Lesson Plan

Manual Mode Photography

In this lesson, students will learn how to control a DSLR camera in full manual mode, adjusting shutter speed, aperture, and ISO to create different desirable outcomes.
Jonathan M.
Loma Linda Academy
Loma Linda, United States
Show More

I can change ISO, aperture, and shutter speed settings to give me a fully exposed photo.

I can adjust each setting based on what effect I want in my shot.

I can explain how to adjust each setting to help my peers succeed.

Grades 7 – 8
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Engage

Pass out DSLR cameras to student groups. Be sure manual mode is not selected when given to students.


Show National Geographic video (above), and pass out DSLR cameras to student groups. Ask students “What makes a good photo?” (Give time to answer).

Ask students to identify several camera modes. Ask students “Which mode do you think National Geographic photographers most often use?” (Manual).

Student Instructions

During question time, students may be allowed to explore the cameras and different settings before detailed instructions are given. This gives students time to become familiar with the interface/controls.

2 Explore

Explain the different camera modes (aperture priority, shutter priority, program, auto, action, manual, etc.) Teach students how to switch between modes, and how to activate the built-in flash on modes other than auto.

3 Explain

After showing the video, give students time to ask questions. If none are asked, pose questions about the video to them.

After this, explain to students how to control the 3 settings: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Give time for partners to try as well. Teach students how to read the exposure meter (important!).

Give time for questions and independent practice with the cameras “hands-on.”

Student Instructions

Students will converse with each other and with the teacher.

4 Elaborate

Have students find the website on their computers. This website is a camera simulator, giving all students access to the controls at the same time, if there is not 1:1 student-camera ratio.
While capturing a photo that is a “good exposure,” have students use the controls to take 4 photos:

  1. make the background of the photo blurry
  2. have everything in focus
  3. blur the propeller
  4. freeze the propeller

Give students the app names for their phones to practice using manual mode outside of the classroom.

Ask students to raise their hands and answer how they controlled each of the 4 photos.


Suggested apps:

Camera FV-5 Lite (Android) – Free

Manual (iPhone) - $1.99

5 Evaluate

Explain that students will take the “Challenge” at the top right of the page. (Students are still in canonoutsideofauto.ca)

There are 6 assignments in the “Challenge,” and they are timed. Have students aim to complete the “Challenge” within a 5-minute time, and a score of 6 out of 6. Teacher will roam during the quiz, asking students how they are setting up a shot.

Students are encouraged to help those around them after successfully completing the “challenge.”