‘M’ is for Manual Photography Week 1 – Your Camera

Camera-overview1 copy

Camera Overview

Welcome to Week 1 of ‘M’ is for Manual!

I hope you stick with me for this 4 week foray into the wonderful world of Manual photography! This is like getting out of camera jail..

On automatic settings we are limited in many ways, the camera chooses the point of focus, the exposure, the F-stop, the depth of field and whether or not we need to use flash.

In manual photography you get to decide what look you want and the creative choice is yours.

So I am going to start this post with the basic functions on digital SLR cameras. Unfortunately we can’t skip over this or we will never be masters or mistresses or our camera.

Digital SLR Cameras are highly sophisticated and have a million options, buttons, menus that I never use such as aperture priority or shutter speed priority.

Each camera’s functions and where you will find them on your camera may be slightly different. I am going to give you the example on my camera and this maybe the only time you need to check your manual if you can’t find them. Sorry gang.

Most Canon cameras will have the buttons in a similar place to mine even if they are different models, Nikon will have their own set of button placements as will other makes of cameras.

Camera Overview  – See the above image for location of the following.

Note: Wherever there is a button or selector on your camera it is like having a shortcut on your keyboard. It takes you straight to that function and on most good digital SLR cameras the important buttons are stand-alones as opposed to dialing through menus.

1. Lens – Most Digital SLR cameras have removable lenses and you will find a button to the left or the right of the lens on the camera body that you need to hold down whilst you twist the lens to the left or right (depending on your camera)

2. Mode Settings – This dial allows you to switch through different settings – Select M for manual

3. Shutter Release – thats the little baby that captures the photos we love when we hit it.

4. Wheel to change ISO, shutter speed, white balance

5. ISO selector – This allows us to select a different ISO (which will be explained next week) by holding it down and moving wheel left or right.

6. Mini LCD display shows your current F-Stop, shutter Speed, ISO and how many images remain if you continue to shoot the same style of photo

7. Focal length indicator – This will be discussed thoroughly in the coming weeks but it shows you on a zoom lens which focal length you are currently using.

8. Focus Ring – Allows you to choose the point of focus in your composition

9. Zoom Ring- On a zoom lens this allows you to change focal length (which means either zoom in or zoom out)

Back of camera

Overview back of camera

Overview Back of the Camera

On the back of the camera you have other options but I am going to go through the important ones.

1. Viewfinder (See above – whoops forgot to write it’s name.. big bit of glass to look through at the top)

2. On and off switch. On my camera if I switch it to On there are certain functions I can’t access. So I use it pushed all the way to the top to the third option – the bent line.

3. Menu Function – Hitting this is like entering Aladdin’s cave. Loads of options and menus from picture style, to selection of Raw or jpeg files and in my camera’s case using video.

4. Zoom in and out.. These will allow us to see fine detail in an image when it is displayed on the back of the screen.

5. Wheel to file through images and select F-Stops.

6. Button in the centre of the wheel is like using the enter key on your keyboard. When using a menu and you need to say yes generally this button is the yes button!

Menu button

Menu Button

Menu Button

If you hit the buttons down the side of your camera you will notice menus or options pop up. On my camera when I hit menu I have the option to enter 9 other menus. To access them I use the wheel on the top of the camera and the selector moves left to right along the top icons of cameras, wrenches and stars.

Once I have the menu I want selected, I use the wheel on the back of the camera to file down or up and then hit the enter button (the round button in the middle of the wheel) to enter. To select further options I use the back wheel and then the enter button.

Your menu button and options may vary, it is important to find them, know them so when you are out on the field if you are stuck you know how to change a menu.

NOTE: I leave the instructions to my camera in my camera bag for emergencies.

Picture STyle

Picture Style

Picture Style

As I mentioned above, the buttons on the side are shortcuts. These same options can be accessed by the menu but so much easier to hit the buttons on the side of the LCD screen to go straight to them. If you select the Picture Style button you will go straight to the Picture Style menu where using the wheel on the back of the camera you can change your picture style. Picture Style refers to the contrast, saturation, monochrome that you want to work in. I select standard as I want to do all of that in the digital darkroom afterwards.

