Manual exposure mode is about having control over your camera, instead of it controlling you. You use manual exposure mode to exercise full creative control over your images. When you want to stop action, capture motion, produce fine bokeh, or have great depth of field, you need to use manual exposure mode.
1. Manual exposure mode has no “right” settings for ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. You choose these settings for what best achieves your goals with a given scene or subject.
2. Different types of lights have different colors. Fluorescent lights make whites and skin tones appear green, tungsten lights (plain old light bulbs) make things appear yellow or orange. White Balance (WB) adjusts for this and gets the colors right in whites and skin tones in your images.
3. The higher your ISO, the more your photos will be “noisy” or grainy. There is nothing wrong with this; it is a style choice. If you must push your ISO higher, you are not doing anything wrong. It is better to have a noisy image than no image at all.
4. Shutter speed controls the time you expose the image sensor to light. Higher shutter speeds (1/250 second or faster) prevent motion blur and freeze action, but let in less light. Lower shutter speeds (1/60 second or slower) let in more light, but may blur moving subjects.
5. Aperture, or f-stop, controls how much light passes through your lens by controlling the size of the opening inside your lens. A lower f-stop, such as f/1.4, lets in more light and a higher f-stop, like f/16, lets in less light. Aperture also affects depth of field. You get less depth of field with lower f/stops, blurring the background (bokeh).
6. First, set white balance; second, set ISO. Set shutter speed third to control motion; set aperture third to control depth of field. Then balance your exposure with the remaining setting.
7. You do not need to use manual focus to photograph in manual exposure mode. Many photographers use autofocus to capture moments quickly and ensure that they are sharp.
8. You will not get things right with every shot. Overexposed and underexposed shots are part of the learning process when photographing in manual mode.
9. When photographing in manual mode and you have centered the light meter in the viewfinder, your image may still be too bright or too dark. Expose very bright scenes (snow or a beach) to the positive side of the light meter and very dark scenes to the negative side of the light meter. Take test shots and check the histogram.
10. Practice! Practice! Practice! Photographing in manual is not hard and it will force you to learn your camera inside and out. You will be a better photographer for it. It takes practice so do not expect everything to come naturally the first time.
These tips are a guide to follow. There is no right way or wrong way to learn to photograph in manual exposure mode. Everyone has their own style that works best for them. Experiment, take lots of photographs, but most of all, have fun.