Shoot manual | Travel Photo Tip 4

Shooting manual may not be the most straightforward thing to do, but it’s actually the best way to take full advantage of your DSLR’s capabilities. The more you use it, the more it becomes second nature to you. And just like in cooking, creating the exposure you want is just a matter of mixing the right ingredients together. In this case, these main ingredients are: aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and white balance (WB).

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Here’s an example of a simplified exposure diagram:

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White Balance is not a problem for RAW shooters because it can be adjusted easily afterwards. But for those who want to get it right in-camera, set the WB to Kelvin to make things a bit easier (just move the dial left or right to adjust warmth or coldness depending on your taste). But for those whose cameras do not have Kelvin options, setting to Auto WB usually covers it, but the Sunny mode is also great for all-around photography. My default WB setting is 5260K. This works well in broad daylight.

Now here’s an example of a camera setup:
I set my aperture to f/5.6 when shooting handheld (f/8 if I’m mounting it on a tripod to make a long exposure). I then set the ISO to 100 (to avoid grains) and then make the shutter speed the only variable.

I adjust the shutter speed until the exposure meter reaches zero (the midpoint), which means it’s the proper exposure. But always bear in mind this guideline:

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I am using a 10-20mm lens, so the minimum shutter speed must be between 1/10 – 1/20 of a second for me to produce sharp photos when handheld. If you’re shooting at 35mm, the minimum shutter speed should be 1/35; if you’re at 100mm, your speed must be at least 1/100. Simple enough math, right?

BUT it’s not always that simple in low-light conditions. For instance, the shutter speed value you get at midpoint may be slower than the recommended speed for your lens (for example, it reaches midpoint at 1/15 but you’re using a 35mm). It’s in these instances that you start to adjust the other variables: increase the ISO and see what happens, or else make the aperture wider if you can.

Ninja Tip: If shooting handheld, especially at a rate of 1/10 of a second (or slower), and you happen to have shaky hands, take a deep breath and press the shutter button as you exhale. Your body tends to relax more when doing this so your hands are a bit more stable :)

Once you have mastered shooting in Manual mode, it’s going to be very easy for you to shoot in any other camera mode, regardless of what camera you’re using. Constant practice does the trick!

Questions? Leave them in the comments box below!

Till the next tip,


  • Marj | Layover to Life

    I really enjoy reading these posts about travel photography. Laking tulong especially to someone like me who is now slowly moving from being always on auto to manual mode. :)

    • Two2Travel

      Thanks Marj! Happy to be of help. Happy shooting!