Your Tips For Great Landscape Photos

How Manual Mode Affects Your Landscape Photography

camera settings camera tips manual mode Sep 28, 2022
Learn to use manual mode to improve your landscape photography

How Manual Mode Affects Your Landscape Photography

Why You Should Be Using Manual Mode to Improve Your Landscape Photography

You take your camera out of the box for the first time, and your heart sinks to the pit of your stomach. The excitement that you were feeling to start your landscape photography journey is now overwhelming dread at the site of manual mode settings on the camera body. What are all of these symbols, dials, and numbers? 

I totally get that feeling because I have been down the same road. Taking my Canon Rebel t2i out of the box and seeing what looked like hieroglyphics made me audibly gasp. I tried to use my camera in the automatic settings, but over and over I was disappointed by the results. The photo would be blurry in the wrong places, the landscape would be too bright, and I couldn't hold the camera still while the camera decided to take long photos.

After too many bad photos, enough was enough. I switched my camera to manual mode in everything and committed to taking full control of my camera. No longer would I let my camera choose how the photo would look. I was the captain.

Now that I have a career as a landscape photographer, I thank myself for taking the time to commit to manual mode. 

The problem with any automatic setting on your camera is that you're giving up control or potentially crucial adjustments to make your photo exactly what you want it to look like. The three main settings you are controlling in manual mode are shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.

Your shutter speed controls how long your camera is capturing the photo. The speeds are displayed as fractions compared to one second. So, 1/100 is a fast shutter speed because that's 1/100 of a second. Something like 1/2 would just be half of a second. In manual, you can go all the way up to 30 seconds without any extra pieces of equipment to extend that speed.

The image below was created using multiple 30-second exposures of the star movements in the night sky. This is something you could only achieve in manual mode.

The aperture may look like a fraction at times, but it's just the amount of space open in the aperture ring of your lens. The aperture ring opens and closes to let in more or less light and to adjust how much depth of field there is in the photo. An aperture of f/4 is a wide opening, so more light is getting into the camera and the depth of field will be soft or shallow. An aperture of f/16 is a small opening, so less light is getting into the camera, but the scene will be almost completely in focus. 

This peaceful river scene was shot with an aperture of f/16 because I knew I wanted everything to be as sharp and in focus as possible.

All of these settings are used to balance the light to make the photo brighter or darker. The ISO is the balancing agent to the shutter and aperture. Higher ISO numbers make the photo brighter and lower ISO numbers make the photo darker.

You can easily adjust your ISO to make a dark morning scene brighter like the example below. This creates a certain mood or feeling in the photo.

If your head is spinning after reading that, I understand. Because that's common, I have put together a manual mode challenge that will give you clarity and teach you to use your camera in manual mode in just 72 hours via email. Each of the three days in the challenge you will receive one email focusing on one of these settings plus a short practice challenge. By the end of 72 hours, you will be able to use your camera in manual mode. 

I gave this challenge to two of my subscribers, Barbara and Robert, and here's what they had to say...

"The Challenge gave me a better understanding of what is happening in my camera and what it takes to make well-exposed photos. I found shooting in Manual Mode was better than relying on the camera's auto settings to make the decisions."

"I now feel comfortable in the manual mode of the camera. I feel my pictures are much much better and say what I see."

If you're feeling overwhelmed by camera settings, but you want to take control of your camera and gain clarity in your photography, CLICK HERE to sign up for the manual mode challenge.

Manual mode fixes more frustrations for landscape photography than anything else. That's because of the control it gives you. You can completely create your vision instead of your camera's vision. 

Even if you only master two of the three settings, you are going to feel more confident about your photography than before, and your photos will improve.