About Stop Shooting Auto

Stop Shooting Auto! is an online class for beginning photographers, especially those who want to learn how to control their own exposure.

I started this blog after I discovered that several of my coworkers had expensive dSLRs, and they always kept them set to fully automatic mode. They would ask me how I took specific pictures, and when I explained their eyes would glaze over and they’d say something like, “I want to learn about apertures and f-stops and stuff.”

I taught a class in the office one evening to explain the fundamentals of exposure, and how different settings affected the resulting photos. The class was about 45 minutes of me blathering like an idiot, followed by about an hour of guided exercises so that people could try things out for themselves. It was a rousing success.

This blog is a direct result of that class. My original intention was to jot down a summary of the class so that people could come back to it, but I quickly realized that it could be a good tutorial for other beginning photographers. My goal is to explain the basics of exposure in terms that the average great dane could understand, complete with lots of examples and exercises that you can do at home.

The best way to read this blog is in oldest-to-newest order. I have therefore provided a list of the major lessons in order on the right side of the page.

All of the images used in this blog are available in a photo set on Flickr. Please feel free to look at the details, download the full-size images, or use them for any other noncommercial purpose.

8 responses to “About Stop Shooting Auto

  1. good stuff, I do a lot of trial and error, maybe by reading more, I can cut down on trials and errors:)

  2. stopshootingauto

    I’m a huge fan of trial and error! It’s how I’ve learned much of what I know. The trick is to approach it methodically– don’t just shoot, but rather set up experiments and look at the results. Look at a shot, see what you liked about it and what you’d want to change, and then try to improve on the last round.

  3. I lost my canon 5d owner’s manual and I’m trying to set my bracketing in AV. I do the settings and I can shoot one bracketed photo of 3 and then when I push the shoot button again it flashes an icon in the view panel. How do I set the camera so that I can take multiple bracketed photos of different scenes?

  4. malexandra1957

    Can I ask you a few questions. I have a Nikon D40. On the camera, there is a dial I use that either controls my Fstop, or, if Press on the exposure +/- button, will adjust by exposure.

    Here’s my questions: Do I also use this dial to change my shutter speed? I’m so confused with shutter speed.

    I get the ISO, I think. I know that the less light I have, I should up my ISO higher. My focal length is the length of my lens, correct? And , I’m able to adjust the focus by moving the lens body.

    But it’s this darn “changing the shutter speed” especially in A mode. I’m usually in Aperture mode.

    Thank you!

  5. malexandra1957

    Help! (And I hope I’m not posting this twice)

    I’m so confused on how to adjust for shutter speed. I have a dial on my Nikon D40 that allows me to 1) change my f stop and 2) when I push my exposure +/- button, it changes my exposure.

    Exactly how am I changing my shutter speed? When I use this knob, I notice that my speed changes. Is this it? This, to me, is the most challenging aspect of taking pictures.

    I get ISO, usually. I am usually always in Aperture mode.

    Focal length…this is the size of my lens and I can adjust for focus by twisting my lens. Correct?

    I so want the “light bulb” to go off in my brain, but shutter speed…oh, I’m so challenged. I just don’t want to get “lucky” with my shots without understanding why shutter speed is so important.

    Thanks much,


    • stopshootingauto

      I’m not familiar with the Nikon’s controls, so I had to go find the online users manual. It’s here: http://www.nikonusa.com/pdf/manuals/kie88335f7869dfuejdl=-cww2/D40_en.pdf

      If you look at Page 43 of the manual, it says:

      “Rotate the command dial to choose a shutter speed (see the illustration at left, below). To set the aperture (below, right) rotate the command dial while pressing the (UNTYPEABLE SYMBOL) buton (to display shutter speed and aperture in the monitor, press the (UNTYPEABLE SYMBOL) button).

      Probably your best bet is to pull up the manual and look for yourself.

      Focal length is the size of your lens, basically. If you have a zoom lens, then you can adjust the focal length by twisting the lens.

      If you want to understand why shutter speed is important, find a moving well-lit object and try to photograph it. Use shutter priority mode, and then try catching shots at low shutter speeds (1/30, maybe) and at fast shutter speeds (over about 1/200).

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