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Last week I did a post Learn How To Use Your DSLR Camera With This Easy Photography Tutorial!

In order to understand todays post, you need to read last weeks post and do the homework/exercises that I ask you to do.

Trust me when I say practicing will help you better understand your DSLR camera.

I strongly urge you to review last weeks post and spend a week practicing and getting to know your camera a bit more. If you already have done your homework 😉 then you are ready to move on with this post.

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So last week we focused on 3 major areas of your DSLR cameras: ISO, shutter speed and aperture.  

To recap, I had you practice using shutter priority mode and aperture priority mode.

Today I want to move you one step further and talk about exposure compensation and Focusing. By the end of this tutorial,  you will be ready to shoot in manual mode.


What Is Exposure Compensation?


So just what is exposure compensation?  Exposure compensation (labeled below “exposure control”) is a way to adjust the exposure in your pictures.

Lets take a look at this in the diagram below.  Notice the “0” and the little line beneath it.  “0” is suppose to be just the right exposure.

Suppose we are still working in aperture priority or shutter priority mode.  Oftentimes it can be a little dark or a bit to bright. Here is where you would adjust the exposure to fit your needs. 

If you want the picture to be a bit brighter then you would move the line under the “0” to the right or towards the plus side.  If you are wanting the picture darker, then you will move the line to the left or to the minus side.  

You move this line by adjusting your black main dial shown below while you are holding down the AV button (look in the picture above, the button is to the top right of the LCD screen).

I oftentimes shoot my picture at a +1 because I am shooting indoors a lot with my food photography. Sometime when I want to warm a photo up, I will darken the picture slightly by moving into the -1 area. This allows you the freedom to create the picture you are envisioning in your head a little easier!  

Take a look at the photos below.  The middle photo was shot at “0”.  I took the photo next to a window so it was a little bright.  If I move the dial down to “-1”, look how much better that photo looks.  On the flip side if you move it up to “+1” it is way to light.

Do you see how beneficial this can be to creating a better picture?

Side note: I just love my trusting dog who always allows me to shoot her as an example 😉






Learning How To Properly Focus Your Camera


There is one more important element to learning all about your DSLR camera and that is learning how to adjust your focus to work for you not against you.  Don’t worry, it is super easy to comprehend.

When focusing on food photography, we oftentimes work with a shallow depth of field.  We work so hard to get a certain part of a picture in focus only to get discouraged when that part is actually blurry.

It might be beneficial to take your camera (not your lens) out of auto focus.  Check with your manual to see how to do this (lookup “manual point selection”), but it really is quite simple.

When you look into your view finder, you will see something like this.

image courtesy of

If your camera is set on auto focus (which is default) then the camera will pick where to focus.  When shooting food photography you often want a certain item in focus and this can be hard to accomplish with such a wide area to focus.

You can change your settings to “manual point selection” and this allows you to pick any one of these boxes (in the above view finder picture) to have as you focus point.  Check out this picture below.

I wanted the chocolate soufflé on the right to be in focus and then the remainder of the picture to blur out of focus.  So I changed my manual point selection to be on the far right so that the item on the right would be what the camera focused on.

You can also keep the manual point of selection in the middle and then focus on what you want to be in focus and move your camera to fit the picture in the frame that you desire.

Just make sure you just move to the right or left or vise versa and not forward or backwards.  Moving forward and backwards would mess up the focus.  With a little practice you will have it down in no time.



Shooting In Manual Mode


You now have all the pieces to the puzzle!  You have practiced using your ISO, shutter speed and aperture. You understand what the exposure compensation is and how to focus properly.  You are now ready to tackle manual mode!  Simply turn your mode dial to “M”.

The only way you are going to get comfortable with manual mode is to practice, practice, practice!  

Start by setting the aperture and shutter speed.  Practice and see where your cameras sweet spot is.  I found it best to start by shooting outside.

To start, have your ISO on auto so the only two elements you have to worry about are the aperture and shutter speed.  Once you get those two down then take your ISO off of auto. You now are fully operating in manual mode.

Pay attention to your exposure compensation and adjust to fit your exposure needs.

Don’t be afraid of manual mode…you can create amazing pictures while working in manual mode.  



More Great Photography Post ~ Photography, Equipment, Props & More


Click here to view our Entire Series of Food Photography, Equipment, Props & More! 


Did you find this tutorial helpful?
Have you started using manual mode yet? 


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6 thoughts on “Learn How To Use Manual Mode On A DSLR Camera With This Easy Photography Tutorial”

  1. KabochaCoconut says:

    Another great tutorial! Simple and clear! Thank you, I shared this with my family :) I always forget about the “selective focus” mode- am going to play around with it some more :)

  2. Lauren Hill says:

    I learned so much from this post!  Thank you so much, I finally am getting my camera!

  3. PBX says:

    This is very helpful for me who wants to buy an slr but only knows how to use a point and shoot.

  4. Rafaa says:

    I am really interested in Macro photos, and i have Sony A55, I need to take photos of flowers, leaves, stems, etc.
    could you please help me how to set the camera to get a great photos of my sony please, also i have Tamron 90mm>
    I really appreciated your tips.
    Thanks a million

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  6. Ree says:

    Great Article! I love food photography and often faced problem with auto focus! Now i know what must be done. Thanks!

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