Info button

 Info Button

Info Button

The info is a quick grab at what colour space, white balance, colour temperature you are currently working on and how much space is available on your card. We will discuss colour space, white balance and colour temperature in the coming weeks.


Play Button

Play Button

By selecting the play button you will see the last image shot. If you want to look through previous images you have taken you can simple use the back wheel to go through them. You must have an image displayed for this to work.

You will notice on my camera there are also two values above the image, the shutter speed and the F-Stop the image were taken on.

Underneath the play button is the trash button. You must have an image displayed to trash it, so if you want to delete an image display it, select the trash symbol, use the wheel to say yes and press the enter button (located in the centre of the wheel).


 Inside your view finder – Image via BhPhoto

Left to Right – Battery Symbol, Flash Symbol, 400 (indicates shutter speed) 2.8 (indicates F-Stop) Slider indicates exposure ISO 400 (indicates ISO) and 42 (indicates number of images remaining)


Go somewhere quiet where you will not be disturbed and try the below exercise. If you look through your viewfinder whilst doing it you will see something similar to the above image. As you change your settings of ISO, Shutter speed, F-Stop you will see the values change including the exposure slider. Exposure will be discussed next week.

Set your camera to M for Manual

Try and set a Picture Style

Change Your ISO

Change your F-Stop

Change your shutter speed

Take your lens on and off (don’t do it in a dusty or windy place) and get to know your camera.

Have a look in your menu function and see what the options are.

Check out the image size and see if you want to reset to a larger size and higher quality

Select Play and then review all the images on your card

Using the focusing ring have a look through the viewfinder and move it around and see what happens. Choose and point and try and focus on it.

Zoom ring – move the zoom ring to the left them to the right whilst looking through the viewfinder and see what happens. You should the composition changing from wide angle to zoomed in.

I hope this has helped you familarize yourself with your camera. Remember it is vital depending on the make and model of your camera to check the manual for these basic options. You must have mastered these before we move onto Exposure, ISO, F-Stops and Shutter Speed next week.

All the very best!

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” Benjamin Franklin




PS: Please share

The Benefits of Being A Published Photographer

Get Published Carla Coulson The Benefits


Cover Image Carla Coulson for Qantas Magazine

Have you ever wondered what would happen to your profile or career if you had your images published in  prestigious magazines locally and Internationally?

I have the great fortune throughout the past twelve years to have had my images published over and over again in magazines and books but the thrill of seeing those pages and the ‘atomic reaction’ that comes soon after never ceases to astonish me.

What ‘reaction’ I can hear you saying?

Get Published Carla Coulson

Photo Carla Coulson for Qantas Magazine

Now I worked closely with the gorgeous folks at Qantas magazine for almost 9 years and I knew what readership power this magazine has so when I heard they were publishing an excerpt of my new book I was doing double star jumps.

Yep, 1,000,000 people read this magazine which is on every flight in the world for a month. Now if you have ever flown from Paris to Sydney, Sydney to China and run out of reading material you will be scouring those Qantas pages in minute detail, each story a little lifesaver that will get you painlessly to touchdown.

Carla Coulson Get Published The Benefits

Photos Carla Coulson for Qantas Magazine

There were hundreds of times when I had shot a story for Qantas, a hotel in Florence, a boutique in Milan, a market in Sicily and faithfully gone back with the magazine sometime later.

Nine times out ten I had been beaten to the cause by an enthusiastic traveller who had jumped off the plane, ripped out the pages of the magazine and so excited to go to one of the destinations that had been photographed, had presented themselves long at the said place before I could even get there with my copy!

Carla Coulson Get Published Qantas Magazine The Benefits

Photo Carla Coulson for Qantas Magazine

So I was skipping and hugging myself with happiness when the wonderful folks at Qantas said they were going to publish an excerpt of my latest book Naples A Way Of Love cause I knew what was going to happen. An avalanche of people calling, snapping the magazine and sending me a pic, friends husbands reporting in that they had seen me (the story and my name) on the flight home and lots of Google Juice to my website (keep it coming I am loving it!).

