How to Manually Adjust Brightness Settings on a Camera

So the question is, “Why take photos in manual mode when cameras have an automatic mode that changes your settings for you?”. Well, the answer is total control. When working in manual mode, you are able to change any setting. In this blog post, we will talk about how to manually adjust brightness settings on a camera. Learning to manually adjust the settings in your camera can allow for creative shots with motion blur, silhouettes, bokeh, and more. The most important manual settings are:

  1. White Balance (WB)
  2. Aperture (f-stop/ratio)
  3. Shutter Speed
  4. ISO

1. White Balance

White balance (WB) is the process of removing unrealistic color casts, so that objects which appear white in person are rendered white in your photo. It helps to adjust the color temperature of the photo. Color temperature refers to the warmth (orange) and coolness (blue) of the white light in a photo. Digital cameras have great difficulty with auto white balance (AWB), but our eyes are good and understanding what objects appear white under different light sources. The table below is a general rule-of-thumb guide  correlating color temperature to some common light sources:

Color Temperature Light Source
1000-2000 K  Candlelight
2500-3500 K  Tungsten Bulb 
3000-4000 K  Sunrise/Sunset (clear sky)
4000-5000 K  Fluorescent Lamps
5000-5500 K  Electronic Flash
5000-6500 K  Daylight with Clear Sky
6500-8000 K  Moderately Overcast Sky
9000-10000 K  Shade or Heavily Overcast Sky

However, most digital cameras come with the presets below that allow for quick adjustments to changing lights: 

  Auto White Balance









2. Aperture

The aperture, also know as f-stop/ratio, is the hole at the center of your camera’s shutter or iris. If the f-ratio is a low number, then more light will reach your sensor. This will also make the focal point more shallow and create a blurred background. If the f-ratio is a higher number, then less light will reach your sensor. Your focal point will also have more depth so your background will have less blur.

Aperture Diagram

3. Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is the amount of time your camera’s shutter is open allowing light to hit your camera’s light sensor. The higher the shutter speed, the less light is let in, and less motion blur is captured. The lower the shutter speed, the more light is let in, and more motion blur is captured.

Shutter Speed Diagram

4. ISO

ISO is the numerical value on your camera that controls light sensitivity. The higher your ISO, the more sensitive your camera will be to light. This means that your photo will be lighter, but it can also make it have more noise. This should be the last setting to change when adjusting your lighting settings because if you use ISO as the sole setting to increase the brightness of a photo, the image will become noisy. It is best practice to use ISO as the fine tuner of your light settings on your camera.

ISO Diagram

Hopefully, this blog post helped you learned how to manually adjust brightness settings on a camera! Here at Camera Drop, we specialize in camera gear that helps you to take the perfect photo/video! Visit our store to see what we have to offer!