with Courtney Slazinik
Beginner Photographer FAQ
Manual Mode
Beginner Photographer FAQ

Who doesn’t have a thousand questions when you first starting shooting in manual mode? I picked just a few of the ones I get asked frequently. If I missed one please include it in the comments and we will answer it.

Beginner Photographer FAQ

This is exactly what I need as a beginner photographer. All my frequently asked photography questions are now answered!

  • No.
    Why does my photo have a strange yellowish tint?

    I remember wondering the same thing when I first started on manual mode. It’s your white balance. You can typically fix this in post-processing but it will make life easier if you can fix it in camera. You can read more about it here – Comparing Different White Balance Methods

  • No.
    Why is the subject in my photo blurry?

    There could be a combination of reasons. Check your shutter speed to make sure you are shooting at least at 1/125. Be sure to check your aperture as well because if you are shooting wide open then your focal point may have fallen on something else in the photo. Make sure you also have the ability to change your focal point so it is falling on your subject’s eye. Read more about it – How to Take a Sharp Photo

  • No.
    What equipment should I buy?

    This is such a hard question to answer. One thing to keep in mind is that the equipment doesn’t make you a professional. If you are starting out and looking for a great inexpensive prime lens I recommend the 50mm 1.8. You can read more here – Which lens should I buy first?. Be sure to also check out our series: Everything you need to know about camera lenses

  • No.
    Should I shoot in JPEG or RAW?

    Just like what equipment to buy this is a personal choice. Everyone has their opinion on whether to shoot in JPEG or RAW. You can read more about the difference between the two here – RAW vs. JPEG

  • No.
    How do I get those nice blurry backgrounds?

    That all depends on your aperture. This is another reason why that 50mm 1.8
    is a great lens because the aperture can go as wide as f/1.8. Read more about it – Aperture – The Basics

    Read more: How to use your f-stop to create amazing photos

  • No.
    Why is my image noisy?

    That is because your ISO is really high. Typically, you can fix some of that in post processing. If your photo is properly exposed, the noise isn’t a huge problem. However, if your don’t raise your ISO high enough and your photo isn’t properly exposed then no matter what you do in post-processing the grain will look terrible. You can read more about that – ISO: Don’t be afraid to raise it

  • No.
    Where should I print my photos?

    I don’t recommend taking them to your local drugstore but instead have them printed at a professional lab. Many of these labs have an application to become a client. This seems intimidating but you do not have to be in business to become their client. You can read more – Photo labs

  • No.
    I got my pictures back from the lab but they are all pixelated. What's wrong?

    This probably is because when you exported your image you didn’t export a large enough of a file. Double check that your resolution is 300 pixels per inch. Read more – Exporting photos from Lightroom

  • No.
    How do I get natural looking photos of my kids?

    If you ask too much of your kids when it comes to photography they may run every time you pick up the camera. Check out my 30 day challenge – The Unexpected Everyday. It not only will help you tackle manual mode and improve your photography but it gives daily prompts to help capture your children in a natural way.

  • August 29, 2011 at 9:43 AM

    Love the tips. I am looking at the 50 mm and have for months just saving to get it i also recommend barrowlenses.com you can rent for a week a few days test the lens to see if it is what you want I haven’t done this but am seeing alot of my photographer friends doing this that is another option they do cameras too i think
    I enjoy reading your tips ,etc

    • August 29, 2011 at 10:08 AM

      I would definitely recommend renting a lens if you can! Keep us posted on what you decide to get :O)

  • August 29, 2011 at 11:06 AM

    What great tips! I can’t wait to read in depth about these topics. As always, thank you for all of the information you share to help us on this journey of shooting manual mode. I have learned so much and know I will learn a great deal more! I really want to get a macro lens, would a 50mm 1.8 fit that bill? Thank you again for sharing!

    • August 29, 2011 at 11:23 AM

      A 50mm is more of an everyday lens. A macro is on my list as well :O) You could always rent one or borrow a friend’s to see if a 50mm is what you are looking for :O) I see can you definitely rocking a macro with all your nature shots!

      • August 30, 2011 at 10:15 AM

        Thanks for the info Courtney! I think borrowing a lens sounds like a good way to test drive before you buy. I will have to see who I can borrow from or look into that website Chris mentioned. Macro is definitely my next lens :).

  • August 29, 2011 at 11:06 AM

    This is a great quick reference post. Love the links for more info.

