Manual Photography Cheat Sheet

If you're just starting out with a DSLR camera, you're probably pretty overwhelmed with all the different settings you have available. This cheat sheet will help you keep it all straight.



  • The light meter is different from the exposure setting.
  • Keeping your light meter at “0” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the perfect setting. Just don’t stray too far from the “0”. Adjust to your liking.
  • Positive numbers on your exposure setting will make your photos brighter.
  • Negative numbers make your photos darker. 


  • Small numbers (like f/1.4) have larger openings, which let in more light.
  • Big numbers (like f/16) have smaller openings, which let in less light.

Shutter Speed

  • Seeing 100, 250, 320, etc. on your viewfinder means “1/(number seen)”, like “1/100”.
  • Try not to use 1/60 or less when handheld, that’s when you use a tripod or look for something steady.
  • Using longer exposure (slow shutter speed) will let in more light.
  • Using shorter exposure (fast shutter speed) will let in less light.


  • ISO is the sensitivity of your camera to light
  • Lower numbers are less sensitive to light, which give smoother photos.
  • Higher numbers are very sensitive to light, which give very grainy and noisy photos.

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