You bought a beautiful DSLR or mirrorless camera but you are still using the automatic mode for all of your photos? I can imagine that you are overwhelmed and impressed by the features of your camera, but learning the manual settings on your camera can help you truly master the camera and its many settings – and it’s a must if you want to shoot like the pros! This cheat sheet with my own favorite preferences will help teach you how to use these powerful manual settings!
Go manual – Go Pro!
It is very easy to take pictures on automatic, but make yourself a pro and go manual! See what the different technical options can do with your picture. Likely you want pics with a blurry background. The only way to achieve this, is to play with the depth of field. Go for a wide lens opening, this means a low number of the aperture (for example f/1.4, f/1.8, f/2.0, f/2.8). Make sure to put the point of focus on your model or object and, hello blurry background! Good to know: small aperture = less in focus, and a larger aperture = more in focus. Now let’s talk about ISO. Keep the ISO number as low as possible (100 or 200) if you want to avoid noise, although today’s cameras can handle a higher ISO value pretty good. The shutter speed must be at least 1/125 for moving objects, otherwise you will notice a disturbing movement in your picture. (Or use a tripod.)
Shoot in RAW
Before we start make sure to shoot in RAW and not in JPEG. A RAW file contains every bit of image detail straight from the camera’s sensor with no processing. This allows us to develop the photo ourselves from scratch. We gain the complete creative freedom over the process in Photoshop. A great thing about RAW is also that we can restore detail in the highlights and shadows. That’s how we like it!
My settings: In the studio with flash light
The shutter speed in the studio is set at 1/125 for my camera, this is called sync speed. Sync speed is the fastest shutter speed you can use with your flash light. You cannot use a faster shutter speed than the sync speed with flash, if you try this, a part of the image will become black. So in the studio I’m always working at 1/125. In the studio I like everything sharp, so I set my aperture at f/7.1 or higher to create a deep depth of field. In the studio the ISO is always at 100 to avoid noise. If I need more light I will simply increase the power of my flash instead of using a higher ISO. The white balance is always set at custom, because I want to take control of all my settings (control freak!). The most of the time it’s around 5500 K. The metering is set to matrix, this setting reads light from the whole scene.
My Settings: On location with daylight
The shutter speed on location when working with daylight depends on the available light, but it’s at least at 1/250 to make sure there is no unwanted movement or blur in the photo. When shooting at less than 1/125 you will notice the movement of your shaking hands in the results. During outdoor shoots I prefer to work with my prime lenses that perform really good with a wide aperture like f/1.4 or a little higher. This setting will create the famous sharp-object-with-blurred-background. The focus of the viewers eye will go to your model instead of the busy and colorful street in the background. Also the ISO depends on the available light, but I prefer to keep it as low as possible to avoid noise. The white balance is always set at custom around 5500 K, because I prefer to take control of all my settings. The metering is set to matrix, this setting reads light from the whole scene.
Now get your camera and play! Maybe in the beginning it can be a little difficult, but trust me, there is no better way to learn about your camera by shooting as much as you can, enjoy!