    One thing I was really happy to learn just starting out was how to avoid that “flash look” when using the on-camera flash. An explanation of different flash-bouncing options—index card. Lightscoop, Speedlight, etc.—would be helpful for a beginner.

  • August 29, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    Another thing to think about when asking why is my subject blurry is selecting your focus. Using selective focus on my camera (as well as back button focus) made a huge difference in my photography. I learned about both of these tools from you, Courtney, first then again in my clickin moms photo classes. Thanks for helping us all get better!

    • August 29, 2011 at 12:20 PM

      That’s a great point, Juli! I mention focal point and BBF in the article on how to take a sharp image but maybe I will add it to the question as well! Thanks!!

  • August 29, 2011 at 10:47 PM

    This is the BEST post ever!!! I usually rush to your page to find something I need right away and I struggle to find it when searching………..so I pinned this post and now I will have handy immediately. Many of the links I have looked for at one point or another.

    Thanks girl you are the best!!

  • August 30, 2011 at 12:51 AM

    Love the tips! I am going to check out all the links! Very helpful!
    Thanks for posting this!

  • August 30, 2011 at 3:11 AM

    Thank you so much for the list of photo labs! I have been trying to figure out what lab to use for my prints and with this list I just submitted photos(the same ones) to a few of them so I can get the ball rolling on picking a pro lab! Great info!!

    • August 30, 2011 at 8:42 PM

      So glad you started printing your photos!! You will be so happy to have them printed!! Yay!!

  • August 30, 2011 at 4:04 AM


    I took this wonderful shot of an owl that was at our backyard bird bath. The picture came out really well considering I was only using a motion dectector light and the flash. I really, really wanted to crop the image to just the face, but when I did, it came out fabulous-exactly what I wanted on the computer screen- but when I tried to print it, the resolution meter said that it couldn’t be printed at any size. Is there anything I can do to get the picture to print like I want it?

    • August 30, 2011 at 8:44 PM

      I’d have to see the image but if you crop it to more than half of the original size it may be that the cropped version doesn’t have enough pixels to look good when printed. If you would like to email me the picture, I could take a look at it and let you know for sure. Just remember when you crop out a lot of your picture you are also cropping out a ton of your pixels that make up the image.

      • August 31, 2011 at 5:51 AM

        I may have actually figured out the problem. I am shooting both a jpeg and raw image and just couldn’t figure out why when I cropped the raw image it would not work. But, I kept on trying because I was pretty sure that it should work. I actually printed it out on my Printer but the ritzpix site keep saying that it didn’t have good enough resolution to print. So last night, I enlarged the image first using the scale tool on Gimp and then cropped it, instead of cropping and then enlarging. For some reason, that seems to have solved the problem Ritz had with this photo.

        I am going to email the picture to you anyways, if you don’t mind. Maybe you could critique it for me, please. Thanks for the help! Little things like this can be so frustrating when you think that they should work and they don’t.

  • Jennifer Tait
    August 30, 2011 at 7:22 AM

    Thank you for all the wonderful info. I have changed to shooting manual for just a week now so I am exploring. :) But wondered if there was an online source or even book for information about the Nikon D7000. I was having a hard time finding how to change my focal point (I think I am doing it right but not sure) and I could not figure out how to do back button focusing. I know it is just me being a novice. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • August 30, 2011 at 8:47 PM

      Hey! Yes, there are books out there on each camera. I personally have not bought any so I don’t know what to recommend for you. Did you watch my videos on changing your focal point? I did one with a D90 and a D3000. I know they are a little different than your camera but I was assume it would be pretty similar. I’ll do a little research for you about BBF on a D7000. Let me know if those videos help or if you need more help! :O)

      • Jennifer Tait
        August 30, 2011 at 9:47 PM

        I did watch the videos on changing your focal point. I think I have got that one done. I could not figure out the BBF. Do you think D7000 for Dummies would be worth the investment? I did see the Scott Kelby books you recommend and I need to order those. Thanks for all of your help.

        • September 5, 2011 at 6:52 PM

          Oh good! I don’t think it would hurt. Have you read the manual? Have you googled it? Hope you like the Scott Kelby books!!

  • rachel
    September 1, 2011 at 1:19 PM

    This post is so helpful! Question: since the kit lens is poor in quality, what is a good choice for having a zoom in or out option? I love my new 50 mm but it doesn’t seem appropriate at close range….. I would like something a little more.flexible to replace my lot lens. Ideas?

    Thank you for this great resource!

