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The Best DSLR Manual Camera Setting For Most Occasions

Hello beginner!

So you want to learn the camera tech jargon. I've got you covered!

Let's baby step into manual settings with this basic manual setting I have concocted (will work for most situations).

Be brave, take your camera off auto and follow these steps.

(Secret tip: Going through each step and finding out where those settings are on your camera, is a HUGE step towards becoming comfortable with manual settings!)

The back of your camera will end up looking something like this (CANON t3i pictured):

Here's the quick recipe:


WB: Auto

ISO: Auto

F-Stop: 5.0

Shutter Speed: 125

Shooting: Continuous

Focus: Auto

(shoot in RAW for best quality, JPEG for smaller storage/easy web loading)

(shoot in portrait for photos of people)

Here's the break down:

1. Set Your Camera to Manual

- you can usually find this setting on top of your camera

- there may be settings like "Av" "Auto" or "action" "landscape" "portrait" and then there's "M" for "manual"

2. Set Your White Balance to AUTO

- white balance controls what is defined as "white", giving your photo accurate coloring. Auto usually does a good job with this.

expert tip: I actually leave my white balance on auto unless I can tell by eye that the color is way off. Then I go through the settings to see which pre-made setting works best. If you are a numbers and science person, some cameras allow you to go in and change the specific numbers equated with different lighting. (more on this in a future blog).

3. Set Your ISO to AUTO

- your ISO controls how light or dark your photo is.

expert tip: As you get closer to expert level, your goal will be to keep this number as small as possible, to prevent any grain/fuzziness. I set mine to 100, adjust all my other settings to where I want them to be, and then adjust the ISO.

4. Set Your Fstop to 5.0

- The Fstop controls how much is in focus. It can also allow more or less light in. For now, 5.0 will have most everything in focus. It's a good midrange number to use for most occasions.

expert tip: As you get closer to expert level, you can create beautiful out of focus and low lighting photos by putting the fstop on a low number. For really pretty portraits I keep my FSTOP between 2 - 3

5. Set Your Shutter Speed to 125

- The shutter controls how fast your camera captures the image.

expert tip: As you become an expert, you can increase this quickly to capture a fast moving subject, or decrease to allow more light in and thus, allow you to lower the ISO. When photography kids, I do keep my shutter speed between 120 - 200 to get a sharper image without blur.

6. Set Your Focus to Auto

Pretty self explanatory. Your focus controls what is in focus.

expert tip: I hate auto focus. For this beginning setting it'll work great and give you less head ache. But when you start adjusting your fstop and other settings, the camera doesn't always know what you want to be in focus. I always keep my focus on manual.

You can usually find this setting on your lens.

7. Set Your Shooting to Continuos

This feature allows you to press the capture button (button you press when taking a photo) and hold it down to take multiple frames. This is really useful when photographing kids, or a moving subject so you can get that "perfect" moment.

expert tip: I love continuous shooting! I don't see a reason to have it on one frame at a time. Though I still try and time it right, because continuos shooting may still miss the moment if the timing is a second off.


If you found all these settings on your camera and successfully adjusted them, you took a HUGE step into becoming an expert with your camera!

This setting will work best during the day, in bright lighting, with subjects moving at average kiddo speed.

I have found that this setting is better than setting the camera to Automatic everything. Plus once you are familiar with manual, you will be able to capture stunning images that an automatic setting just can't capture.

I am so familiar with where my camera settings are, I can use muscle memory to quickly change all of those settings as I prepare my client for the next moment. Now that you know where they are, you have taken a HUGE step in becoming a master of your own camera.

The next step is PRACTICE. Keep your camera at that setting and get use to it. Figure out what you can and can not do. If the setting does not look good for your situation, read those expert tips and start adjusting settings and learning what they do. Like Alisha Raquel Photography to see the next blog tutorial on next Tuesday!

If you run into any issues, tell me in the comments below and I'll be happy to answer your questions.

Have fun!

~ Alisha

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