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You are here: > DSLR Basics: 8 Easy Steps to Learn Manual Mode for Canon DSLR Cameras

By Prathap on in

Manual Mode in DSLR Camera is considered to be an out-of-this-world setting that many people never ever think of trying it. I have come across many people who own DSLR Camera for many years but never tried. Most popular reason being that it requires them to have technical know-how of Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO settings which has a steep learning curve.

If this reasoning rings a bell even for you, let us tackle it right here right now. You will see yourself playing  around with Manual Mode like never before within matter of few minutes.

I have used images of Canon Rebel T3i DSLR camera settings in this article. Most of the Canon DSLRs probably have very similar settings. If you are a Nikon DSLR owner, please read .

If you follow these steps exactly the way I describe, you will never have to switch back to Auto mode.

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Step 1: Pick up your Camera and Start the Timer

This is the most important step. If you are just reading it in your office, or a restaurant, or a coffee shop, then no matter what, you will never learn it. If you do not have access to camera right now, then stop it here. Go back home, pick up your camera and then follow the next steps.

Start the timer now. Let us see how much time you will take to understand the manual mode.

Step 2: Turn the Mode dial to point to M which means Manual Mode

Rotate the mode dial, which is usually at the top right hand side, to point to M . Some of the models may have the mode dial at the top left hand side.

Mode Dial to choose Manual Mode in Canon Rebel T3i DSLR

Select Manual Mode from the Mode Dial as shown in the picture for Canon Rebel T3i DSLR

Step 3: Point the Camera where you find good light

This is very important step. Do not ignore this step. Turn on the camera if you have not done it already and point it towards a subject/object which has sufficient amount of light. Keep the camera on a stable surface to make sure the composition does not change.

[tweetthis]Learn Easy Steps To Learn Manual Mode[/tweetthis]

To use Manual Mode under all lighting conditions read the , and .

Step 4: Check the Important Camera Settings

Press the disp button which will display current settings in the LCD.

Display button on Canon Rebel T3i DSLR to get Camera settings on the LCD

Press the display button to get Camera settings on the LCD screen. Image shown is for Canon Rebel T3i DSLR .

Note: After a few seconds LCD screen display turns off, press disp button to get it back.

You will see too many settings there. As of now, we are interested only in Aperture (F number) and ISO.

Aperture setting and ISO settings displayed on the LCD screen of the Canon Rebel T3i DSLR

Image on the left shows the Aperture value which is circled in red. Images on the right shows the ISO value which is circled in red.

If you have never before touched the manual mode, then you should see F number to be very small like f/2.8, f/3.5, or f5.6.  If not, press Q (Quick Mode) button then traverse to aperture setting with F number. Turn the top dial towards your left until there is no change in F number.

Quick Mode selection button on Canon Rebel T3i DSLR, to select Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO

Press on Quick mode button and use the right arrow to move to Aperture setting (the F number). Choose the minimum Aperture value for your lens.

If ISO value is 100, which is the least value, then you are good. Otherwise, press Q button then traverse to aperture setting with ISO number. Turn the top dial towards your left until you get the lowest ISO number usually 100.

Quick Mode selection button on Canon Rebel T3i DSLR, to select Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO

‘ Press on Quick mode button and use the right arrow to move to ISO setting. Choose the minimum ISO settings possible.

Step 5: Check the Camera Metering indicator

Check the camera metering indicator which displays a dotted line with -3 and +3 on either side of the line.

Camera Metering mode which shows if an image is overexposed or underexposed.

Camera Metering mode which indicates if there is enough light or too much light. Left image indicates that there is less light (underexposure) and the right image indicates that there is more light (overexposure)

If you half-press the shutter button, you will also notice a blinking indicator either to the -3 side or to the +3 side of the dotted line. It is fine whichever way it is currently pointing to since you will learn in few minutes to deal with it.

Learn about  under all conditions.

Step 6: Press the Shutter button

Press the shutter button. I mean it…just do it.

This is an important aspect of learning. Take action, make mistakes, learn from mistakes. If you learn only the right way of doing things, as the time passes, you will be scared to test anything else.

Now let us talk about the picture you took.

You are probably not impressed with what you got. May be it is not what you expected? Let us analyze it then.

Is it very dark? then it is underexposed, because of less light hitting the sensor. It means the meter indicator was towards -3.

If the picture is bright or washed out, then it is overexposed, because of too much light hitting the sensor. It means the meter indicator was pointing towards? you know that.

You might already have solved the problem in your head now. Have you? you know what to do, isn’t it? Do it.

Step 7: Achieving the Proper Exposure

Press the disp button again to get back to the settings on the LCD screen.

If the picture was underexposed or the arrow is pointing towards -3, then turn the main dial towards your left (counter-clockwise direction).

Image showing main dial in Canon Rebel T3i DSLR which is used to change Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO get the perfect exposure.

The main dial which is used to change Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO get the perfect exposure.

As you turn it left, you will notice that the blinking indicator below the dotted line comes closer towards center. Keep turning the dial in counter-clockwise direction until the blinking indicator hits the center (0 marking) of the dotted line.

Camera Metering Indicator which helps to determine the perfect exposure.

Image on the left shows that there is very less light, which means the resulting photograph will be underexposed. Image on the right shows the proper exposure.

If the picture was overexposed or the arrow is pointing towards +, then turn the dial, towards your right (clockwise direction).

[tweetthis]Learn Easy Steps To Learn Manual Mode[/tweetthis]

As you turn it right, you will notice that the blinking indicator below the dotted line comes closer towards center. Keep turning the dial in clockwise direction until the blinking indicator hits the center (0 marking) of the dotted line.

Camera Metering mode helps to determine how much light is necessary to get the perfectly exposed image.

Image on the left shows that there is too much light, which means the resulting photograph will be overexposed. Image on the right shows the proper exposure.

In Steps 6 and 7, you changed the Shutter Speed to achieve the proper exposure. Shutter speed is represented in seconds. Generally it will be in fraction of seconds like 1/30 or 1/60 all the way upto 1/4000 or 1/8000.

In all possibilities, you should get the arrow to point to center unless you have chosen a subject which is way too dark or way too bright.

Step 8: Make your very first Photograph using Manual Mode!

Press the shutter button now. Did you get the picture what you were longing for?!

Congratulations! on your very first photograph using manual mode. You have taken control of your camera, there is no turning back from here.

Stop the timer now. How much time did you take to learn? Was it hard to learn?

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Did you enjoy this article? Do you want to know about some other concept that is haunting you from a long time? Let me know in your comments.

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About Prathap

Prathap is a passionate nature photographer and founder of Nature Photography Simplified blog. He aims to simplify every photography concept to help beginners and amateur photographers. His FREE eBook "Bird Photography – 10 Mistakes and Solutions" has been instrumental in helping thousands of bird photographers. Download it right now to jumpstart your bird photography.





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