    • September 5, 2011 at 7:21 PM

      My dream zoom is a 24-70mm 2.8. Of course, that is quite $$ so I bought a Tamron 28-75mm 2.8. It isn’t as expensive. Something to keep in mind when looking for a zoom is to make sure that it has a fixed aperture. You don’t want your aperture to change when you zoom in and out. I would recommend renting a lens though if possible so you can play with it to see if it’s what you are looking for!

      • rachel
        September 30, 2011 at 5:00 AM

        thanks courtney! it is so wonderful to have someone to ask these questions! i’ve been practicing for a few weeks now with the 50mm and feeling much more comfortable without the zoom! :) can’t wait to show you :).

        so after a little research, i have a new question…. is there any other lens you would consider worthwhile in the range of about $100-200?

  • September 2, 2011 at 12:18 PM

    This is a great post! Very helpful and informative. I am saving up to buy a better lens. I have a Nikon D5100 with the kit lens and 50mm-200mm bundle lens. I am fond of taking photos of my 1 year old and of people and action. What do you think would be the best lens for me?

    • September 5, 2011 at 7:24 PM

      That is a tough question. Are you looking for another zoom or would you prefer a prime? As I said, the 50mm is a great prime. However, if you are looking for a zoom an inexpensive option that I purchased was the Tamron 28-75mm 2.8. You want to make sure your zoom has a fixed aperture so it doesn’t change when you zoom thus messing with your settings while you are moving so quickly to capture your little one :O)

  • September 4, 2011 at 12:05 PM

    Well yesterday I broke down and have ordered my prime lens through amazon I am getting the 55mm 1.8 and looking forward to using it they are even giving a filter lens with it it which they come in hand at times…

    • September 5, 2011 at 7:25 PM

      How exciting!! Can’t wait to see some of the images you are able to capture with it!

  • September 8, 2011 at 10:56 AM

    So helpful!! Thanks!

  • Angelique Mcgee
    December 12, 2011 at 1:54 AM

    Thanks for helping us all get better! I usually rush to your page to find something I need right away and I struggle to find it when searching………..so I pinned this post and now I will have handy immediately.

  • February 25, 2012 at 11:55 AM

    Courtney, I LOVE this blog!!! You always post the right things when I need to read them!! ;-) Thank you for being so awesome and open with your knowledge! You are someone I’d love to have coffee or lunch with, i don’t think I could soak it all in!

    • Courtney
      February 25, 2012 at 4:09 PM

      Awww, thanks!! I would love to have coffee with you (except I don’t drink coffee, so I’ll have a milk shake :O) he he

  • Sheri Graham
    March 4, 2012 at 11:07 PM

    Thank you so much for the list of photo labs! I have learned so much and know I will learn a great deal more!

    • Courtney
      March 8, 2012 at 5:00 PM

      You are more than welcome :O)

  • Bryanna
    April 21, 2012 at 3:18 PM

    Wow totally love your blog! Im learning so much. Ok question im looking to upgrade (boring d60 now) and im wondering what you recommend. I cant decide between the nikon d90 or d7000. I dont know if theres a huge difference between the two. I consider myself a newbie still, so im learning :) I would love to get the d700 someday!!

    • Courtney
      April 24, 2012 at 2:42 PM

      I know a lot of people really like the D7000. I had the D90 for over a year and a half and it was fantastic! I loved that camera! The only reason I sold it was because I upgraded to the D700. You would have to double check me but I think the main difference is the video quality. Personally, I don’t buy a camera for the video capability so the D90 suited my needs just fine. Hope that helps! Congrats on getting to upgrade :O)

  • May 18, 2012 at 12:52 AM

    Holy cow, your website is amazing! Thank the Lord for Pinterest – I find the best sites on there!
    I’m just starting shooting in manual mode. It’s…well, it’s scary. But I’m getting the hang of it.
    My nephew was just born and I got to be in the room…it was amazing to be able to capture all those incredible moments when he finally came out. Got some decent shots! Some grainy. Some blurry. And some that were focused on inanimate objects (oh good, I really wanted to look back to see how miraculous that pillow was…).
    Thanks for the tips – I’m now slacking at work so I can read all of your posts! :)

    • Courtney
      May 21, 2012 at 2:54 PM

      I love me some Pinterest :O) That is awesome you got to be there when your nephew was born. I was able to be there when one of my nephew’s was born too and it was amazing!!! Sorry to cause a distraction at work :O) Photography is just so much fun!! Let me know if you have any questions!! Way to go tackling manual mode!!

