Taking Control of Your Camera


Alrighty Folks! Travis from TJ Photography is back with another installment in equine photography. If you are like me, the A or Automatic setting on your camera is a huge lifesaver. However today, Travis is going to offer some tips from breaking out of your comfort zone and switching to the Manual setting. Hope you enjoy!


Well last but definitely not least we are going to unleash your camera’s true potential and change the setting to the dreaded M. That’s right, no more Automatic Settings. Once you have become comfortable with the Manual Setting, and with controlling every aspect of your camera you will never look back.  A very talented photographer once told me, “It is like Learning to drive a Standard, at first it is hard but after a while it becomes automatic.”

There are three things we need to take control of to get that amazing shot! They include the ISO, Aperture Value, and Shutter Speed. When the camera is set to Manual, these are all controlled individually. So let\’s talk about what they do.

ISO – The letters ISO on your digital camera refer to the film speed. Even though your camera is most likely not film at all, but rather digital, the ISO setting still does have the same function as older film cameras. ISO determines how sensitive the image sensor is to light.

General Rules and tips for ISO Settings:
• Use an ISO of 100 or 200 when taking photographs outside in sunny conditions.
• If the sky is overcast or it is evening time, then use an ISO within the range of 400 to 800.
• Night time or in cases of low light you might need to set your digital camera ISO to 1600. If you don\’t then your photo will appear too dark, if at all.

If you set your digital camera to a low ISO, for example 100, the resulting photograph will be better quality than one set at 1600. The higher the ISO the grainier the photo will look. Therefore go for a low ISO number whenever possible.


Aperture Value – The Aperture Value setting on your camera is like the pupil of the lense. The lower the number (which appears like this f1.8), the more light the lense is letting into the camera. Along with allowing more or less light, the Aperture also controls what is in focus or the depth of field. This is what gives your background a blurred look, while still keeping your subject sharp and in focus. To achieve this blurred effect, your aperture has to be on a low setting allowing as much light possible into the camera. You must be careful however, when shooting with a wide open aperture as any movement or camera shake will result in a soft or blurry image. If you want your background to still be slightly in focus, then the Aperture will be set higher.

The better lenses have a wider range of Aperture values. They will usually have a Range of f1.4 – f22, while the lesser expensive lenses will have a Range of f4.0 – 16. So now that you have the 2 settings set to control the light and amount of blur you want your image to have, you now have to set your Shutter Speed so that you will have the correct exposure.


Shutter Speed – If the Aperture of the camera is like a Pupil, I would say that the Shutter is like the eyelid.  By controlling how fast it blinks, you again are controlling how much light is let into the camera, thus giving you a correct exposure.  Once the Aperture is set you have to adjust your Shutter Speed accordingly for the image.  A rule of thumb is to use the built in light meter inside your camera, and then tweak it from there.  The higher the Shutter Speed the faster it blinks, allowing less light into the camera.

Tip: if you are taking an action shot, and want to stop motion, your shutter speed has to be at least 1/500 or faster.



·  Imagine the camera has an eye that is going to let in light.

·  The aperture decides how much light will come in like a pupil.

·  The shutter speed is the eyelid and will open at different speeds controlling how long light will come in.

·  If you have the hole (aperture) wide open you don\’t want it open for too long or you will OVER expose your image.

·  If you have the hole closed small you need to open it long enough for enough light to get in or you will UNDER expose your image.

·  Now the smaller the number of your aperture the bigger the opening.

·  And your shutter speeds represent fractions of a second: 1/2 1/4 1/8…..1/60 1/80 1/100.

·  OK now not to confuse you, but film speed also plays a role here. Just know that the darker your shooting conditions are, the faster the film you want. 100, 200 are slower 400, 800 are faster.

·  Even digital cameras have film speed settings.

·  And with that said, your camera should have a meter. It should tell you if you have the right settings. If you want to shoot moving things in daylight have a fast shutter speed and a small (bigger #) aperture.

·  If you want to shoot close ups or portraits with a blurry back ground you\’ll want your aperture wide open and an appropriate (for the light) shutter speed. Fast for bright light, and slower for low light.


This is just touching on the subject of Manual settings, but if you are serious about Photography and really want control of what your camera is doing, then this will be a good start. But if this went over your head and you just want to be able to snap pictures, don’t be ashamed to have your camera set on the Automatic settings, the most important thing is to have fun, and be creative!

It\’s been fun ~ Good Luck!!

Happy Shooting!


2 thoughts on “Taking Control of Your Camera”

  1. Thank you Travis (and Jenn!). These tips will help me as I limp my way from A to M… It’s a big leap. Lots to remember and think about. If I am taking a scenery shot I will take the first one on A, then switch my camera to M and try to improve (or at least see the effect of my setting changes) on the first image.

  2. Wow, my head is spinning but can;t wait to try these. I can get some of these things to work some of the times but not as much success with all at once. This is much clearer than the DVD or manual that comes with the D90 so feel much more enlightened. This is a great group of articles that I intend to print and carry in my case.

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