It's time to move on. You are ready. You can do this! Do not fear the manual settings on your camera any longer. Think of the possibilities! Your camera can do so much more!
How was that for a pep talk? Have you been just itching to get out of the automatic rut and start using your camera the way it was designed to be used? Then let's do it. It's easier than you think and there are steps you can take to ease into it. I do not want to get too technical here because there are so many places on the web to find the nitty gritty details. I would rather spend the few minutes I have with you to help you teach yourself the basics and learn by doing. I am going to assume that you have a basic understanding of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings. The following steps are going to help you learn even more about those three things work together to get a great exposure and how you can play with each individually to achieve some amazing and creative results.
Let's start by looking at the dial on the top of your camera. This will be similar no matter what brand you are using. And don't freak out. You don't need to know what everything does right now. And the big, bad, "M" can also be ignored for a little while longer. What I want to focus on right now are just two of those settings.
1. "Av" or Aperture Priority. This setting allows you to set the aperture or F-stop. The camera will then choose the optimal shutter speed to get the correct exposure. It's a little confusing but remember that the smaller the f-stop number, the larger the aperture (or opening of the lens) will be. The larger the aperture, the blurrier the background. Aperture priority will ultimately give you the most control over what part of and how much of your image will be in focus. It's a great way to shoot on the go without having to worry too much about your manual settings.
Now here is where the learning comes in. When you look at your images shot in Av mode, notice what shutter speed your camera chooses for you. Use the same combination when you start shooting in manual and see what happens. You can start to tweak your settings for different results from there.
2. "Tv" or Shutter Priority. This setting does just the opposite. You choose the shutter speed and the camera will choose the aperture. This is not quite as flexible an option but can be the best choice when trying to freeze motion or create a blurred motion effect. It's a great option for the little league game or dance recital. Again, pay attention to the combinations that your camera puts together for you. It's a great way to get started and ease into full manual.
Like I said before, you can do this. You bought that DSLR so you could make fabulous images. The point being that YOU are making the images, NOT your camera.
The camera is merely an instrument to get you where you want to go. You are the creator of the art. (Epic enough for you?)