Photography Mini Series Part 1: Six Benefits of Learning to Shoot in Manual Mode

Posted by: Kelli

Aperture. Exposure. Shutter speed. ISO. White balance. Metering. Raw files. Histogram.

Some of you may know all about the words I listed above. Many of you probably know more than me about those words above.

If you don’t know much about that list, know this: I am not a straight A student, I can drive my husband batty with some of my type B tendencies, I don’t like learning from other people, and I don’t have any history of art or photography classes (minus the 45 minutes you get each week in grade school).

*Update* Be sure to check out the other posts of our photography series!

Part 2: Aperature & How to get that Blurry Background in Pictures

Part 3: How to set your ISO to take the Best Quality Photos

Part 4: Shutter Speed and Meter; How to take Bright Pictures

Part 5: What is the Best Lighting for Taking Pictures?

Part 6: The Benefits of Shooting in RAW

Part 7: Where to Focus When Taking Pictures

Part 8: How to Take your own Family Pictures for your Christmas Card

Shooting in Manual Mode

Despite my entirely flawed nature and some natural tendencies working against me, I was still able to learn to shoot in manual mode.

Now, if you are scrolling through our blog thinking to yourself, ‘my, my their images are terrible,’ then maybe you should stop reading now. Likely you know a lot more about me than photography, and I can probably bring you very little value.

If, by chance, you are one of the thousands and thousands of Americans who own a DSLR camera, and you don’t know how to shoot in manual mode, let me encourage you.

Shooting in manual mode.
You can do it.

And I think you should learn to shoot in manual mode. Here’s why:

1. Learning to shoot in manual mode is a wise investment.

Have you ever hired a professional photographer? I actually have not hired a photographer since our wedding, and she was actually a really good friend who didn’t charge us anything for taking thousands of pictures while running around eight months pregnant. She did great, and I have no regrets of hiring an amateur photographer for our wedding day.

I guess we lucked out. Okay, back to the point. (Most) photographers are EXPENSIVE. They are super talented and usually worth every dime you spend. Even though I can successfully shoot in manual mode, I don’t have the creative eye some great photographers have.

But here’s the way I look at it. Life doesn’t stop. My kids look different every two months. My grandparents are aging fast, and I’m never quite sure when our last visit will be the last visit. My son only gets to see his cousin for two entirely chaotic weeks each year. I can’t hire a photographer to capture all these beautiful moments of life. I can’t spend that kind of money nor find the time to coordinate with someone else’s schedule.

With the knowledge and skill that I have learned by shooting in manual mode, I have been able to capture so many beautiful  moments with really good pictures that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.

Shooting in manual mode.

2. Learning to shoot in manual mode means I get the photos I want taken.

What’s worse than being forced to spend lots of money to get great pictures? Yes, spending lots of money and not getting great pictures. This is not to the fault of the professional photographer you just hired. Likely, your two year old was supposed to take a nap at the exact time of your photo shoot. Or, your husband had that hair day where his flat hair made him look a bit like a drowned mouse. And, of course, it was raining. So there was no point in doing your own hair anyway.

When you learn to shoot in manual mode, you can take pictures whenever you want.

Some of our best photo taking sessions go like this. We get home from church. It’s a great overcast day outside. The kids are dressed in matching church clothes. My hair is already done. My husband looks exceptionally nice that day.

We go outside to our play house and shoot some great candid photos. After about twenty minutes, the boys aren’t overly willing to smile any more. BUT, we got some GREAT photos with almost little or no effort. The kids were happy, they looked cute, they cooperated, and I have up to date photos for our walls.

3. Learning to shoot in manual mode gives me a creative outlet.

As I find myself growing older, I find myself being drawn more and more to beauty. I think some of this is fueled by the Pinterest, Instagram, and digital photography age, but I think some of this new found artistic creativity is fueled by a desire to be intentional with life.

I have grown to love taking pictures with my camera. I’d take more pictures if I didn’t feel it was tacky walking around sticking a two inch lense in front of everyone’s face.

I like having beautiful pictures to cherish of people that I love. I like have images of the little things that may only have meaning to me. Never once have I regretted taking pictures of my two boys. No one besides me is going to study their little faces like me and be so grateful for the precious images.

Shooting in manual mode.

4. Learning to shoot in manual mode gives me lots and lots and lots of free candid images. My favorite kind of photos.

I adore candid images. There is something magnificent when you capture the genuine smile of your two year old watching his daddy. Another memory is carved out every time I take one more picture of a little boy riding on a tractor with his grandpa.

Instead of littering my walls with beige colored backgrounds from inside a studio, I can blow up canvas images of my father-in-law’s dairy cows, or Case sitting on his grandma’s lap eating pancakes at a tractor show, or the ‘M’ in the fence that has been at my grandma’s house for as long as I can remember.

5. Learning to shoot in manual mode provides me with a hobby that has the ability to make some extra cash.

Speaking from a more practical viewpoint, learning to shoot well in manual mode has the possibility of bringing in some extra cash. First off, someone may come over to your house, step inside your door, and ask who does all your pictures. You explain that photography has become a hobby and that you enjoy taking photos. Then they ask if you would be willing to take a few for their family.

Disclaimer: Just because you can shoot in manual mode does not being you are qualified to take family pictures. 🙂 Yes, I have been in those shoes. A family requested that I take a few pictures of them since all their kids were going to be home. I agreed STATING VERY CLEARLY that I am not a professional photographer and have no guarantee that the pictures will be great. I’m thankful I was upfront about my skill level because I was disappointed in the results. Shooting for other people is not the same as running out and taking candid pictures of your kids. If you are out to make a bit of cash, I’d recommend offering to do a handful of sessions for free until you can guarantee good resuilts.

Secondly, in the age of ever changing digital images, shooting in manual mode has the ability to give you an advantage. I’m not saying it will give you an advantage, but it may. You are on this page because you are reading my blog. The blog world is completely saturated right now with writers. GOOD IMAGES are key to getting you a step above the bottom of the bucket.

Shooting in manual mode.

6. Learning to shoot in manual mode gives me the ability to serve families in ways that not everyone can.

We have already talked a bit about how expensive it is to hire photographers. If you are looking for some good practice, find some people at your local church or community who may enjoy a free photo shoot. It’s always nice to have a Christmas card worthy photo for sending out to family and friends. I am sure there are plenty of families who would be very grateful for the opportunity for someone to take some good pictures. I guarantee you will learn a LOT volunteering to take pictures.

(The pictures I included in this post were all taken in an effort to create a large collage of canvas pictures for my son’s new ‘big boy’ bed room. Free decorating. 🙂 I guess it’s another perk of learning to take good images.)

Here is the camera I use. It’s  Canon Rebel T3. This camera has been a great starter camera, but I wouldn’t recommend buying it if your goal is to eventually shoot in manual mode. I’ll explain why in another post. And this is my favorite lens. CONSIDERING THE PRICE, it is a great lens.

Come back next Wednesday for an explanation on aperture and how to use this lens well.

Do you shoot in manual mode? Do you think it’s worth the time to learn how? Leave me your thoughts in the comments!

Why should you learn to shoot in manual mode. Learning to shoot in manual mode.

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