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If you’re just learning photography and you feel that learning to use your DSLR camera on manual is too daunting, here’s a little tip I used when learning to think for my camera: let the auto settings guide you. By auto settings, I mean the ones where the settings are set for certain situations and you don’t have to do anything else. These include portrait, macro, sports, landscape, etc.
Take sports mode for instance. On a Canon 500d, the sport mode while I was indoors at the time was set at: f/3.5, 1/320th sec, auto ISO.
What can you learn from this? A fast shutter speed captures and freezes motion quickly. When I first was learning about why my camera used a smaller f/stop in sports mode, I was confused. Landscape mode used high f/stops (exe: f/11). And when doing sports photography, aren’t you taking photos from far away just like you are with a landscape? I was even more confused when the f/stop on the sports mode was the same as on the macro mode for taking super close-ups. Why the low aperture? Remember, the lower the number, the more open which means more light getting to your sensor. A super-fast shutter is essential to freeze motion but the faster the shutter, the less light is getting in. So you compensate by opening up your aperture.
If you’re using sports mode and the shutter still isn’t quick enough to freeze the action, you now have a starting point to go into manual and apply the same settings you saw in sport mode, but this time, speed up the shutter a bit. You might have to then adjust the aperture or ISO to make up for less light being let in by the sensor, but this will help you learn without feeling the pressure of not knowing where to begin.
You could even give yourself a challenge to take one setting per week or month and really delve into learning everything you can about why they are set in that way. Before you know it, you’ll be shooting in manual and thinking for your camera like a pro!