Learning How to Shoot in Manual Mode

Learning How To Shoot In Manual Mode

Taking The Plunge

About 2 months ago I decided that I wanted to learn how to use my DSLR camera in manual mode vs. auto mode. I’m not financially able to enroll in any classes at the moment so I took it upon myself to scour the internet to figure out how to do this.

I was extremely nervous because I didn’t want to screw up this expensive piece of equipment that my family had gotten me for my birthday last year. The second that I turned that dial from the cute little pictures to the dreaded I became so overwhelmed and anxious that I took 1 picture and it was black so I immediately turned it back to the cute pictures and decided that I needed to learn a little more because I was going to ruin this camera.

I’m sure that if you’re here you’ve probably experienced the same type of situation! I wanted to put together a post with some of the resources that helped me figure out that dreaded M in hopes that it can help some of you too.

If this is your first time here and you’d like to follow me on my journey to learn photography you can check out this post!

How To Create Stunning Digital Photography

I searched Amazon for some beginner photography books and came across Tony Northrup’s How To Create Stunning Digital Photography in the Kindle edition. I was hesitant at first because it was $10, which isn’t much money but I’d never really read a book on my (sons) Kindle before, but it had a great rating and around 1,800 reviews that were nothing but good. I took the leap and made the purchase.

I am now one of those 1,800 who have nothing but positive things to say about this book. You can also buy a physical copy for $20 but I totally recommend the Kindle version because it comes with over 12 hours of video training as well! It’s really nice for people like me who are visual learners, I can read a chapter and then watch the video which essentially reinforces what I just read.

You don’t have a Kindle? That’s ok! Did you know that you can get a Kindle app on your iPhone? You can choose to have it sent to the app through Amazon. If you want to learn how to do this please leave me a comment or contact me through Facebook or Instagram and I will do my best to help you.

*If you choose to order a copy of this book from here I will get a small percentage of the purchase, however, I want to make it clear that I truly believe in this book and have not included it only because I can make money.

Click photo to order your copy!


After I searched on Amazon I went to Pinterest. This post from audryannphoto.com really helped me understand what each setting is and when to use them. She walks you through each setting and helps you understand why and when you want to use each one. She also gives examples of each, which is really helpful for me because as I said before I’m a pretty visual learner.

Learning How to Shoot in Manual Mode

Manual Mode Cheat Sheet

I created this image to help you remember what each setting is for and when to use them. I almost always start by setting my Aperture first, that way I can control what my background looks like. I like to shoot objects very close up so I typically use a low stop, that way I can achieve the blurry background.

I will change the Shutter Speed first if I’m shooting water or moving objects, like I was this week. I’ve yet to master getting the shutter speed correct when taking photos of my boys when they’re playing (not that I’ve mastered anything yet but still… lol). I’m going to be working on that this week!

I'd love to see your Manual Mode photos on Instagram with #mymessylittlepics Click To Tweet

Learning How to Shoot in Manual Mode



While I was searching I came across Photography Starter Kit Classes at CreativeLive. They have all kinds of different classes from beginner to advanced but obviously I’ve focused on the beginner courses. There are paid courses which give you lifetime access to the class, bonus content, both streaming and downloadable files which are available on your phone, tablet or computer and they also come with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

There are also “On Air Now” classes that are free! There are all kinds of different classes each day. They usually run for a couple of days and then the classes get switched. It’s nice if you ever have some alone time and you’re able to watch for a long period of time.

This website is not just for photographers but for all types of creative outlets! I’ve only ever watched the photography courses though.
Learning How to Shoot in Manual Mode


I hope that this gives you a bit of a starting point to switch that dial from the cute little pictures to the dreaded (or not so dreaded anymore) M!

As always…I’d love to see your Manual Mode photos on Instagram with #mymessylittlepics

My Messy Little Pics – Week 1

My Messy Little Pics - Week 1

Finding My Passion

I really want to share my journey in photography with all of you. I plan on sharing the pics that I’ve taken each week and what I’ve learned.

I’ve never known what my “passion” was, other than being a mother. I have always envied those people who knew what theirs was because I wanted to have that one thing in my life outside of my family that I wanted to know more about and learn as much as I could. I’ve finally realized that it’s been right in front of my face! I’ve always loved to take pictures but never really thought about doing it professionally or learning how to make my photos better. I took pictures to document me and my family’s life and that was all.

I now have a completely new perspective. I want to take photos that are beautiful, that speak to other people outside of my family. I find myself wanting to go outside and bring my camera with me every day. I see the world around me in a different way now. Things that I thought were ugly and annoying are now beautiful because I can picture them through my camera lens. Seeing things through a camera in completely different from how I see them with my eyes. It’s very therapeutic for me in many ways. I love it and I can’t get enough of it. I feel like a sponge soaking up as much knowledge as possible now. I’m currently learning on my own, but I plan on trying to take classes at some point.

Why Did I Wait So long?

