Master Manual Mode in 5 Minutes

What is manual mode and how to become confident using manual mode in your food photography?

Lots of people tell me that they prefer using auto-mode on their camera because they have no idea how to use the manual mode. They feel like manual mode has too many settings to think about, but once you get the hold of what each setting does and what kind of photo you want is pretty straightforward.

So why should you start shooting in manual mode? Because it gives you total control!

What is manual mode?

Manual mode is the program on your camera that allows you complete creative control over how your image will turn out. Even though cameras are pretty smart these days and auto programs can work fine in lots of situations, knowing how manual mode works will improve your food photography for sure. One more thing I love about the manual mode is that the setting stay the same unless you change them, while with auto or semi-auto programs each time you take a shot the settings change according to how the camera sees your scene.

Manual mode is often described in relation to ‘the exposure triangle’.

The exposure triangle is made up of three elements – ISO, aperture and shutter speed. By setting up there three settings on your camera, you’re trying to achieve correct exposure.

Related: What equipment do I need for food photography?

But how do you know when is your image correctly exposed?

Here’s where you need to learn to read a light meter. An in-camera light meter measures how much light is coming to the sensor and if you shoot in the manual mode you can see the light meter on your screen and it shows you if your image is under-, over- or correctly exposed.

What is manual mode and  how to become confident using manual mode in your food photography?
How over-, under- and correct exposure looks on the light meter on Canon. On Nikon, the negative and positive sides are turned around. Just keep an eye on the minus and plus, minus being under- and plus being overexposed

The three settings you need to know

In order to achieve correct exposure, we can change the three different aspects of the exposure triangle. If you wanna learn how I adjust the three settings you can get my Manual Mode Guide down below. I included the step by step process of setting these three points.

But just in short, let’s see what those three settings mean.


ISO is the camera’s sensitivity to light. The lower the ISO, the more light you need to get a good exposure and the less grain you will see in your photos.


Aperture is the setting on your camera that affects how much of your food is in focus.

We measure how wide your aperture is with using f-stops. Lower f-stops mean wider aperture which leads to a shallower depth of field. This creates a soft blurred background. Higher f-stops do the opposite.

Shutter speed

Shutter speed is the amount of time the shutter on your camera lens stays open. It is measured in seconds.

Slower shutter speeds can create motion blur if you’re holding the camera in your hands or if the camera is moving in any way.

I hope this gives you some confidence and courage to try out manual mode on your camera, but if you wanna learn more about the three settings and my step by step process of choosing how to set them, then you can download my Mastering Manual Mode Guide!

These no-bake frozen coconut cakes with sweet creamed coconut and Greek yogurt on top of a no-bake almond crust are the perfect summer desserts. Add some whipped cream and seasonal berries and you're in it for a win!
3 replies
  1. Kristy
    Kristy says:


    Thank you so much for this article and for the Mastering Manual Mode pdf!! After reading this over and playing with my camera for a few minutes, I think this may have completely changed my blogging life! I’m a newbie blogger and love writing and taking pictures, but I was getting a bit slowed down and discouraged because my photos just were not doing my food justice! I cannot wait to put this into practice right now! I hope to get Adobe Lightroom on my computer soon so I can use the presets I ALREADY bought from you on your Black Friday sale!

    Thanks Again!


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  1. […] how to use your camera? Be sure to read all about Manual Mode. Or you might want to read about camera angles and which lens to use […]

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