This Cheat Sheet Is a Quick and Simple Guide to Manual Photography

This cheat sheet is one of the most straightforward guides you can use when learning manual photography.

Taking full control of the camera’s controls can be daunting for any beginner. Thankfully, the Internet is full of tutorials and guides to help make the learning experience easier. We’ve shared a detailed version not so long ago, but we think this quick and simple guide is another cheat sheet to complement that. Take a look and see if it works for you!

Another day, another manual photography cheat sheet. Understanding that it’s always great for us to have more options when it comes to learning materials like cheat sheets, we thought we’d share this one. It’s a more simple and straightforward visual reference that we spotted on the r/coolguides. Let’s jump right to it below.

As you can see, it’s stripped down to the simplest visual explanation of how each component of the exposure triangle works. The aperture section shows how your photo would look from the smallest aperture (f32 in this example, but your lens could show f22 or f16) to the largest, with the subject in the foreground in focus, and the depth of field getting shallower the larger you set the aperture. The mountain in the background gets sharper the smaller you set your aperture. The shutter speed part assumes you want to freeze movement or minimize blur, and is therefore handy if you’re wondering what shutter speed to use with moving subjects. The ISO section shows how your photos would become more grainy (or noisier) as you increase ISO for more sensitivity to light.

Since this doesn’t explain how all of the values work to create a balanced, well-exposed photo, this cheat sheet is for someone who already has a good understanding of how the exposure triangle and the Sunny 16 Rule work. Still, it’s useful if you want a quick reference on how each setting works, or remind you how to achieve specific results like blurred background, frozen movement, or minimized grain. Print it out, keep it close to you, and experiment with it when you shoot!