Last year for my 30th birthday my husband and parents all got me a DSLR camera to take nice pictures for the blog. My iPhone photos just weren’t cutting it anymore. Once I had the camera our youngest son started moving around and I had to be constantly watching him. I couldn’t just set him in the pack n play anymore while I worked on the blog. Needless to say, I didn’t do much blogging for a long time so I didn’t use my camera.

The camera didn’t get much use for a while because I wasn’t used to taking it with me and I would forget it all the time. We had a family reunion for my husband’s side of the family that you can read about here and I remembered to take my camera. I was dubbed the photographer for the weekend and I loved it! That’s when it all started. I started looking on the internet about self-taught photography and the #1 thing that I saw was that I needed to take my camera off of Auto Mode. It was extremely scary, it was like a foreign language to me and I didn’t want to mess up this expensive camera that my family purchased for me.

The 2nd thing that I saw the most was that the best way to learn how to use your camera in manual mode is to just use it, and it use it a lot! Practice is the best way to figure it out, so that’s what I did. I would print out things that I found on Pinterest and keep them with me as references but I finally figured it out. I’m still learning but I can proudly say that I very rarely use the auto mode on my camera now. It’s been a couple of months since I said no to auto. It gets a bit easier each time that use my camera but I still have a long way to go.

My Messy Little Pic Collection

This week I’m going to show you some of my favorite pics that I’ve taken over the past month or two. Some of these were taken in auto mode but the majority of them were taken in manual. When I took these my focus was learning manual mode, which I’m still practicing, but I’m also starting to throw lighting in there. None of these have much editing done to them at all. I plan on playing around with some of them and doing some subtle editing but I really haven’t even gotten into learning that yet. Baby steps!

My Messy Little Pics - Week 1I took this photo of our 3-year-old at the family reunion. He had just woken up from his nap and was sitting on the steps waiting to go for a ride on the horses! This was taken in auto mode.

ISO 1000      f/5.6      1/500

My Messy Little Pics - Week 1This was a spur of the moment photo shoot! I wanted to practice so I called my dads girlfriend and we took the boys to the apple orchard near the house. Don’t worry, she’s right to the side of the picture next to the baby. I get a lot of “wow, how did you get them to do that and all look the same way?” My answer is… I was at the right place at the right time. I took 2 photos of them like this and 1 of them they all just happened to be looking the same way. I may have asked our oldest son to look at the baby, but I don’t think that I did. This was the first good photo that I took in manual mode!

ISO 100      f/4.5      1/80

My Messy Little Pics - Week 1We had just gotten a couple of loads of firewood and I stacked it up on the porch. I was on the phone outside talking to my mom and actually said “I have to let you go, I’m looking at my awesome stacking job and I think that it’ll make a really good background, I need to get my camera and take some pictures of the boys” lol. So, we had another impromptu photo shoot! I had a few good shots but this was one of the favorites on my Instagram. This was shot in manual mode.

ISO 6400    f/7.1     1/60

My Messy Little Pics -Week 1

I love this photo for multiple reasons. It symbolizes the day that my perspective changed. I say that it’s the day I started seeing things around me through a camera lens. This old rusty truck and many others like it sit in the yard of the empty house behind ours. For years it has done nothing but irritate me and make me feel like I live by a junkyard. One day, after I picked our son up from school, I decided to drive back there and see if there was anything that I could take pictures of while the 2 little dudes were sleeping. I found a few things and then got back in the truck to head up to the house and that’s what I saw this truck and the pretty colored trees behind it (that you can’t even see in this photo lol). I didn’t see a broken down POS anymore, I saw potential for a really cool photo. When I took this, I looked at the screen and knew instantly that my settings were right and it was an awesome shot lol. This was in manual mode.

ISO 200      f/5.6       1/80

My Messy Little Pics -Week 1

It was a beautiful fall day so I decided to take the boys to the county park and take some pictures while they played in the leaves. I was able to get quite a few good photos so I decided that it would be better to create a collage. I’ve gotten so many compliments on this. The boys found a couple of girls who were making a big leaf pile and asked if they could play too, they had a blast! I wish that I could put which settings I used but they’re all different. We did a lot of moving around so I used a lot of different settings. They were all taken in manual mode though!

My Messy Little Pics -Week 1

Talk about spur of the moment and seeing things through a camera lens! I was pulling out of my driveway to take our son to school in the morning  and thought, “man that frost looks really pretty”, that’d be a cool picture! Normally I hate seeing frost, it means that it’s going to be getting cold out and snow. My perspective has changed though and I didn’t think about the cold or snow, I thought about the beauty and capturing it. I thought about it the 15-20 minutes there and back. I ran into the house and grabbed my camera, told the 2 little dudes to watch me out the front window and got down as low as I could to the ground and shot a few pictures from different angles. This was the best one of the 5-6 that I took. It has gotten a lot of love on my Instagram, waaaay more than I ever would have thought that it would! Once again, shot in manual mode.

ISO 3200      f/5.6      1/1000

My Messy Little Pics -Week 1

My mom and I took a little girls trip to a park that I was thinking about taking my cousin’s family photos at so that I could scope it out and get some idea for places to shoot. We walked down to a little fenced in deck on the water. I got down low and took a photo through the fence, I think that my mom thought that I was crazy until she saw what it looked like. I was reading about “natural frames” and lines, I thought that this was kind of cool. When I look at it now I probably would adjust it a little differently so that it’s brighter but I’m still pretty happy with the composition of it. Shot in manual mode.

