To make a proper exposure, you need a good understanding of the three main camera settings. I’ll quickly run through them and review each setting and it’s general purpose. Plus we will talk about the pitfalls of using certain setting combinations. There are many different setting combinations… but for specifically taking landscape, all you really need to change is the shutter speed 😉 You’ll see why…

Film Speed (sensitivity to light).
Setting Range = (ISO 100/200/400/800…)

Pitfall = Higher ISO (higher sensitivity like 800 and up) introduces noise into your photo and reduces image quality. As photographers, we usually want max quality for all our images, so only look to use a low iso like 100/200.

Shutter speed
Camera’s speed in which it captures light.
Setting Range = (1 sec, 1/2 sec, 1/30 sec, 1/60 sec…)

Pitfalls = Generally you want everything in sharp focus, if there is wind, you are going to need a fast shutter speed like 1/30 of a sec. Other things like moving water, birds etc. try to opt for faster shutter speeds.

*Sometimes having blurred grass or even clouds can add a nice effect, so don’t be afraid to experiment, just be aware your whole image doesn’t turn out blurry in the areas that you want max sharpness.

2nd Pitfall is camera shake. If you’re using shutter speeds slower than 1/30 and your not using a tripod, say good bye to clean details. Treat your camera as a sniper, any form of shaking will make you miss your clean shot, get a pair of legs and a good trigger for the shutter.

*Use a tripod! and avoid this pitfall. A tripod that is made to hold the weight of your camera. For Focus Stacking and HDR(High Dynamic Range) blending, a tripod is required, and it is not an option! Some of my favorite images I’ve made, have been with a pair of legs.

3rd Pitfall is noise (a grainy like texture that is usually unwanted in most cases. I’ll go into grain later, some cool techniques of adding noise to an image to increase detail.) Noise is introduced into the image by a long shutter speed, long story short, pixels are heating up on your sensor because it’s being used for an extended time, and in return you get hot pixels… Keep shutter speeds fast, the time it takes for it to overheat is based on the camera sensor.

Aperture – Controls depth of field in an image (DOF = how much will be in sharp focus from front to back) – Setting Range = (F/4, F/8 , F16…)

Pitfalls = Diffraction(how sharp the details can be using a certain aperture, do some research on this.) For most camera lenses, the sharpest aperture will be F8, it will give you the sharpest details and decent depth of field.

2nd Pitfall is shallow DOF distance. In order to get everything in focus you will have to use a higher aperture, also know as a larger F# (there are some camera techniques you can use to get around this pitfall , focus stacking is my 1st choice, usually. We will talk about focus stacking later…) If you tried to shoot a scene using an aperture setting that is away from F8, you are sacrificing image quality. This is some what counter intuitive, more on that later though.

So each of these settings are used to control how much light is coming into the camera and hitting the sensor. With ISO’s -generally you want the best image quality so what I do is leave my camera’s ISO setting to 200 to get a clean image free of noise but still having a good sensitivity for light to enter the camera.

Next, I leave my aperture at F8 to make sure I get the best sharpness out of my lens, I get pretty good depth of field with F8 with my 24mm lens so I try to stay close to that setting at all times. For scenes that require a larger depth of field, I’ll shoot additional images focused on the other parts of the scene to get all the sharp details, than blend all those shots together (I’ll show you guys how I go about doing that, some what an advanced technique, will most likely make a video for it.)

Lastly is the Shutter Speed, This is the only setting I adjust for letting light into the sensor. The only time I will consider adjusting other settings is when I have to make a sacrifice to get sharp foliage, in case the wind is blowing. It can be difficult when your camera needs a slow shutter speed to let the proper amount of light, into your light buckets.

Based on what we talked about with light buckets, each camera setting increment is usually increased/decreased by 1 stop, although some cameras offer the ability to get half a stop or even a third. I’ll stop there before I sound like everyone else though… I don’t care about stops and shutter speeds and Fstops, The only real setting I care about is shutter speed.

The only time you should care about other settings is when you have to drop a setting by 1 stop to let in more light… to than push back 1 stop with the setting you need.

Proper exposure for imaginary scene = ISO 200/ Aperture = F8 / Shutter Speed = 1/30th of a sec

*1sec shutter speed is blurring windy grass*
*raise ISO to 400(1stop increase) to increase film sensitivity to light*
*now speed up shutter speed to 1/15th of a second (1stop decrease) to reduce light from entering camera*

New exposure combination = ISO 400/ Aperture = F8 / Shutter Speed = 1/15th of a sec

*no more windy grass* victory!

This is the part of photography that everyone chokes up on, I choked up on it the first time I learned it, it takes a little bit of time, but once you get it… you will see how simple the system really is. Here is a small chart explaining the full stop steps… you gotta let light in, than let less light in with another setting. Your changing settings but maintaining the same amount of light that is entering your buckets 😉

Shutterspeed_full stops

If you can get past the pitfalls of each setting, naturally your images will look great! but there is more to be done…the post-processing! We didn’t get to talk about any of that yet, I was hoping to not explain these camera basics, but I want everyone on the same page before we blast off to the advanced stuff.

See you in the next one.


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