Take Great Marketing Images | Manual Mode for Beginners

A critical element of marketing is dynamic visuals. In a day and age where we spend most of our days on screens constantly bombarded with messages, something needs to stand out to get our attention or stop the scroll.

Quality, beautiful images are essential, especially for social media marketing. However, as a photographer, I remember how daunting the dozens of settings and buttons on the camera seemed. Today I am covering the absolute basics to getting an excellent image in manual mode.

In order to take your photos to the next level, you must have an understanding of the exposure triangle: Shutter Speed, ISO, and Aperture. I will cover the absolute bare minimum for you to understand and begin playing around. Keep in mind are much more advanced strategies and utilization of these once you get the basics down pat.

Shutter Speed


What is shutter speed?

Shutter speed is how long the shutter inside your camera is open affecting how much light hits the sensor. Imagine kitchen facet with a cup underneath. The shutter speed is how long the tap is “open” with water flowing through. The longer it is open the more water in the cup, the shorter the less. Shutter speed is the amount of time the facet is open letting light into your camera. The longer the shutter is open the more light.

How do I use it?

Shutter speed is represented by a fraction of a second on your camera. ¼ will let in TONS of light while 1/2000 will let in an extremely small amount of light. Shutter speed also controls whether action is frozen or blurred - for example, if you are at a sports game you will want a very high shutter speed in order to freeze the players in action unless, of course, you are looking for the blurry effect. As a rule of thumb, do not go below 1/60 (I personally only go as low as 1/100) without a tripod. Your images will be blurry due to your hand not being one hundred percent still.  


What is ISO?

ISO, or International Standard of Organization, is the camera’s sensitivity to light.

How do I use it?

ISO is a bit more complicated in why it does what it does, so I will stick to HOW to use it. On your camera, ISO is represented by a single number ranging from 100-2000 and beyond (each camera has its own limitations on the top and bottom range). A low ISO, say 200, is less sensitive to light - the image will be darker. A high ISO, say 1000, is very sensitive to light and will brighten the image.

ISO warning:

  • Get to know your camera. I cannot stress this enough. High ISOs can result in grain and low-quality images if you push it too far for your camera. Certain camera’s quality caps out at 600 while others can easily reach 2000 without grain. In low-light situations, ISO can be tricky on cameras with low-quality sensors. Supplement this with changing your shutter speed and Aperture or use flash or a tripod (depending on the situation). All in all, the lower the ISO the less grain and cleaner the image will be.


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What is aperture?

Aperture is the size of the opening allowing in light to the camera. The lower the number the larger the radius, the more light. For example, 1.4 will let in loads of light, while 22 will be a very tiny amount of light.

How do I use it?

You know when an image is tack sharp in the foreground and melts into a beautiful blur and bokeh (appears like small circles, showed in the image below) in the back? That’s depth of field - a feature of aperture. 

Now, this is perhaps the most complex of the three settings but is by far my favorite. Aperture is measured in fstops represented be a single number. 

Knowing the exposure triangle is of utmost importance.  Lenses will affect your settings as well.. Each lens will also have aperture limits. I recommend starting out with a prime, or fixed (not a zoom), lens just to get practice with the exposure triangle.

Now the most important part is practice, practice, practice. Flip your camera to manual and play around. At first, it seems daunting, but if you understand HOW each setting in the exposure triangle effects your image it comes easier than you would think!

Kayla SanoyComment