Every DSLR has the option to shoot in Auto or Manual mode (as well as 5 or so others). We would always recommend using Manual mode. This way you can completely control the lighting in your photograph. When using manual mode there are 3 things to consider, called the Exposure Triangle: ISO, shutter speed and aperture. So let’s break those down!
ISO is how much light sensitivity a photographic film or digital sensor has. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive the camera is to light and the more grain you could potentially have. Grain is the noise you may see in an image shot at a higher ISO. When shooting outdoors it is easy to keep your ISO low and keep grain out.
Shutter Speed (also called exposure time) is the amount of time the shutter remains open when you press the shutter button. Shutter speed is measured in seconds, so for example, 1/500 means the shutter is open for 1/500th of a second. The higher the number, the less time the shutter is open exposing the digital sensor (or film). When photographing kids or moving objects, the shutter speed needs to be higher to avoid blur. In extremely dark situations, using a very low shutter speed could help you out, however a tripod must be used and it will not work when photographing moving objects.
Aperture (or f-stop) is the size of the opening in the lens that can be adjusted to control the amount of light reaching the film or digital sensor. The lower the f-stop, the larger the opening in the lens and the less depth of field which leads to a blurrier background. The higher the f-stop, the smaller the opening in the lens and the greater the depth of field which leads to a sharper background. I know, so confusing!! Something else to consider with aperture is the number of people you are photographing. When photographing groups, you want the aperture to correspond with the number of people in the group to avoid people looking blurry. For example, a family of 5 would need an aperture of around f5.6.
When using manual mode, all three of the above components need to work together to get a perfect exposure. Using your light meter in your camera, you will adjust each item until you get the perfect combo. When you are first starting out it might be helpful to shoot a photo in auto mode to see what the camera says the settings should be. Then you can make adjustments to the auto mode settings to figure out how to get your image to look exactly the way you want!
Learning manual mode can be super overwhelming, so if you need help, reach out! We love to do photography classes to teach you how to use your camera. They make a great girls night out, or if you would like more one on one help, we can do that too!