ISO 400      f/5.6      1/30My Messy Little Pics -Week 1

This is one of my favorite black and white photos. We were at my husbands grandfathers house. We were out in his barn and he was helping us make this little dudes bulldozer costume. The boys had a few cars with them to keep them busy so when I looked over and saw them playing in the saw dust my initial reaction was to get them out of it, but I stopped myself because they were being quiet and playing. I grabbed my camera and this was one of the photos that I got. I love how you can really see the saw dust on his pant leg in the black and white. Shot in manual mode.

ISO 1600      f/5.6      1/40


I would love to see your beautiful photos with #mymessylittlenest. Click To Tweet

I hope that you enjoyed looking at my photos as much as I enjoyed shooting them! I can’t wait to share my progress with you all. I would love any comments, constructive criticism or helpful hints! I’m just trying to soak up as much knowledge as possible and become the best that I can be.



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How To Add a Watermark Using Picmonkey

How To Add a Watermark Using Picmonkey

In my last post I showed you How to create a free and easy watermark using picmonkey. Today I’m going to show you how to add that watermark into your photos using picmonkey.

Step 1:

Open PicMonkey and hover over the “Edit” button, then choose where you want to pull your photo from. More than likely you’ll be getting your photo from your computer, but you can also pull it from any of the other options seen here.

How to add a watermark using picmonkey

Step 2:

Next, go to the “Overlay” tab that looks like a butterfly on the left hand side. Click on “Add your own” and open the file that contains the watermark that you want to use. Once it’s open you can place it where you’d like and then you can adjust the fade of the overlay.

I like to adjust the fade because you’re going to have some light backgrounds and some dark. You want your watermark to be easily seen but not overtake the photo. It’s easy to achieve this when you use the fade option.

How to add a watermark using picmonkey

Step 3:

This step is optional. Depending on what you’re going to be doing with your photo, you may want to resize it. Click on the “Basic Edits” button, on the top left hand side, then click the “Resize” button and change the dimensions.

How to add a watermark using picmonkey

Step 4:

The last step is to save your work! Viola, that’s it!

How to add a watermark using picmonkey


I would love to see your beautiful photos on Instagram with #mymessylittlenest. Click To Tweet

Now you’ll be able to easily add the watermark(s) that you created to your photographs! I would love to see your work on my Facebook Page!


How to Create a Free & Easy Watermark Using Picmonkey

How to create a free and easy watermark using picmonkey

I have recently sparked an interest in photography since I started taking my own photos for the blog. I’m by no means a professional, but I really wanted to show off my photos on social media. I didn’t want my photos to get stolen, so I decided to figure out how to create a free watermark. Picmonkey is my go to website for any type of free photo editing or graphic design.

Picmonkey is my go to website for any type of free photo editing or graphic design. Click To Tweet

Step 1:

First, you will want to open PicMonkey and hover over “design” and then click on “square”.

How to create a watermark using PicMonkey

Step 2:

Once you click the square it will look like this. Click on “Resize” and then make it whatever size you would like. Make sure that the “Keep Proportions” button is checked.

How to create a free and easy watermark using picmonkey

Step 3:

Next, if you’d like a photo or color swatch underneath your text you’ll want to add an overlay. Click on the little butterfly icon and then “My Computer” if you already have an image that you want to use. You can also choose from picmonkey’s library of free or premium overlays.

If you don’t want to use an overlay then you can skip to Step 4.

How to create a free and easy watermark using picmonkey

How to create a free and easy watermark using picmonkey
This is the overlay that I chose and what it looked like once I added it.

Step 4:

Next, you’ll add your text. Click on the “text” icon on the left hand side. Then, choose the font that you want to use. You can either choose from fonts that you have loaded on your computer or from picmonkey’s great selection. After you choose your font, click the “Add text” button and type the name for your watermark. You can use as many text boxes as needed. I used 3 for this project; 1 for “my”, 1 for “Messy” and 1 for “little nest” so that I could manipulate them how I needed.

How to create a free and easy watermark using picmonkey

Step 5:

Once your text is created, go to the “Edits” screen on the top left hand side of the screen. Click on “canvas color” and then the box that says “Transparent canvas,” then the “Apply” button. You’ll know that you’ve done it correctly when the background turns grey and white checkered.

How to create a free and easy watermark using picmonkey

Step 6:

You’re almost done! The last thing that we want to do is save our work. Click the “save” button at the top of the screen. Name your project and then make sure that it’s saved in .png format. I’ve learned from trial and error that if you save it in .jpg it will not have the transparent background.

How to create a free and easy watermark using picmonkey


I would love to see your beautiful photos on Instagram with #mymessylittlenest. Click To Tweet

That’s it, you’re done! I hope that you feel confident now in creating your own free and easy watermark for your photographs. I would love to see your creations on my Facebook page!


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