with Courtney Slazinik
12 Lessons I Learned My 4th Year of Shooting in Manual Mode
Manual Mode

Four years. I can’t believe it was four years ago that Megan was sitting in my living room with me trying to teach me what ISO, shutter speed, and aperture meant. I’ll tell you right now, I was the worst student. Ha! But here I am, four years later and loving photography more than I thought I would. I have captured so many shots I will treasure forever. If you haven’t started shooting manual mode yet, PLEASE give it a try. I promise, you will surprise yourself at how it will eventually become second nature.

Over the years, I have written the lessons I have learned that year from shooting in manual mode. It is fun to sit back and reflect on the things I have figured out and ways I have grown. Here are some of the things I’ve learned over the past year.

1. Manual focus can be a fun challenge. I got a Lensbaby this past year that only does manual focus, and while I thought that was an impossible task with moving kids, I have found it to be a fun and challenging creative outlet.

2. I am still addicted to new gear. This past year I got 3 new lenses and love each of them as much as I love the others. It’s like children. You can’t pick a favorite.

3. It’s okay to put the camera down. I have had my ups and downs this past year in my photography journey. I have gone weeks without picking up my camera. Although, I’m sad I don’t have photos from those days, I know that it was something I needed to do to prevent getting burnt out.

4. An ExpoDisc or using Kelvins for white balance saves me a TON of time. Getting my exposure right in camera is huge for me to save time while editing. I have photos where I even surprised myself at how little editing needed to be done.

5. This is my photography journey. I have seen photographers start after me and soar right past me. While it is a bummer for a minute, I quickly remind myself that this is MY journey. I am right where I need to be.

6. There is a round circle in your view finder that will tell you when you nailed focus in manual focus. This basically blew my mind and yet another thing Megan has taught me over the many years.

7. I enjoy more natural photos. I will still set the scene if I have a vision in mind but I rarely do a photo shoot with props.

8. Keeping up with editing isn’t so easy anymore. When I did my 365 I edited and went through all my images the day I uploaded them. Unfortunately, I have gotten out of that habit and seems to be one that is more challenging to get back into.

9. Not every image is meant to be a black and white. Certain images are lead themselves better for a black and white conversion depending on the lighting and mood.

10. Ask them to talk to me. I have found that carrying on a conversation with my kids while I have my camera in my face is way more beneficial to capturing a genuine expression.

11. Daily shooting really helps my photography. Unfortunately, I haven’t completed another 365 since my first one in 2010. I have however, done 30 day challenges where I shoot daily for a month. This seems to be more attainable for me currently but I miss having images from daily shooting and I know it helped my photography.

12. I adore indoor light. I used to love shooting during the golden hour when I first started. But after Megan Cieloha’s workshop on indoor lighting, I ADORE window light. I can’t get enough.

what i learned in my 4th year of shooting in manual mode
No matter where you are on your photography journey please continue to learn and apply what you learn.

Read more about lessons I’ve learned from shooting on manual mode:
21 things I learned my 2nd year of shooting in manual mode
Shooting in manual mode: 16 lessons learned in my 3rd year

  • September 26, 2013 at 2:01 PM

    Thank you for a great post Courtney. I love your work and your good advice.

  • September 26, 2013 at 2:32 PM

    Thank you so much for your post, and, especially, your fifth point. It was good to read that this is MY journey and not to worry about those who have been at this for less than a year flying right on by me while I have been at it for five years. There is a reason and I need to embrace it. So, thank you:)

  • September 26, 2013 at 4:49 PM

    Can you explain #6 more? Thanks for your blog- you inspire me!

    • September 26, 2013 at 7:17 PM

      Yes! I was getting ready to ask the same thing about the circle in the viewfinder.

    • September 30, 2013 at 1:28 PM

      I’ll try and get a post together, but look through the your view finder when your lens is in manual focus. The left side has arrows and when the photo is in focus then it will turn into a circle :)

  • Julie B.
    September 26, 2013 at 9:00 PM

    I really needed to hear #5. =) Thank you.

  • September 27, 2013 at 12:45 AM

    Lovely post! I agree, #5 is something I should remind myself of daily. Thanks!

  • October 4, 2013 at 4:42 PM

    When I read #6, I ran upstairs to get my camera. After I focused and saw that green button, I started laughing. All these years, I never noticed it. WOW! Thanks for pointing it out. You know I’ll never miss looking for it again as I travel on my photographic journey. LOL

    • October 8, 2013 at 3:43 PM

      I love that you laughed! I think I may have laughed as well! Such a small thing that I never noticed :)

  • October 10, 2013 at 11:22 AM

    Great lessons Courtney! It is fun seeing your progress & I LOVE that 2013 image!!!

  • KA Hayon
    November 6, 2013 at 9:27 PM

    I tried looking for the circle thing but couldn’t find it?! Do you know if that tip applies to Canon cameras? Thanks- I appreciate all these great tips!

    • November 11, 2013 at 1:45 PM

      I’m sure it does apply to Canon’s but honestly, I don’t know because only have a Nikon. The circle won’t pop up until the image is in focus. Until then it is just an arrow or two.

  • March 3, 2014 at 8:34 PM

    Great reminder to all of us that our journeys are just that… our own. Great reminders. I have learned so much in the past two years and continue to be overwhelmed with how much there is still is to learn.

  • Mari
    March 3, 2014 at 9:29 PM

    #5 meant a lot to be

  • Mari
    March 3, 2014 at 9:34 PM

    Sorry I’m not sure what happened to my post! #5 meant a lot to me. It’s frustrating when you’ve started out at the same time with a friend and she quickly catches on to Photography. It makes me revisit if I should continue. I wasn’t born with the talent, but i won’t give up. Thank you for sharing!

  • Linda
    March 3, 2014 at 11:13 PM

    Thank you for all of your awesome tips! The time you have invested in helping others is much appreciated. You are my inspiration! Thank you.

  • Ana
    March 4, 2014 at 2:48 AM

    #6, please do share!!

  • Kathy
    March 4, 2014 at 8:50 AM

    I found #6 using my Nikon. Thank you so much for pointing this out!! I have several friends who have Canon cameras. If anyone who owns a Canon figures out where the circle is, please share! Thanks!

  • July 8, 2014 at 8:28 PM

    Courtney, I stuck, lost, frustrated, and probably all just from being tired. No matter how much i read or which way i try I can not graps manual. Do you all shot with a tripod all the time. Because nothing i do gets those awesome photos and if i mess with the Shutter speed it stays open to long, if i mess with the Fstop it stays open to long. I know i don’t get it, but I really don’t get it. Help!

    • July 16, 2014 at 2:17 PM

      Don’t give up :) Photography can be very frustrating. I know I have been there :) If the photo is blurry or the shutter is open too long set it on at least 1/125 :) That will help. Then set your f/stop (that should affect the shutter at all) and then raise your ISO if you need to :)

      • July 17, 2014 at 10:13 PM

        Thanks so much, will give it a try.
        So appreciate getting your emails back
        Thank you

  • Wendy Eismann-Thomas
    March 20, 2018 at 10:56 AM

    Do you have any tips for sports photography as far as shooting in manual mode? I have a nikon 5300 with a 70-200 2.8 lens. Any suggestions for day and night under light shooting would be wonderful. I’m a mom..

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