Carla Coulson Get Published Qantas The Benefits

Photos Carla Coulson for Qantas Magazine

So if you dream of being published photographer here are some of the benefits of having your photographs published in magazines:

Instant credibility as a ‘working’ photographer.

Marketing ‘a go go’! Having your name published in a magazine is like having a private publicity campaign done on your behalf for your work as a photographer and depending on the distribution of the magazine your name and photos reach a wide audience that we can only dream of.

You get an instant profile. I call it the ‘now I exist syndrome’. There are two Carla’s the one before she had anything published and the one after.

Having your photos and name published in a magazine is marketing not only to the public but to every art director in the industry and gives you more credibility in their eyes. It also makes it easier to approach other magazines with whom you want to work.

The published pages of the magazine with your work are known as ‘tear sheets’. These pages are gold and can translate into big advertising contracts or commercial work if that is the direction you want to go in.

Having a book published was made easier when I presented my portfolio of magazine work, the publisher immediately knew I had a profile and was a reliable professional photographer (why?.. because magazines were booking me and they wouldn’t be working with me if I didn’t deliver).

I hope you enjoyed this little insight into a couple of benefits of what can happen if you have your photos published.

My Favourite Gear

Canon EOS 5D Mark III 

Canon EF 24-70mm 

Canon EF 35mm 

Manfrotto Lightweight Tripod

“Even after I’d published three books and had been writing full-time for twenty years, my father continued to urge me to go to law school.” Susan Orlean




Please share if you know a photographer who would love to have their work published.

Creating A Young Opera Singer’s Portfolio


 Chloe Manford Copyright Carla Coulson

I loved every minute of this job, planning it, discussing it, dreaming about it, choosing the props for it and shooting it on the day!

Talk about a dream job!  To create images for the beautiful Chloe Manford and her fab sister Amy, both  young opera singers at WAAPA that evoke their favourite opera’s and they could use for their professional portfolios.


 Chloe Manford Copyright Carla Coulson

You may remember some pics of Amy with the super cute peacock? Can’t wait to show more from Amy’s shoot too.

Luckily the girl’s mum was along on the shoot and was fabulous with a hot glue gun and loads of fern, leaves and berry to create the decoration of our ladder in the spirit of a Midsummer’s Night Dream in the above pics.


 Chloe Manford Copyright Carla Coulson

A different mood and spirit for this pic.


 Chloe Manford Copyright Carla Coulson

I love creating variety when shooting and when she walked in this beautiful dress she looked so young, fresh and stunning I couldn’t resist shooting her in this simple way to show off her divine personality and beauty.


 Chloe Manford Copyright Carla Coulson

More gorgeous Chloe..


  Chloe Manford Copyright Carla Coulson

A little Brooke Shields..no?


 Chloe Manford Copyright Carla Coulson

Back to serious opera moments. When the wind swept through the windows she looked like she had stepped out of Flemish painting. I loved it..


Chloe Manford Copyright Carla Coulson

More fabulous Flemish painting action..


 Chloe Manford Copyright Carla Coulson

And we all had fun doing this pic.. we needed professional feather throwers from above and what an amazing job they did!!

Shooting Tips:

The above shots look simple but we planned the concepts almost 3 months in advance.

I searched for a beautiful location

Clothes were of great importance.

We storyboarded the ideas

Gathered the props, ladders, leaves and flowers, feathers, crowns,

A pro hairdresser worked on the hair and a fab make-up artist did the make-up

All photos were shot using natural light and oh I brought along my fan!

And the gorgeous girls brought their beauty and talent.. A HUGE THANK-YOU TO CHLOE AND AMY.

And their super mum worked tirelessly in the background… Thanks to you too Sallie..

I hope you enjoyed this shoot…It was tonnes of fun.

“An opera begins long before the curtain goes up and ends long after it has come down. It starts in my imagination, it becomes my life, and it stays part of my life long after I’ve left the opera house.” Marie Callas




Check out my Portrait Lightroom Presets here.