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Pick the Best Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO Settings

Learn to Pick the Best Shutter Speed, Aperture, and ISO Settings for Every Occasion

In this clip professional photographer, John Greengo will help you learn how to pick the right exposure values for any action shot. John has students think through aperture, shutter speed and ISO for an image of an eagle coming in for a landing in this example. The lesson is from the CreativeLive course, The Photography Starter Kit.

Choosing the Right Camera Settings – Video Transcript

pick the best shutter speed, aperture and ISO settings for your camera>> Speaker 1: Next section is exposure values, where we get to start to kind of play a little bit of a game as far as shutter speeds and apertures. So let’s set the camera up for doing different types of pictures. All right, let’s imagine we would like to freeze the motion of a subject, so we’ve got a bald eagle.

It’s coming into this water here, this is up in Alaska. And this was really cool because in this water, as soon as the eagles came in close, all the fish started just going nuts in the water, and this turbulence in the water. And to me, it just reminded me of like a Navy jet going over the water and causing turbulence down there.

So we wanna get a nice, crisp action shot here. And so I’m gonna ask for some participation, and if you are on the left side of your couch, I want you to pick up a microphone, cuz I’m going to have the two of you on the left side of the couch pick up your microphones right now.


Help me out in deciding what we’re going to do, and so pick up your microphones on the left side of the couch. Yeah, and so I’m gonna need some help from you. And first thing that we’re gonna do is we’re gonna figure out what we set on shutter speeds, apertures, and ISO, and kind of the mindset that we go through as we are adjusting these.

So first, kind of as a pre-requisite, I always like to have my ISO at 100. Cuz that’s the best image quality. Now, those of you with microphones, what do you think is the next setting that I should make on my camera? Suggestions?
>> Speaker 2: Shutter speed.
>> Speaker 1: Shutter speed.

Okay, pretty good. Actually, I would like specific numbers. If you have a specific number that you think, I think, maybe this. And it’s okay to be wrong. Just do your best guess.
>> Speaker 2: I’d probably go either 500 or 1,000.
>> Speaker 1: 500 or 1,000? Okay. What do we have over here?
>> Speaker 3: I’m gonna say 500, yeah.
>> Speaker 1: 500? Okay, you’re in the right ballpark. All right. Now, the more experience you have, the better you’ll be able to make these guesses on it. That bird’s moving really quick. And when that comes out of the water, that is just, that is quick as can be.

And so, I’m going to go a little bit faster, because I really wanna capture this action. 2000th of a second. Okay. So we got our ISO set, because we always like the best image quality. We want a nice fast shutter speed. And as far as our aperture goes, well, is the background really important in this photograph?
>> Speaker 3: No.
>> Speaker 2: No.
>> Speaker 1: Now, we really wanna stay concentrated on that bird. That bird’s important in the photograph. So what do you think we should do with the aperture?
>> Speaker 2: I would say lowest possible cuz the very front of that isn’t as important either. You’re trying to get the fish and stuff in the middle.
>> Speaker 1: Right, so you want shallow depth of field, is that right? And shallow depth of field would be what sort of numbers?
>> Speaker 2: Smaller numbers, I guess but.
>> Speaker 1: Smaller numbers, that’s correct.
>> Speaker 2: I mean, if we’re not looking at fractions, then.
>> Speaker 1: Right, so yes, so F4 is going to be very shallow depth of field in this case.

So, this is fantasy world. This is where I would like to be. All right. Now, let’s take a look at the light meter to see what the light meter says about what’s going on. Now, the light meter is telling me that I am two stops over, and sometimes they’ll blink, or they’ll have an arrow that indicates you’re more than two stops away from where you need to be.

So I need to let in more than two stops of light. What should I do? How can I do it? What are my solutions? Suggestions? Thoughts?
>> Speaker 2: Turn up your ISO.
>> Speaker 1: Turn up the ISO. Anything else?
>> Speaker 3: Adjust the aperture, I guess.
>> Speaker 1: If we adjust the aperture, is this going to let in more light or less light?
>> Speaker 3: I don’t, never mind.
>> Speaker 1: It’s going to let in less light. So we’ve maxed this one out.
>> Speaker 3: Right.
>> Speaker 1: It’s not an option. Now we can adjust the shutter speed, but that defeats the entire purpose of the photograph. So the only option is ISO. And so we adjust the ISO until the light meter evens out.

And we get the right exposure. Now how in the world do we do this in the moment that an eagle comes down and grabs the fish out of the water?
>> Speaker 1: We do it five minutes before it does it, and then we sit there and wait for it to do it, is how we do it.

In this particular area in Alaska, there’s a lot of fish in the water, and there’s a lot of eagles. And, actually, behind me in a tree, there were seven eagles that were taking turns, going down and getting lunch. And so this is something that you can predict, and you can dial this in ahead of time.

And this is something that once you get good at this, your brain will go through this process in about three seconds. But it’s nice to slow the process down, and take it one step at a time. And so when you go out and shoot pictures after this class, take it slow.

Don’t be in a rush. Think about things carefully. And as you do this more and more, you’ll get faster at it.

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