  • Marie Porter
    October 6, 2012 at 4:17 PM

    I’m new at photography…just getting started. I really love your site and blog. I take lots of pictures of my daughter at her sporting events. I also try to caputer those of her teammates. I have lightroom. How start watermarking these photos so I can start charging for them vs. just free from facebook?

  • Tammy Bednarski
    February 3, 2014 at 10:03 PM

    Courtney! First thank you SO much for single handedly teaching me manual mode! I live on your website and read and reread your blogs and links daily. I have always loved photographing but was never any good. I was an uncreative point and clicker. I owned a Canon Rebel T3 for years before I ever really used it. It wasn’t until the recent birth of my daughter that I’ve really been motivated to learn how to take good pictures. So I (assumed) I had a good camera…bought a 50mm 1.8 lens, a new iMac, Lightroom and Elements. I figured I was all set to go!! So I’d read your blog and then go and try it. Sometimes I thought i had nailed it…only to upload the photos and be completely disappointed. I have a beautiful infant that I want to capture but all her photos are grainy or blurry. We are kept indoors most days because it’s winter and she’s an infant, so I know low lighting is an issue. But I raise my ISO and do everything I’ve read but cannot for the life of me take a good picture in indoor low lighting. I’m starting to think I should have spent the money on a better camera first because like you said you want a good shot SOOC to make editing easier. I have watched your video where you edit an under exposed picture of your daughter on a colorful playmat…and just keep saying out loud…how did she get such a sharp, crisp picture inside?? I’m beyond frustrated and disappointed with myself. What do you recommend? A new camera? A new hobby?? Thanks again! I would have given up months ago if I wasn’t determined to achieve what you are teaching us…..

    • February 5, 2014 at 1:22 PM

      Definitely not a new hobby :) It is definitely hard a times and believe me I have been there shaking my head in pure confusion. If you would like to email me a photo with the settings I can look at and see if I can help you. I’m glad you haven’t given up. These winter months are hard when we have less light but not impossible :)

  • February 4, 2014 at 9:48 AM

    Your tips and tutorials have been huge for me. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us.

  • Emily
    February 19, 2014 at 2:48 AM

    I have a nikon D7000, I have been shooting on manual mode for a while now. My question is about the focal point, I change the focal point myself but was just wondering if there is anyway to move it more freely. Mine only lets me set it to 9 different spots.

    • February 21, 2014 at 2:44 PM

      You would need to see if you camera has an option for more focal points. My D700 can do 51 but I have it set on 11 but who has time to scroll through all those focal points to get to the one you want. I’m a believe that less is more in this case.

  • Cheryl cuddahee
    May 25, 2014 at 8:29 PM

    When exporting from Lightroom for print why do you not use resize to fit like in settings for the web

    • May 28, 2014 at 2:38 PM

      I want to export my image in it’s original size with enough pixels to be printed correctly. I also don’t always know what size I’m going to print my image when I export it so I want the flexibility to not have to save it as a 4×6 and then go back in to make it a 24×30.

  • Lurock Ingram
    January 1, 2017 at 9:55 AM

    Hi Courtny. Thanx for all your posts. I would like to know about your 365 project, where can the photos be posted and will someone comment on the photos so i can learn from my mistakes? Thanx very much. Go big.

  • Edward Stubbs
    October 16, 2017 at 3:10 PM

    I noticed that your latest comment was from January 2017 of this year. But there was no reply from you. Are you still available to answer questions and comments? Thank you in advance for your reply

    • Courtney Slazinik
      October 29, 2017 at 8:49 PM

      Yes, still around :)

  • Leslie McCauley
    January 7, 2018 at 2:50 PM

    I take pictures every day. I I take pictures of dogs and cats at an animal shelter and I post on petfinder and on the shelters FB page. Hers my problem. The dogs are usually in action so I can’t stop and reset the camera settings after every picture…I like to use aperture priority,but often what worked for the first picture was not right for the next one and I sometimes revert to using auto because of this dilemma…any suggestions for me .im shooting with a Nikon D750



  • Donna
    April 4, 2019 at 1:29 PM

    Throughout the years I have purchased many lenses. I have several Prime lenses and many telephoto lenses for my Nikon D500. I also have Nikon D300 and a Nikon F2 film camera. I use https://www.dpreview.com/ for see the test results of lenses with cameras when I want to purchase one.

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