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Camera Settings

Lesson 3 from: The Summer Photography Workshop

Alex Strohl

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Lesson Info

3. Camera Settings

Lesson Info

Camera Settings

(shutter clicking) (gentle music) Camera settings. This is the episode about camera settings. It's a big, big topic. And it matters a lot when you're learning it. Once you have your camera settings dialed it almost doesn't matter anymore. You don't have to think about 'em. They're second nature. They're in the back of your head and you're just taking photos. And this camera you're interacting with, you're almost mindless with it, like you know what's going on. That's where you want to get in camera settings. (upbeat music) So easier said than done but what I always tell people when they ask me, you know, "What's your camera settings?" "How do you use your camera?" "How do you make sure your photos are properly exposed?" et cetera, and I always struggle what to answer, 'cause I'm like, "I don't think about it." This past year I've been slowing down and starting to think, you know, what am I doing with my camera that makes the photos be well exposed, and, you know, the maximum of their...

usability for me? To make something become second nature, you have to do it a ton of times. You know, it's not gonna happen overnight. So practice, practice, practice. That's like the big first thing. And you don't wanna hear this, but it's the truth. The 10,000 hour rule is there. At the end of the day, practice makes perfect. I've had time to reflect and I've deconstructed my process so I can share it with you. So, number one, the big thing is before even thinking about adjusting your camera and fiddling with it, you have to take a step back. Most people are comfortable here in, you know, in the studio. If you give 'em a camera, they're like, "Yeah, this how we adjust it and this is how it would be," and, you know, everything's good here. But then next thing you know, they go out, they go to take photos and the light moves fast, right? They're like, "Oh, I gotta adjust this." And most of the time people make mistakes on the field, right? It's easy to be at home and be like, "Yeah, I think I got it." And then when you go out, you mess it up. So having your stuff dialed for when you're in the field, it's super important. No matter how much you practice at home, you have to go into the field and practice it. So the first thing I would say is practice everywhere, not just at home. Second big thing is look at the light. When you get there, take a step back, takes a few seconds to, you know, to somebody who knows what they're doing, takes just a few seconds to be like, "All right, my sun's coming from there." "I'm taking a photo of there." "So my subject, my scene, is gonna be backlit." "The sun's behind, all right." Well, I mean, I don't like to shoot stuff that's backlit. I always like to shoot into the sun, which is a bit crazy, weird, but I get better results. So let's say you're shooting into the sun. So I'm gonna try to save my highlights when I'm shooting into the sun, which is most of the time. I'm gonna shoot under exposed. So I'm shooting outside, a landscape, and it's 7:00 PM, a few hours before sunset, which is tricky light, I think. You know, F4, 1...probably 1/800, at 125 ISO. That's, you know, top of mind, that's what the scene would be with a wide angle lens. When you get somewhere, just take a step back and look at the light. Is it, you know, a very dark scene? It's funny if you under expose a dark scene, I think, you can always save it. But also a big rule of thumb is you want to get your photo right in camera. No, don't just be like, "Oh, I can fix it in post later." You can, but it's not gonna be as good of quality. I'd rather crank up my ISOs to 10, than just shoot them at 6,400 and be like, "Oh yeah, I'll just fix it after in post." "And I'll run a (indistinct)." Just get it right on camera. Number three is, what are you going for? Are you going for a bright vibe, or bright image, or a dark vibe? Is it like raining outside and you want the whole thing to feel like you're seeing it and living it, like kind of almost sad and nostalgic? So think about what result you're after. If you want the whole thing to be moody, under expose it. It's fine. You don't have to bring anything back in post. You shoot it under exposed because you want it to be like that. If you want it to be bright and airy, you over expose it, you know, one stop or two, and then you don't even have to do it in post. It's already like over exposed a little, some of the highlights are gone, but it's fine if that's what you're gonna go for. So the big thing is, think about what you wanna get out of the image. There's no rule of thumb for camera settings is what do you want out of it? Okay. Another one. You probably know that I shoot a lot at blue hour. At the end of the day, after the sun has set, that's where my day begins for me. I'm shooting a lot at that time of the day. I love blue. When you're shooting in these live conditions you wanna shoot fast lenses, ideally. 1.4, perfect. You know, 1.8, great. 2.8 starts to get tricky, you might need a tripod, and then that might kill some of your speed and process and flow. So I shy away from tripods for that reason. There's a rule of thumb to have, okay. There's one rule of thumb to have and it's if you're shooting a lens that's a 24 mil, You don't wanna go under 1/24th of a second. Shooting a 50 you don't wanna go under 1/50th of a second. No matter how dark it is, leave it at and then crank up your ISO. Don't be like, "Oh, I got it at 120. It's fine." And you get there and the photo's all blurry and shaky, right? So you can practice it, I love doing that. It's a good thing you can do is practice to be really steady at the point where you can shoot a photo with a 24 millimeter lens, you can shoot it at 1/8th of a second. If you're really steady, you can do that. One trick that we learn in university is that, okay, for the sake of argument, let's say that this is a camera, okay. So my lens is here. If you're shooting really, really low speeds, like 1/10th of a second, 1/15th of a second on a 16 mill, you can take this camera and flip it. If you find it would like down here, right? So instead of being here, so you can use the big forehead to stabilize the camera. Sounds a bit silly but I'd do that a lot. So I'm shooting that photo upside