Shooting In Manual, Tips

Shooting In Manual {Light, Bright & Airy}



Finally, you got your hands on that dslr after dreaming of being able to take professional looking photos of your own kids…and fast forward a couple of months, a year even, it is still set to auto-mode, packed away safely on a top shelf away from little one’s reach! Am I right?!

It turns out that anything than sticking to your dslr’s auto-mode is a little trickier to navigate than first thought and the pictures that were supposed to have that professional artsy flair are, well, a little blah! And let’s face it, the built-in flash seems to have a mind of it’s own :-)

Willing to give it another chance? 

This post is specifically written for achieving light, bright and airy indoor photos using your dslr and the standard kit lens. If you missed the introduction to shooting in manual, you may want to give it a quick read first.



Think of your home. Choose a room. Now close your eyes and count to ten (okay just joking about that part!) Start to observe how this room is naturally lit over the course of a day. Does it regularly seem bright or dim?

This may be pointing the obvious, but, for bright and well lit images you will need a lot of natural light in the first place, it will not be sufficient enough to simply brighten the exposure post-edit. Post editing can tweak a few things here and there, but you need a good base image to work with.


The location for these pictures is in our nursery, a very well lit room with four tall windows covered with blinds. On a sunny day the light pours in and there are pools of direct sunlight. On a dark, overcast day even this well lit space can affect lighting significantly.

In low light conditions the shutter speed needs to slow down to allow more light in for a more balanced exposure. A slower shutter speed means that the shutter stays open for longer unfortunately causing motion blur from a moving subject (or even just from holding the camera.) See the difference below taken at different times of the day.

Try experimenting with the changing light and see how it alters your results.



Remember from the basics that to create a balanced exposure we need to adjust the three main components; ISO, aperture and shutter speed. You should refer to your camera’s light meter on the screen (or flashing in the viewfinder). The goal is for it to be at zero.



First thing is to ask is what your priority for the picture is. My priority will be the aperture as I want to have my baby in sharp focus but blur out the background. However, I am also shooting indoors, where it is slightly darker than outdoors so I will first need to adjust my ISO.


  • Set your camera to Manual Mode. (M)
  • Set your ISO to the lowest setting possible depending on the daylight. In these examples it was set to 800. You should find this to be sufficient on a bright day and close by to a window, set the ISO higher if it is an overcast day or not close by a light source.
  • Now we set the aperture. I want it set at the lowest setting possible.
  • Finally we set the shutter speed. To start out, try 1/125th sec. You will then adjust the shutter speed until your light meter is at or around zero. Over time, you will begin to learn your own limitations and know how slow you can shoot holding the camera in your hand without any motion blur (if you subject is fairly still) I can sometimes shoot at a slower shutter speed of 1/40th sec if I’m careful. Though it is not much help if little feet are quickly kicking around!
  • Make sure you set your AF selection to manual, NOT automatic.

As you take each photo, look through the viewfinder and make sure the red dot is over the area you want to be in focus (such as the eyes or hands.) Press the shutter release half way to select the focus then click all the way down to take the shot. I get into the habit of focusing regularly, prepared for that moment my baby’s feet are still for a split second! It takes a little bit of patience! After a few shots, take a look at the images and zoom in to see if your focus is sharp. If you’d like you read more on AF selection, click here.

Of course there isn’t one perfect formula for each picture, but this can hopefully give you a  base line for how to use your dslr and kit lens to get some great looking pictures.

Want to join me over on Instagram or Facebook? You can also join the Click Mama Click mailing list for the newest posts.




4 thoughts on “Shooting In Manual {Light, Bright & Airy}”

  1. Hello,
    Thank you so much for taking the time to mail me. I am having a gala time taking pictures of my little one. There are still times when I roll the dial to the Auto Mode, just so as to ensure that I get atleast one good picture without worrying about the light and all the other setting. But those days are now very very less. I am into documenting every week, and the templates are in process. Once they are done, I would be posting on my blog. Will ping you to get your valuable opinion about the matter.

    On another note, great post. I still feel so out of control, when shooting indoors. ISO 800 and 1/40 is not at all the right setting for my voracious toddler, but mostly only with these setting am I able to get the needed light indoors. Sigh! I am frustrated some days. Still, happy to have learned this much in the short span of two months.

  2. Hi, I found this really helpful. I just got an Olympus OM-D 10 mark ii and am using the kit lense 14-42mm. Are kit lenses able to give me a blurry background?

    1. Glad you found it helpful! I had a quick look at the lens online- for a blurry background it’s more important to look at the aperture range of the lens. I think the 14-42mm is f/3.5-f/5.6? If you can learn how to shoot with the widest aperture available (f/3.5 for this particular lens) then you can certainly achieve a blurry background. This lens is comparable to the one I’m using in this series, Shooting In Manual, so you could get similar results. If you want to achieve even more blur then you will want to start looking at lenses with a really low aperture number such as f/1.2, f/1.4, f1/8.
      For now, get enough distance between your subject and the background. Make use of as much natural light as possible so you can afford to have your speed set slower. If light is low, adjust your ISO.
      Let me know how you get along and enjoy your new purchase:-)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s