Photography Tuesday #2 // Camera Settings

Hey gyus! And welcome to the second photography class. This time I will talk a bit about the way I work with lenses and setting the camera body. Most of my friends, who are not photographers but only use cameras to take pictures on holiday or something like that, shoot on automatic. On the camera it is denoted as "A". When you take pictures with this setting, it means that the camera does everything for you. It calculates the light and makes a setting that will fit the scene you are in. However sometimes it is not good enough to use this setting, so I urge people to try and shoot manual. It is hard in the beginning, but after a little bit of time you will get a grip of it and then your pictures will be soooo much better!

I will run you through some of the basic settings on the camera, so that you understand what number means what and how to change them. Again, all the things I am writing I learned myself, so excuse the simple terms haha.

1) Focus

The focus is essential to getting the image that you want. On the lens you can choose between MA/M. MA- automatic, M-matual. I use MA- because the camera will focus by itself. I only very rarely use manual. 99% of the time it is automatic.

Once you have this setting, then the next thing I set is the focus points. On my camera I can do it so that I choose one dot, which will be in focus. For example when I am taking pictures of outfits, I want the "dot" to be on the person's face so that it is sharp. Also the point, which is in focus is the starting point from which the aperture effects the "blurriness". Find and example below- I either focus on the plant, which is in the air or on the object on the table and it gives completely different results.

2) ISO

This measures the sensitivity of the image sensor. It is very technical, but the whole idea is that different ISO setting are used in different light conditions. So when I am taking pictures outside in the sun I have the ISO pretty low- between 200-600, but when I am taking pictures at a bar or restaurant, where there is only little light I put the ISO to 3200.

On a camera the ISO will range a lot, the one I have now is from 100- 25,000. HOWEVER- and this is important. If you blow up the ISO too much, the pictures will get very grainy. So the highest I would go is about 4,000- above that the pictures is not nice anymore. Full frame cameras, can handle higher ISO, but I don't have that camera as of now, so I don't know how it would look.

Just remember- when it is really sunny outside, take the ISO down, and if you are inside and it is dark- put the ISO high. And you can test on your own camera, what ISO is too high ( meaning that the images get too grainy)

3) Shutter Speed

This is also called one of the three pillars of photography- the other two are ISO and aperture. It is very important to understand it in order to get good pictures. Again, for a beginner, the shutter speed will very much affect the amount of light the camera lets in. So if you have a really long shutter for example 20seconds, it means that the camera is taking the image in for 20s- i.e. when you want beams of light, or car lights making lines. But if you want a nice and sharp image, you need a short shutter speed. For me the longest I can hold in my hand is 1/60, if I go any lower than that the image is blurry. When I take pictures of people if the light allows it, I try to have the shutter speed as high as possible. I think the highest is 1/4,000.


- if the object is moving: over 1/1200 is best, for example when I am taking pictures of the cats I use that or higher

- if it is really dark and you don't have a stativ, don't go below 1/80 or 1/60

- if you want pictures of lights forming lines, the longer the shutter speed the better, but you need a stativ!

Below is an example of a picture of Toastie and Minii- the shutter speed was not high enough on the picture of Toastie, but was ok on the picture of Minii.

3) The aperture

For me the aperture is the most important thing to get right. If you are taking details you want it lower, because then it focuses only on a small part and the rest is blurry, but if you are taking photos of nature I try to get it as high as possible, so that everything is nice and sharp. The aperture is also the thing that controls how much light goes into the camera. This means that when you move with the aperture it will also affect how light the photo is. So if you are outside and want to take a detail picture with low aperture (something around 1,8-2,2) you need to change the other settings as well (ISO and shutter speed).

Below is an example of using an aperture of 2,5 to take a full body picture and 1,8 on details. You can see that the stairs behind Rose are pretty sharp in the first one, but on the second one only the hand is sharp.


Ok, so now I hope you understand what the different settings do. The next step is to learn how to combine them. As I said, it takes some practice, but it is not hard. Some time ago I was explaining this to my friend Ida and she was so excited because her pictures got so much better. So I am sure it will work for everyone. Below I will list a basic guide and next week I will share some pictures and the settings on them so you see it in practice.

Outisde/ direct sunlight

1) taking a picture of nature

- since there is a lot of light and you want as much in focus as possible this is what you do. I always start with the aperture and then set the rest from there. So, in this scenario I put the aperture as high as possible- something around f17-22, then you need the ISO higher as well, so that there is enough light. So I will put the ISO up to maybe 2000-2500. And if the picture is not light enough you play around with the shutter speed. The lower the shutter the lighter the picture.

- combination: high aperture, high ISO, adjust shutter speed

2) taking picture of a detail

- so in this scenario you want a low aperture around f1,8-2,5. This means that the camera is taking in a lot of light, so to compensate for that you take the ISO lower- around 300-800. And again adjust the shutter speed, but it will probably be very high 1/3000-1/4000

Inside/ Low Light

Low light means that you need all the setting set so that the most light is taken in. Low aperture, high ISO and low shutter speed. It is easier to take nice photos in low light when you have a stative, because the shutter speed can go very low. Just so you understand, if you are using low shutter speed the camera needs to be very steady so that the image is sharp.

Wow, I hope I am not confusing you guys now... I will continue next week! But now, take your camera and play around with the different settings and see what happens :) Below you can find a cheat-sheet, where I tried to visualize the different settings, so maybe it is a little easier to get the general overview :)