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Camera Settings Quick Overview

Lesson 12 from: Incredible Engagement Photography

Pye Jirsa

Camera Settings Quick Overview

Lesson 12 from: Incredible Engagement Photography

Pye Jirsa

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Lesson Info

12. Camera Settings Quick Overview

Summary (Generated from Transcript)

The lesson is about camera settings in engagement photography. The instructor discusses the importance of shooting in RAW format for better control in post-production and the use of manual mode for consistent exposures. The instructor also explains the concept of spot metering and how it can help with getting accurate lighting in the first shot. The use of histogram is also discussed to understand dynamic range and ensure proper exposure. The instructor also mentions the use of live view and highlight alert to assist with exposure adjustments.


  1. Why is shooting in RAW format recommended?

    Shooting in RAW format allows for more control in post-production and provides better flexibility in adjusting settings.

  2. Why is shooting in manual mode preferred?

    Shooting in manual mode ensures consistent exposures and allows for better understanding and adjustment of exposure settings.

  3. What is spot metering and when should it be used?

    Spot metering is when the camera measures the exposure based on a small spot in the frame. It should be used when shooting in manual mode to get accurate lighting in the first shot.

  4. How can the histogram be helpful in photography?

    The histogram shows the distribution of tones in an image, helping to understand the dynamic range and ensure proper exposure.

  5. What is the purpose of using live view and highlight alert?

    Live view with the histogram can help in visually adjusting settings without taking a shot. Highlight alert indicates if any areas in the image are overexposed, helping to avoid losing highlight detail.

Next Lesson: Location Scouting


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Posing Guidance for Him


Posing Guidance for Her


Foundational Posing


Posing Touch Points


Couples Body Language


Posing Three Point Check


Posing Tips with Demo


Lesson Info

Camera Settings Quick Overview

Camera settings. This segment is a lot of the how we shoot and so I'm going to try and explain why throughout the entire piece, but again if you're here, if you're at home, either way I want you guys asking questions. Why do we do something a certain way? What would you do in a certain situation? That kind of stuff, so we're going to start first with a little excerpt from photography where we talk about kind of like all of our general settings for shooting. Our typical cameras that we use in the studio are 5D Mark Threes, we use some Sony and some Nikon, but we're always shooting full raw on everything. And we have, I'm going to say not always, we have a rule on that. So basically if we're shooting anything with the intention to blow it up. So if it's a portrait, if it's a moment like with a couple or a family formal or whatever it is that we're shooting if we have the intention or possibility that we might blow it up it's shot full raw. Everything else like journalistic moments at we...

