Once you have some of the basics down, shooting in manual mode is one of the best ways to take control over your photography. And it‘s easier than you might think by breaking it down into these four steps.
Set Your Shutter Speed
Pick Your Aperture
Adjust your ISO
Readjust your Shutter Speed
Tip: I highly suggest you save in RAW file format when shooting in manual mode. This will also allow you to have greater control over your final edits.
Step 1: Set Your Shutter Speed
The first step in shooting manual mode is to choose your shutter speed. For boudoir your subject won’t be moving very fast so you can use a shutter speed of around 1/200 of a second. If your subject is moving more quickly such as with dancing, you may need to go with a faster shutter speed.
Step 2: Pick Your Aperture
The second step is to pick your aperture. Shooting wide open, at the fastest aperture your lens can go, is the perfect setting for most of your shots in boudoir. However, there will be times when a slower aperture will be more appropriate. A couple of examples of this are when taking a full body shot from the head down where you want to keep more of her body in focus and the other is a wide angle shot of her in the room.
Tip: In bright light you may run into the problem that your shutter speed isn’t fast enough while shooting wide open, creating overexposed images. You can use an ND filter to help solve this problem. ND filters act like sunglasses for your camera lens.
Step 3: Adjust your ISO
The third step is to adjust your ISO. After you have set your aperture you will adjust your ISO to get the exposure you are looking for. If you are using a mirrorless camera this will be easy as you can use the viewfinder to help. If you have a DSLR you will need to use a combination of your light meter and test shots. You can also use the live view function.
Tip: Find your cameras maximum ISO for images you will be happy with after editing and implementing noise reduction. Everyone's tolerance for noise in their photos is different. For my first camera it was 800. For my current camera it is 3200. This will take some trial and error to adjust to your liking.
Step 4: Readjust your Shutter Speed
The final step is to fine tune the shutter speed once your ISO can’t be adjusted any further. If you are working in a dark environment you may need to lower your shutter speed a bit more. If you are shooting in a bright environment you may need to raise it instead.
Tips: In dark environments try not to go below the shutter speed that corresponds to your lens as this will help prevent motion blur. For example, don’t shoot slower than 1/50 of a second when using a 50mm lens.
I developed my approach after watching Michael Sasser’s video on Camera Settings. We both shoot a bit differently so you can watch his video yourself to see which approach you prefer.