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Master Manual Mode in 5 Minutes

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

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

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

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!

How To Take Great Food Photos In Low Light

Taking great food photos in low light can be really frustrating, but it doesn’t need to be. With these five tips, you’ll be able to shoot in a very dark room and still create beautiful images.

Taking great food photos in low light can be really frustrating, but it doesn't need to be. With these five tips, you'll be able to shoot in a very dark room and still create beautiful images.

It seems like people get really frustrated with the lack of light in several situations and you might find yourself to be one of them.

  1. The first non-ideal situation is Winter. The light is certainly not as abundant as it is in the Summer or
  2. You might be faced with dark and moody photography for the first time and you have no clue as to how to handle the low light situation.

Let me tell you, that you have nothing to fear.

I live in Slovenia and during late Autumn and until early Spring the lighting situation is far from ideal. It’s cloudy, rainy, snowy, foggy… And all these things affect the amount of light coming through the windows.

If you’re faced with the same situation you’re in the right place. I’m going to show you a few tips, that will definitely help you embrace the low light.

Let’s get started.

1. Use a tripod

You’ve probably heard me say this a million times, but a tripod is your greatest friend when it comes to food photography. It doesn’t even have to be an expensive one. You can get something extremely cheap for 20€ (around 20$) and it will still be a massive improvement from hand-holding your camera.

2. Don’t be afraid to use long exposure times

When you’ve used a tripod, you can get away with much longer exposure times than when you hold your camera. If you look at the photo below, you’ll see that I often use very long exposure times, even longer than a second. Wow, right?

A few things to consider when shooting at long exposure times:

  • Use a tripod
  • Use a remote or software to remotely trigger the shutter button
  • Be still. Don’t move when the shutter is released. Any movement around the camera can cause a blur.
Taking great food photos in low light can be really frustrating, but it doesn't need to be. With these five tips, you'll be able to shoot in a very dark room and still create beautiful images.
ISO 100 – f6.3 – 1/3 seconds
Taking great food photos in low light can be really frustrating, but it doesn't need to be. With these five tips, you'll be able to shoot in a very dark room and still create beautiful images.
ISO 100 – f9 – 1.3 seconds

3. Embrace the high ISO

Oftentimes we get scared of bumping the ISO, but the reality is that most hobby cameras will handle ISO up to 800 and if you have a more advanced camera, you can get much higher than that.

Now, I try to keep my ISO at lowest, because this will mean I have the sharpest image possible. The thing is that oftentimes (and I say that from experience) is that we tend to prefer to keep the ISO at lower settings and underexpose than to bump the ISO and correctly expose the photo.

Why is this important?

If you look at any photo closely, you’ll see that there’s always more noise in the shadowy part of an image. So when we underexpose we create more shadowy parts in the image, meaning more noise. And this can result in more noise than we would actually get if we shot at a higher ISO and make that photo brighter.

See, high ISO is not the enemy 😊

Taking great food photos in low light can be really frustrating, but it doesn't need to be. With these five tips, you'll be able to shoot in a very dark room and still create beautiful images.
ISO 2000 – f2.8 – 1/320 seconds

4. Get closer to the light source

I was recently talking about low light in one of my 1:1 coaching sessions. My client was struggling with her dining room being really dark in the Winter. She was shooting on her dining table which was in the middle of the room.

Do you see the problem yet?

When you move away from the light source, the amount of light reaching your subject decreases significantly.

But there’s a simple solution to that. Just move the subject closer to the light source aka window. Don’t shoot at your dining table. Those are usually in the middle of the room and most certainly this is not an ideal place if the light is really low.

Taking great food photos in low light can be really frustrating, but it doesn't need to be. With these five tips, you'll be able to shoot in a very dark room and still create beautiful images.
ISO 1000 – f3.2 – 1/25 seconds

5. Use manual focus

When it comes to dark places auto-focus is not very reliable. It might miss the focus completely or even refuse to focus.

Getting friendly with manual focus helps you solve this problem. Set your lens to manual focus and use the zoom tool to really see where you’re focusing.

How To Shoot Food In A Dark Room by Useyournoodles on Jumprope.

Final Thoughts

Okay, phew. Did you just realize that low light not bad at all? I really hope you did and I hope you’ll try the methods above. If you wanna learn more about how to manipulate light in order to improve your photos either bright and airy or dark and moody I’ve got a free e-course and you can apply through the form below.