My go-to camera settings
Updated: Apr 2, 2020
Every photographer shoots in their own unique way, but these settings work for me most of the time, so I'm sharing them here.
Bright daylight settings
I typically shoot on Aperture Priority (Av) mode in bright daylight. In other words:
Shutter speed: Auto
Aperture: As required
I set my aperture to:
f5.6 if I'm shooting groups of people;
f8 if I'm shooting buildings or need everything to be in focus; and
as big as it can go if I'm shooting portraits and want bokeh.
Shooting in bright daylight ensures that the ISO stays low, and the camera can increase the shutter speed if it's too bright with the aperture wide open.
Aperture: f8 (manual) Shutter speed: 1/1000 sec (manual, to freeze action) ISO: 400 (auto)
Aperture: f2.8 (manual) Shutter speed: 1/160 sec. (auto) ISO: 250 (auto)
Blue hour settings and other dark-ish environments
There's a period right before the sun comes up and just after the sun goes down, in which it's twilight - it's not bright, but it hasn't quite got dark yet either. Instead, everything turns a beautiful shade of blue. This is called the blue hour.
It's a great time to take photos, but you need to manage your shutter speed a bit more carefully than in bright daylight. Recall that movement blur can come from you (such as shaky hands) as well as your subject (moving person). If it gets too dark and you leave shutter speed to the camera, it might set the shutter speed so slow that it picks up movement blur from you and your subject, causing very blurry photos.
Blue hour is one of those periods where you can still see pretty clearly so it's easy to get lulled into forgetting that it's actually getting dark and that you need to pay attention to shutter speed.
So any time that I feel it might be getting dark, I manually set my shutter speed.
Shutter speed: 1/125 sec. minimum
Aperture: Usually wide open
Aperture: f2 (manual)
Shutter speed: 1/200 sec. (manual)
ISO: 200 (auto)
I don't like shooting in poor light. Photography is all about light, and if I can't get good light, I can't get good photos, and if I can't get good photos, I tend to feel pretty "blah" about shooting. Poor light tends to be a big problem at night, where you have poor light conditions basically because there's very little light. So I usually avoid shooting at night.
But that said, there are a couple of ways around this issue.
Light it up: Use light modifiers like flashes, strobes, and diffusers to create nice light
Shoot the right stuff: You can use night time to shoot subjects that work uniquely well at night, such as neon lights, urban landscapes, stars, and the moon
When I shoot at night it's mostly urban landscapes because I'm in Singapore and we're just a small brightly-lit, futuristic-ish city. My settings are usually something like this:
ISO: Between 100 - 400 if it's still, like a landscape
Shutter speed: I use a tripod and go as slow as necessary
Aperture: Usually wide open, but sometimes I might go up to f5.6 for increased sharpness, and compensate with a slower shutter speed.
Aperture: f4 (manual)
Shutter speed: 4 sec (manual, with tripod)
ISO: 200 (manual)
As a general rule, I almost never go below 1/125 sec. shutter speed. The main exception to this is if I'm doing night shooting with a tripod. So if there's only one thing you take away from this post, it's that you should try and shoot with a minimum shutter speed of 1/125 sec. - this will eliminate motion blur most of the time through your most commonly-used focal lengths.
I hope this helps!
If you find these tips useful, please consider sharing your photos with the community by tagging #dharmaportraits on your Instagram photos - I'd love to see how you're using these tips to create beautiful photos.