Looking to get off the “auto” setting on your digital SLR? That was me but lots of the information I found was way too confusing. I’m hoping to provide a simple, straightforward way to learn the three basics you need to understand to start being more creative: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

This is part 4 – if you haven’t read part one, part two, or part 3, start with Part 1: Aperture (Fuzzy Factor).

Putting it all together

Now, hopefully, if you understand your three critical elements – aperture, shutter speed, and ISO – you can actually take a crack at that crazy complicated Manual mode on your camera.

Just follow these steps in this order:

1. Aperture – Set your fuzzy factor of how blurry you want the background to be. Remember less is more in that the lower the number, the more fuzzy the background is.

2. Shutter Speed – Then find the right shutter speed that will keep your subject in focus and clear even if your hands are shaky or they’re moving a bit.

3. ISO – Now dial in the right level of ISO so the picture isn’t too dark (underexposed) or too bright (overexposed).

The magical shortcut

With all that said, it’s intimidating and slow when you’re first using Manual mode as it can be complicated managing those 3 things. There’s an easier way to accomplish what you want to accomplish while still maintaining creative control that will help you transition to Manual.

There’s a couple special modes on your camera that let you choose either what you want your aperture to be or your shutter speed to be and it adjusts the other in tandem with ISO to give you a great picture:

Aperture Priority (Av) – This mode lets you choose your aperture. This is what I use for taking pictures of people. I get to choose how fuzzy I want the background to be so the portraits look great.

The camera will then adjust the shutter speed and ISO to make sure I’m getting enough light for that level of fuzziness.

I can also set the ISO manually to keep it from making it too grainy and then it will only adjust the shutter speed to make sure that I get enough light (could lead to a bit of blur from movement, though).

Shutter Priority (Tv) – This mode lets you choose your shutter speed. This what I use when I want to take pictures of sports or action things happening. I get to choose how quickly the shutter opens and closes in order to freeze time on my subject.

The camera will then adjust the shutter speed and ISO to make sure it’s letting in enough light for that much speed.

Again, you can set the ISO manually to keep the grain down and then the camera will just adjust the aperture to let in the right amount of light (could lead to the background or things right behind your subject being out of focus).

Wrapping it all up

The only way to get better is to start experimenting. Hopefully I’ve given you the basics and it will help you get out there and start capturing moments that matter.