ddings and that kind of stuff we shoot generally medium raw. Just because we want to save a little bit of time. There are things that don't usually get blown up. Nobody goes an blows up you know a shot of their rings to like 120 inch thing on their wall. That generally just doesn't happen, okay. So we shoot full raw. The reason is we want as much possible control, I hate holding my camera, why am I holding my camera? I don't like holding my camera. We want as much possible leeway in post production as possible and that's why we're shooting raw as opposed to jpg. I know still some shooters that shoot jpg. It's totally fine if you're intending to not do too much with the files, that's fine. It's just we, our style is a little bit different. We shoot always manual mode. We do manual mode in camera, we do manual mode on our flashes. We always go manual because the main thing is that we need to understand what exposure we're going for and where to adjust from. So if your flashes are shooting on TTL and they're dialing up and down you're not only getting inconsistent exposures, if you do actually say I want to just dial up the power to something you really don't know. You just use your compensation, that's all you kind of know. You don't know how much power's actually coming out of that guy. Same thing on the camera, we want consistent images from start to finish. And what that does in post is it allows us to synchronize and develop our images with very simple clicks as opposed to having to go to each image and work on them independently. We're going to do the same thing. We're going to always dial in our white balance and white balance shift if we need to. We spot meter, we're going to talk about that in just a second. We use our histogram and we're going to teach you something we call a dynamic range push in the studio. It's basically where we maximize dynamic range across a single frame so we can have leeway to take an image anywhere we want to go based on the client's style. We always keep highlight alert on in camera. Our LCD, oh I spelled brightness wrong, no. I did a spell check, it didn't catch it. Curses, we'll just say that that's brightnes. Brightnes is a little bit different than brightness. So LCD brightness we leave it on manual and we leave it around, you can choose really whatever you want. The main thing is that you take it off automatic. The reason why is that by default your camera's going to come default set to automatic LDC brightness and when you walk inside, outside it's constantly shifting up and down the brightness of the screen. Now if you're using the screen as somewhat of a look at the exposure that's really difficult to do when the LCD brightness is constantly changing. So at least, it doesn't really matter what you set it to. I set it to five personally cause that's my number, five, but just take it off of automatic. We're also going to show you a live view cheat and if we get a moment we'll talk about custom mode. But we'll set custom modes to common ways that we shoot. So like if we're doing a bracketed sequence, HDR type stuff, if we're doing those kinds of things frequently we'll just pop it into a custom mode so that way we can just flip to it and use that. Let's talk about spot metering. Spot meter, there we go. Why, by the way this is my bunny rabbit. Whenever you see the bunny rabbit it means that we're magicians. I'm going to do that every time I say that, magicians. Okay, so-- Boom. Boom, you guys have completely wrong usage of the word boom, (class laughing) but it's totally fine. We're just going to roll with it. So why do we spot meter? Because we can essentially get our lighting, it helps with lighting. It doesn't matter if you're shooting natural light, it doesn't matter if you're shooting flash, it's going to get your lighting and you're going to be able to dial in whatever you want exactly on the first try. With flash you might need two tries. It's going to help us on the shooting side and also on the processing side. So spot metering is going to give us consistent images and I want to recommend that you only spot meter when you're shooting in manual. Meaning that if you're not shooting in manual, if you're shooting in aperture priority, if you're shooting in shutter priority, whatever you're shooting in don't use spot metering. Because what happens in spot metering, why I say you look like a magician is because you can dial in the right exposure on the first shot and we're going to talk about how we kind of take the first shot on any shoot. So let's talk about what spot metering is by first showing you what isn't spot metering. This is matrix metering, okay. So matrix or evaluative or whatever you want to call it, these are the camera's proprietary metering modes that they give you and they're really sophisticated, they're very advanced. A lot of them do this, they'll break up your, I just drew up an example of a, you know, what your camera looks like when you look through the viewfinder. It'll break it up into different quadrants, right? So sometimes it'll go four quadrants, sometimes it goes 16 quadrants, 32 quadrants, all right just it's complicated. And it'll evaluate every single one of those things independently, take into consideration your focus, all those kinds of things. It's going to do everything for you and try and figure out what exactly you want and all that and it makes me feel like this. I have no idea what it's doing. And that's Christina Blanderovic, she's amazingly beautiful. I wouldn't have showed this image otherwise. But that's how it makes me feel because I have no clue what the camera's doing to get me to that exposure, okay, and that's the problem with it. Sometimes it's right, sometimes it's wrong, but even if it works 90 percent I'm keeping, I'm dragging this thought out so I can keep this on the screen as long as possible. But even, I'll switch it, even if it works 90 percent of the time it's not 100 percent of the time. I don't want to teach you guys techniques that work 90 percent of anything. We want to go 100 percent of the time only. A next one that's very common is center weighted averaging and what that does is it takes into consideration the entire frame and it gives weight to this center area right here. So basically whatever's in the middle kind of has its center weighted averaging, so it's averaging out the exposure. Now with all these things, well actually let me show you spot metering. Spot metering is this guy. The only thing that you're reading your exposure off of is this tiny little dot right in the center of the camera. So in the previous ones where we're going back and we're going for this crazy evaluative thing. I really just wanted to show this image again. That's why I went back. And then we're going to this guy. Like we're using the entire frame to try and figure out our exposure. Here we're using, ah that was not a misclick. I mean that was a misclick, sorry my bad. Here we go, spot metering. We're using now a three percent dot in the frame to meter. Now on your camera you might be able to move that dot around. If you're on a Cannon it's stuck in the middle, on that middle AF point every time. But what is this meter telling us? Cause obviously a meter is just giving us information so we need to know what information that is. The meter is just telling us what the camera considers proper exposure. Right, so the camera considers 18 percent gray as proper exposure. The whole reason behind this is there's a bunch of photographers and scientists that came together and said let's figure out what the average brightness of a photograph is. And they averaged all the whites and the blacks together and they came out to 18 percent gray. So it's the standard that was set. So anything that is on average brighter than that registers as overexposed. Anything that's on average darker than 18 percent gray registers as underexposed. That's important to know because if you're shooting something that's black, like my shirt, it is going to register as underexposed, but it should register as underexposed. If you're shooting something that's white it will register as overexposed, but it should register as overexposed. If you're shooting in the snow, you're sensor's going to be freaking out because it's so much white all around you. But it should be doing that because it's all white around you. So that's the information that we take. Now we use the spot because now I don't have to guess what the area of the frame it's using. I don't have to guess how much is in the center. I don't have to guess anything. All I have to do is put that spot right over someone's skin tone, right over the sky if I want to get a certain exposure on the sky, maybe I want the sky to be underexposed. I'll bring my point focus up to the sky, I'll dial in the reading that I want for the sky and then I'll just add flash to it. Or I'll dial in my exposure if I'm doing natural light for this skin, like that piece underneath the cheek and then I'll shoot with it. So if I were to tell somebody in this audience, if I were to say how many of you are confident that without using your live view, without doing anything, without taking more than one shot, how many of you can expose perfectly in one shot? Most of us go ah two maybe, three. But with a spot meter, and I did not set this up prior to doing this, maybe I should