12 Tips To Get Into Manual Photography (From a Newbie)

First of all I’d like to apologise for the sporadic and spontaneous posts that seem to be appearing on my blog at the moment. Recently, having started my new job on top of trying to catch up with some uni work, I’ve been pushed a little off-kilter and my routine of writing a post every day or two has become disrupted. This is something I’m trying to amend though, so hopefully I can find a new sort of routine to slide into once I find my feet at work.

At the start of the year, I wrote a blog post detailing my experiences of what it’s like to shoot manual photos for the first time. Today I’d like to revisit that topic and offer a few tips to anyone out there trying to get into it themselves.

I know I found it extremely daunting at first, and was reluctant to fully commit to shooting manual. However, as I wrote in my previous post, it wasn’t as stressful as I first imagined and I actually got a lot out of it! So, from one newbie to another, here are some of the things that have helped me to step out of my photography comfort zone:

Don’t overthink it

Stressing about how much you don’t know, and how badly your shots will turn out isn’t going to get you anywhere. At the end of the day, no one else has to see what you capture and nothing awful is going to happen if you don’t quite get the hang of it straight away. Try to let yourself be comfortable with the discomfort you feel towards that out-of-control feeling that may rise up within you; tell yourself the more you practice, the more control you’ll have.

Talk to people with photography experience

Both my dad and my boyfriend know much more about photography than I do, and they have both inspired me to give manual photography a go. Talking to them about their photography experiences has helped me feel less intimidated by the whole experience.

Shoot with someone who has photography experience

Of course this option is even better! Chose a patient teacher if possible, someone who is willing to step back and let you learn some things on your own rather than setting up everything for you before handing the camera over. If this sort of person exists in your life, then lucky you! No need to spend money on a course or hours watching online tutorials – you can get out there straight away. Remember to ask lots of questions…

Learn through doing

This is a lot easier if you have a person willing to help you. I have tried to learn more about photography through videos before and either been confused and overwhelmed, or bored out of my mind. Learning by taking lots of pictures and making lots of mistakes is what got me to make the most progress.

Manual photography isn’t an exclusive club

I used to think knowing all about lens types and aperture settings was for people really into the equipment side of photography, and that if you didn’t know all that stuff, you couldn’t shoot manual. But in reality, every photographer is trying to learn new things, and most will be happy to share their knowledge with you, whether that’s in person or online. The photography community can seem unwelcoming from the outside, but, for the most part, it’s really quite the opposite.

You don’t have to be overly into camera tech

Until recently, I was only ever interested in the creative process of taking photos, and the tech side turned me away from learning more. I often had thoughts like ‘I don’t deserve to do manual photography because I don’t know what different lenses actually do, I’m not a real photographer’. However, learning the basics doesn’t have to equate to hours pouring over manuals and memorising facts about different camera models. As long as you keep an open mind and don’t feel too intimidated by all the tech lingo, you’ll pick up little bits of information as you go; you’ll realise there’s only a certain level of knowledge you need to become competent with manual settings.

Learn what each major setting of a camera does

This is vital, but you don’t have to do it all in one go. Learn how the settings impact the amount of light the camera takes in, how you can create different depths of field (range of focus), what ISO actually is, how shutter speed works…

Allocate a chunk of time to each setting

Keep all other settings the same and play around with just one at a time – this will help you pinpoint what each setting does specifically.

Learn your camera’s shortcuts

Knowing the shortcuts to modify each setting shortens the time between taking each photo and makes you feel a lot more confident when shooting out and about.

Go for quantity

Spend a couple of days shooting as much as you can, altering all of the settings and seeing what turns out best. Try to produce as many images as possible, no matter how good or bad, and use these to learn what works and what doesn’t.

Go for quality

Pick one subject and alter the settings to see how a range of different effects can be orchestrated and what your personal preferences are.


Keep trying different things and having photography conversations, and if an area of photography feels alien to you, create challenges that force you to wander into that territory.

As you’ve probably gathered, I’m still very new to manual photography and I’m sure there’s more helpful advice out there – let me know in the comments if you have any tips yourself. I’d also like to hear from you if you’ve just picked up manual photography recently, let me know how you’re getting on!

To see some of my photos taken with manual settings, check out the following posts:

13 Things I Learnt During My First Week Of Manual Photography

Moments from the Mountains: Black and White Photography in Wales

My Social Media Links:

Twitter (@alysjournals)

Instagram (@alystravels)

Pinterest (@alysdc)



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