What Settings to Use for…

Perhaps the most asked question from beginners all over the photography forums and the internet today- what settings should I use to shoot X?

There are only 2 proper answers that can cover the typical factors involved such as lighting, subject motion, additional lighting, time frame to take the shot, and mounting of the camera:

  • Shoot using Auto mode, it knows how to adjust everything for you.
  • Learn how aperture works as a whole and take quick test shots, since you can instantly view the fruit of your work on your camera’s LCD screen, and adjust further as needed.

First off, we are no longer in the film age where it was impossible to view your work instantly and it is silly not to abuse the new edge we have. We don’t even need light meters or extensive understanding of golden aperture settings to suit any kind of situation; however, a concrete basic understanding is always a must because manually exposed shots will how out exactly how you wanted them to as opposed to whatever the camera will decide on its own.

Coming back to the beginning, any given shot has way too many factors involved for the person typically asking about how to take it to even fully comprehend, and to boot, there are always several different ways to achieve the same exact result (with an ever so slight, often negligible difference) that makes answering such questions more difficult and not as accurate as quick trial and error right on the scene.

Here are 2 shots taken with big enough of a difference in settings to achieve extremely similar results:



These 2 can also represent slightly different styles of photography and the right one, even for this shot, depends heavily on what the photographer wants. No one else can really predict nor decide that, but neither will you be able to achieve such looks using camera’s Auto settings since only Manual allows you to keep everything the way you want.

So I encourage everyone to learn via experiments on the scene rather than trying to prepare for it beforehand through someone else’s advise. I have encountered numerous shoots where there were 2 or even 3 sets of settings that made for successful shots depending on what exact look I was going for, so hearing advise regarding it would not have really helped.


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