have. That would have been safer. All right so if I just brought this over Steve's face right here and Steve I'm going to meter off the brighter part of your skin. I'm going to dial in an exposure for that and then all I got to do is pop one shot. (camera clicking) And we're going to get an exposure that's basically usable. So we can dial it all in and get that exposure right on the first try. And what we're going to do is when we actually go out onto an engagement shoot I do my whole foundation posing spiel. We put them into a VF and I say guys I'm going to take one shot and it's going to be the best shot that you have of each other so far. I wouldn't do that with those two because obviously they have a lot of photographs of each other where they're posing. I wouldn't do it with professional models. But you can do it with any other client. And we'll say, I'll go through my whole spiel. I'll pick up my camera and say I'm just going to get a quick reading off of your skin and I'll go back, make sure everything's good. Okay guys lean the heads together, okay do this, do that, okay perfect. One click so they heard the click. I walk over to them, it says one in the camera and I show them the photo. I go look guys that's our first photograph. Is that not a great photograph? And we followed all the rules of posing and everything's good and we didn't have to do anything. And now no it's this way, magician. (audience laughing) So that's what I'm saying it makes us look much more awesome than maybe we actually are, but in the client's mind wow he just taught me how to pose, he taught us how to look great and he took one photograph and it was already better than any photograph that we have of each other so far. And I go that was just our first photograph guys. What we're going to do now is I want you to take a look at this and I'll actually critique the photo in front of them. I'll say see this, I want to actually move this and adjust this and look at the fly aways right here. Let's make sure that we keep the fly aways, to tell them that I'm noticing other things too. Now let's go and get a whole bunch of amazing shots and then we start working. So some people asked how to you build that confidence. This is the tippy top of how we start a shoot on that level of confidence. We've done our foundation posing. We've taken one single photograph. We are a magician. I just feel awesome when I do that. It makes me feel powerful. So next thing we use the histogram as well. Why the histogram? The histogram helps us with lighting, it helps us with shooting, it helps us with processing and the main reason why is because of understanding our dynamic range. So dynamic range is this weird concept that sounds so, I love how as photographers we make these crazy words to like make things sound so much more awesome than they are. But all it means is when we say a dynamic range push or DRP we're saying, that's a studio word by the way. Don't go online and be like Pye nobody says dynamic, I know. I know nobody says that, that's my word, mine. We call it that because we're pushing the limit of the information we can capture, okay. So the histogram shows us how much information we can capture. The left side are our shadows, the right side are the highlights and this is that kind of weird funky view that we see when by default, okay, on your camera. Now you can switch that. Sometimes it defaults to this, which is brightness. Sometimes it defaults to this which is RGB. It's actually the same thing. The only difference is this is showing you the different colors along with it. So it's telling you your greens are over here, your magenta's over here, your blues are over here and that's it. But it's the same thing as this. This just shows you what it would be in black and white view, does that make sense? This is easier to look at so that's why we made the example this. But if you see this, this is the RGB histogram. What is this telling us? It's telling us that we have a little bit of tone in the shadows. We have a lot of tone, we'll use this one, a little bit of tone in the shadows, a lot in the midtone shadows, a little bit in the midtones, a little bit in the midtone highlights and a little spike right over here in the highlights. It's simply telling us the volume, or the amount of information in that area of the image. So from shadows to highlights. The higher it spikes the more the image is in that area. So you can imagine if you have a black shirt on you will have a spike here. Especially if you're shooting tight on a person and the crop is just skin and a black shirt you're going to have a spike right here. If it's a white shirt you're going to have a spike over here. So you can kind of guess what your histogram is going to look like basically from that. What we're trying to do is this. This is what we refer to as a dynamic range push where we have as much information as possible in the raw file. This is what it looks like when you overexpose, right? You have no shadows on this left side. You have a big spike over here on the right side. Anything that's pushed off the left or the right edges of your histogram is lost, that information is gone, it's not in your image, you can't recover it, so forth. Likewise on the underexposure side. Anything that's, if we're too underexposed this is what the histogram looks like. We're going to have a giant spike over here in the shadows. We have very little highlights over here and now our shadow detail, a lot of it might be gone so we can't recover it. Something in the middle, it might look underexposed in your camera. When you look at it from your camera it may look underexposed, but it's actually spot on. And the only way you would know that is by using your histogram because by looking at it in a camera, especially if you're outdoors and it's bright outside it's going to look dark. If we don't use the histogram in camera we will never be able to tell. So what that allows us to do. I'm going to go to a couple of different slides to kind of demonstrate this. So for this shot this is the dynamic push range raw. We can choose to recover information. So now we can basically process it to have more of the highlight tone, more of the shadow tone and get this beautiful image on the right. This is my, I remember I got to do that every time. I made that rule, I'm going to stick to it. But in camera would that not look a little bit underexposed? Would you not probably try and brighten that up? And then when you did would you not lose this? The stuff that we recovered over here. So the histogram tell us that we have it. Likewise maybe you're not going for like what we had, we classify this as a high dynamic range image. Maybe you're not trying to create that. Maybe what you want is something more light and airy. Same thing applies. We shoot it the exact same way so we have as much of this information as possible and when we process we simply process it to be light and airy. As long as you're not underexposing and clipping your shadows when you pull it up the detail, the quality, everything is still there. As long as it's a correct exposure you're good. So we can take it any which way. If we want to do a super wide environmental portrait. We can shoot it, it's going to look flat. It might even be a little bit underexposed. We can process it and get all of the color and the depth out of the image in the raw file. So that's the purpose of shooting with your histogram as opposed to anything else. Now you can cheat a little bit. Rather than just using the histogram what I like to do often times if I'm not trying to impress anybody is I'll just turn on my live view. I got to switch out my battery. Turn on my live view and then you can actually turn the histogram on right from the live view so you can see it right here, okay. So you can just hold it over what your composition would be, dial in your settings so that it's maximized and then just take a look at it and if it looks correct then you're golden, right? That's the easiest way to just dial it in just visually without having to take a single shot. The other thing that we'll use in conjunction and Jay would you mind while we have a moment just to swap out that battery on this. I'll give you a battery. One thing that we use in conjunction to that is the highlight alert in addition to this. And the reason why is because while the histogram will tell us where that range is the little tiptop edge where it touches the highlights you don't know how much of it is blown out. And the highlight alert will tell you that. If you had to err, have you guys heard exposing to the right, ETTR? Flip the word say err to the right. If you have to err on one side, err to the right. Okay, meaning that you're better off preserving all your shadow detail and getting a little bit of blown out highlights than you are preserving highlight detail and clipping your shadows. Because recovering highlights is actually fairly simple and if they are gone going into Photoshop and painting in highlights is fairly simple. If shadows are gone they're gone. You can't really paint in detail into the shadows. You can't really recover it without actually being a painter which would be difficult.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Pre-Shoot Videos
Keynote 1
Keynote 2
Presets Installation Guide
Gear Guide
Favorite Software
Lightroom Presets

