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What Camera Settings To Use

What Camera Settings To Use

What camera settings do you use? This is a question I am asked all the time. Like most things in life, there is no one master setting that will finally take care of every photographic problem in the world. You will most probably need to adjust your settings as the light and situations around you change. If you have been playing around with your DSLR for a while now I am sure you already know this. If you recently got your first camera or borrowed one to fit into your first photography class at school like I did, this article is written with you in mind.

This article is about the very basic technicalities when it comes to settings after all, life is simple and is best lived that way. I will talk about the different shooting modes that you can use in different scenarios i.e M,Tv, P, Av, and A. I will talk about how you can use this basic knowledge to capture some interesting shots. If you are like me when I first got into digital photography, look at all the dials, buttons, numerical figures, and letters on your camera and thinking, “hmm where the hell do I start?”

This is the point at which I come clean and mention that I shoot Canon. If you are a Nikon diehard, don't leave yet. I come in peace. For those who shoot Nikon and are wondering what Tv is, it is Canon’s equivalent of S (shutter priority) on the Nikon. Likewise, Av on Canon simply translates  to A on Nikon. Well, let’s get started.

Your camera has some semi automatic modes and a fully manual mode. I love to shoot in the semi automatic modes. Here is why. I love to shoot moments that I don’t think I will witness again. Always think of a great picture as one that combines these three things; Light, composition, moment. Imagine beautiful golden hour light right before the sun disappears, an appealing composition with you standing across the street from a bus stop. Only thing you see is this bare bench with a tiny shelter above it and just green foliage behind it. What you have is beautiful light, a great composition and nothing going on. The moment. Now let’s make up one for the sake of the article. A bus stops, a newly married couple going on a date come off the bus. They playfully hold each each other around the waist as they slowly walk. Now you have a moment, and guess what? It is not waiting for you to find the right settings. I will write another article on how to capture moments in another article to come.

 

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Av (Aperture Priority Mode)

This is what I have my camera on almost all the time. Maybe 95% of the entire camera is on.. and off of course. In this mode, you get to set your desired aperture

In this mode, you set what aperture you would like to use and the camera sets the shutter speed based on what your aperture. I love this when I shoot outdoor and have enough light to work with. I set the aperture based on how much depth of field/sharpness I need in my shot. If my subject is a person in the foreground but I need to show context of their environment, it means I need the background to be as sharp as it can get. I will choose aperture f11 or higher. 

Shot at 1/60, Aperture f16

Shot at 1/60, Aperture f16

If I need to just draw interest to my foreground subject and don’t necessarily need distraction of the background, I will go for aperture f2.8. This way I get time to think about the main subject and the frame I am creating. If your subject is moving and you feel like the camera is setting a very slow shutter speed, you can use your exposure compensation to bring down your exposure. This is you telling the camera to basically forget what it thinks is the right shutter speed and set a faster one because you need it.

Shot at 1/60, Aperture f4

Shot at 1/60, Aperture f4

 

Tv

This is where you set your shutter to a speed you desire and the camera will, based off of that set an aperture. Let’s say you have little kids and they are on the football/soccer team, you have brought the camera with you every time but just can’t get a sharp picture. They are all blurry because the kids seem to be moving faster than the camera can capture. You can set a high shutter speed that will freeze the motion every time and let the camera worry about the aperture for now.

Just like the Av mode, we can still override the aperture the camera comes up with through the exposure compensation.

In this shot, it was easy to freeze the motion in Tv mode because I already had shutter speed 1/500 pre-selected.

Shot at 1/500, aperture f5

Shot at 1/500, aperture f5

I love to exaggerate motion with the panning technique. I will write a full article on this technique soon.

Another way I use this mode is if I have two subjects in a scene and I want to depict motion by having one of the subjects still and the other moving. I would set a shutter speed slow enough to give me movement from the moving subject but just fast enough to that I can still hand hold the camera. For instance in this picture I took in Turkey, I have the first man sitting still but I thought it would make the picture stronger and tell a story if I included motion. To tell the viewer that while he sat and dozed, tired on his job, he was in a busy place with people walking past him.

Shot at 1/8, aperture f11

Shot at 1/8, aperture f11

 

(P) Program  

If you feel like all this Av, Tv stuff is too much to think about for now, this might be the one for you. Just set your camera on ‘P’ and snap away, baby! I rarely use this mode but here is a few things I know about it. All your exposure settings are automatic i.e Shutter speed and Aperture. You however retain control over your ISO sensitivity and white balance.

 

M (Manual)

In this mode, you get to set your desired shutter speed, aperture and ISO, white balance and you pop the flash whenever you wish if your camera has one. You are in charge of any settings. You can for instance, set a long shutter speed of say 20 seconds to capture lights of passing traffic or a milky water effect at the lake. You get to tell the camera what you want. We’ll leave it at that.

 

A (Auto)

This is simply having your camera in autopilot.

Everything will be set by the camera. If your camera has a pop-up flash, it will fire when the camera feels it should fire. If everything fails my friend, just find the big ‘A’

What I’m saying is there’s nothing wrong with using any auto mode while you get comfortable with the manual stuff. Whatever helps you think about the subject, the scene you’re trying to set in the picture and the story you are trying to tell, that is what you should go for. Whatever helps you tell a good story with staggering aesthetic richness is exactly what you ought to build onto.

 

Next we can talk about composition. I hope you’re as excited as I am about that one.

 

 

Merci, Tesekurr, Thanks.

 

 

Composition

Composition

Moments From Turkey

Moments From Turkey

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