive to light
The part in your camera that can change the sensitivity called the "image sensor"
It is responsible for gathering light and transforming it into a photo (did I mention it's the most expensive part)
With more sensitivity, your camera can take photos in low light areas without the flash.
But the con of higher sensitivity is that is adds a grain or noise to the pictures

A tip for using ISO is to use a lower ISO if possible to retain the quality of the image, but lighter images that might be dark with a lower ISO, is sometimes the preference

Aperture //
The aperture is adjusted to control the area of focus.
This is done, by controlling how much light is hitting the camera’s sensor
Depth of field is the distance between the nearest and the furthest objects giving a focused image
The smaller the aperture gives a blurred background and with the subject standing out. 
A larger aperture gives a larger depth of field, more of the image in focus
Aperture is controlled by f-stop numbers
The lower the f-stop number, the wider or bigger the aperture
Look at the image above to get the idea of letting more light into the camera’s sensor

Getting your head around these things are very hard. I know that I’m a far way off from having my photos perfect. But I do think they are improving.
One of the hardest bits is aperture. It relies on you having the correct shutter speed and ISO as well. A quick tip I found to allow aperture to work the best is to increase the shutter speed by the same increment to maintain the even exposure. To start playing around with aperture I suggest using a mode where you only change the aperture. Let the camera do the rest for you.

If you are a bit scared of taking on all these numbers and words then I suggest ‘creative auto’ mode for you. It is the easy mode for adjusting brightness, background blurring, flash and other settings

But the only way you will actually learn how to use your camera is 'stepping out of auto' mode and experimenting with different situations. I started taking photos in my garden (lots of light) but when we went to Kelly Tarlton’s (an underground aquarium) it was very dark and I was able to play around with higher ISO numbers and lower f-stop numbers because there wasn’t much light (higher ISO) so I needed to allow more light into the camera sensor (lower f-stop number). Just to give you an example of using these settings in a darker environment

Wow! That is a lot of writing. Just one more thing. At the beginning of the year, I created this sheet to carry in my camera bag to remind me of the things. Click here to download my notes page and a few little crazy diagrams. It’s in PDF format so you will be able to just print and go. If you have any more questions, have a look around online (type up your question with ‘for kids’ on the end - sometimes it’s the most simplest) or leave me a comment - I might make a post out of some of your questions

Hope you have fun experimenting with your camera
x Harri

I provide free printables + downloads to my readers as my token of thanks. These printables or downloads are for personal use only and are not to be shared without direct link to this blog post first. Thank you x



  1. thank you for this post! Definitely a help since I got my camera for Christmas have already been wanting to try and step out of auto mode cause i know people are so much more happy with their images in manual!
    Lauren @ OhHayBlogs

    1. Thanks! Glad it helped. I definitely am happier with my manual photos. x

  2. This is so wonderful Harri!
    I love photography but never fully understood the manual modes!

    Thank you so much
    Ruby xxx

  3. Hi!
    Your photography is great!
    Amazing job Harri!
    At the moment I have a small camera that is just like a mini Samsung thing that I use for the pics on my blog, and am hoping to get a 'proper' camera like yours when I'm a bit older!
    Im going to bookmark this page for further reference!!!!
    Have such a great day clicking away!
    Alex xoxo

    1. Thank you!! Hope it does come in handy one day and you enjoyed reading it anyway

  4. My new year's resolution is the same too and I have been learning about the same thing! Thanks so much for your tips, I can't wait to practice it!!

    1. Yay! Email me, maybe we can share some of the things we learn. Wouldn't be exciting doing a resolution with someone

  5. This is really useful! It'll help me a lot improving my photographing skills. X

  6. Thanks for this, and the printable! I'm hoping to improve my photography this year, but just my camera manual freaks me out!

    1. No thanks you. Don't freak out just experiment with it. It's the only way to learn x

  7. What a great post - definitely going to print off that pdf sheet :)

    erin // beingerin.com

    1. Thank you!! Glad the sheet will help out!! Have fun x

  8. this is so helpful, thank you!

    karen, www.elashock.com

  9. Ahh, I definitely need to get into the habit of using manual mode too! I'll definitely be keeping some of these things in mind :) I just found your blog and adore it by the way, looking forward to seeing more posts from you!

    1. Thank you so much!! Hope you enjoy and stick around. x

  10. I love your blog! These are some really useful tips :)
    I've nominated you for the Liebster Award over on my blog, if you decide to take part you can find all the details on my post http://www.thestylediaries.co.uk/2014/01/the-liebster-award.html - I look forward to more of your posts! Laura xo


  11. Very useful tips, thank you so much! It's a great job what you shared :)

  12. Hi Harri! I was just wondering, is the defocus good on the Canon 1100d? Can it blur out the background really well around a person from a distance? X

  13. You rock! Thank you so much!
    xo Racic


Thank you for taking the time to write a comment. I read everyone and try to reply as soon as possible so check back. Hope you enjoyed this post x Harri