Ratings and Reviews

CPR Photography

I think Pye Jirsa is one of the best, if not the best, instructor for photography on Creative Live. He is very personable, smart and approachable. He has a perfect blend of personality (comments, laughs, tangents..) to the amount of instruction. He asks the questions for you, because he knows you are thinking those questions right then. He's very good about identifying settings, gear, etc.. and not leaving us in the dark about how he "got the shot". He goes into great detail. His instructions flow, but are linear, which is helpful. He's very organized, and you can tell that he really put a lot of work into his presentations (slides, video, test shoots, live teaching, graphics, etc..) I have been listening to him for like 10 hours straight, and still haven't gotten tired of him. He keeps things moving, He's very funny too. Nice job, I've learned so much. :)

a Creativelive Student

This course was AMAZING. I'd say int he past year or two I've fallen into a slump. Uninspired by my surroundings and uninspired by my clients. As a result, it showed through my work. My posing suffered as well and more than a handful of times some of my shoots became more than awkward. Then I bought this course and watched most of it in the course of a day. I walked away inspired, blown away, and renewed. The next day I walked into an engagement session confident. I gave my couples a quick overview on posing and then we just had fun in front of the camera. Immediately afterwards they texted me about how amazing their shoot was and how relaxed I made them feel about posing. The photos turned out fantastic to say the least. I've since shot several more engagement sessions and each one of them has been amazing. If anything, this course should inspire photographers to think outside the box and provide you with the necessary skills to take incredible engagement photos. Thank you Pye and Creative Live! I cannot speak more highly of this course. I should also state I purchased Pye's Natural Light course on SLR Lounge: this course is a wonderful addition to that. If you already own the natural light course and are hesitant about purchasing this one, don't. Buy it and reap the benefits!


This is by far one of the best courses I have taken. Pye makes learning fun and easy to understand. I feel like I have learned so much throughout the course, that I have truly advanced my photography skills. I am so excited to get out there and try so many of the techniques that he showed. I would love to take another course of his. The pricing for the course doesn't even compare to how wonderful the education truly is, I really got more than my money's worth on this one.

Student Work