down because my forehead is stabilizing the whole camera. So I'm like, when you're doing stuff like that, shooting at really low shutter speeds. Shoot 15 photos, you know. Just put it on a fast shutter and duh-duh-duh, because one out of the 15 will be perfectly sharp. For rule of thumbs, that's it. If you're shooting at 200, you need a minimum 1/200th of a second with your exposure. Don't go under that or it will be blurry, unless you're super steady, which is a nice skill to practice. Okay, number five or six. I dunno which point we are but let's say it's number five: practice. Okay, I've said it already. But what I'm saying is practice with different camera modes. So if you're comfortable with aperture priority as your solid mode, practice manual mode, fully manual. You may think you have it dialed down but you can always learn more. So I'm always playing with my camera modes. A, M, sharp priority, P or T. Practice a ton on manual mode because that will make a big difference when you go into the field. Six. It's a big one. And they're all big ones, because I'm trying to deconstruct this whole thing. I think there's seven points total, so this is almost my last point. It is, course correct as you edit. So when you come back from this session where you've been practicing with camera settings and you're gonna be shooting pretty dark, or pretty bright light, look at when you're editing on Lightroom or Photoshop, look at what work and what didn't work. Like, "Ah, this photo is blurry 'cause I shook." All right, well, now you know. Next time don't go under that shutter speed. Like this photo is too dark, right? It's just too dark to save it. It just gets grainy and noisy if I try to bring up the shadows. So what do you do next time you go out? You just crank up your ISOs more 'cause it's always gonna be cleaner to get it on camera. Just keep this open sharp mind when you're editing and try to look for the mistakes you did and almost write them down and be like, "All right, I messed that up. I messed that up." "Next time I'm going out, this is what I'm not doing" "and this is what I'm doing." So analyze and deconstruct your edits and see how you can improve them. Okay, so for my last point I thought I'd share what my favorite camera settings are. And I don't have a specific sheet but it's almost always looks the same. So with my camera settings I don't usually go past 5.6. I go from 1.4 to 5.6. That's my usable range. And I don't know why I do that. I've never found any interest in shooting at F8 or F11 or F22. I might shoot at F22 if I'm trying to do a long exposure and it's not dark enough yet, but very, very rarely. So I'm always between 1.4 and 5.6. I love to have this beautiful lens blur in the back, a depth of field. So I'll sometimes shoot landscapes at F4, just so the foreground is a little bit blurry. It's more comforting to me to look at images like that where it's, they're not, they're more human. They're not exactly perfect, like, "I want my sharpness to be from my feet" "to a hundred miles that way!" You know? That's like the F22 approach, which is totally fine. But for me, I enjoy shallow depth of fields. Situations. I'm shooting at blue hour. Usually it's gonna be F1.4 on my 24 1:4. 1/20th of a second. Rarely go under that. From 3200 ISO all the way up to 10,000 ISO on the 5D Mark IV. Let's say that I'm shooting midday, which is pretty rare. Mostly it would be at between F4, F5.6 max, and 1/4,000th of a second and ISO 125. Oh yeah. I always love having ISO 125. I don't like ISO 100. I don't know why. It's silly. Canon lets me go to and I'm fond of it because it's a film speed. So when I go with my ISOs, I try to keep it super old school. I don't think it means anything anymore, but I like to keep my ISOs 125, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, kinda like natural ISO stops. I don't think it means anymore anything but at the time of the 5D Mark I, there was like this rumor that the natural ISO ranges, which I just said, were better looking, like the camera was made for that. And all the stuff in between was just like digital. It wasn't like as good as the other ones. I don't know how much that's true or not, but I still do it. It's a habit. Let's say I'm shooting sunset, which I mostly shoot sunset. I rarely shoot sunrise because I've just not a morning person, F4, F2.8 and whatever speed we have with it, usually 125, 200 if it's pretty late. ISO 125 always. Most of the time outside I'm shooting manual mode. The only times where I switch modes to aperture is when I'm inside. When I go between inside and outside all the time, I just put it in aperture priority and then I don't have to worry about my speed constantly, 'cause what matters to me is my aperture. If I'm shooting in the underwater housing, I'll do speed priority because when I'm underwater it's a priority that my images are sharp, the movement is captured. And underwater there's like a bunch of stuff happening. There's bubbles. People are just diving in. So I'll put my ISO on auto actually inside the camera housing and I leave the ISOs go up as high as they want. It doesn't matter. I'm actually gonna over expose a bit, my meter as well. And I'm gonna shoot at very small apertures like 5.6, 6.3. It's the only time I go above 5.6 is underwater because I want, I want like very forgiving depth of field. 'Cause a lot of times photos are missed underwater because the focusing doesn't work well. So underwater, that's my settings. Now I thought I'd finish on just some little tech things on my camera, my 5D Mark IV. My settings, whenever I pick up a new one, and that's fresh from the factory, I'll go and change my settings always the same way. I go to color space, I'll pick Adobe RGB. That's the first one. Second one, I'll go into camera modes and I'll pick either neutral, if I'm in a rush, or if I have time I'll just go and make a personal color profile, saturation all the way down, contrast all the way down, sharpness one stop before the end, everything minimum inside the camera. Makes the previews on camera a little boring, but when I get to the computer, it just, you know, gives me the results I want. I think that's it. For auto focus, I like to have the clusters manual. I don't need the auto focus automatic. So I can move my clusters with a joystick. If this is the view finder, this, yeah, I'll have them at the top middle. That's where I have my cluster always, 'cause that's usually where my subject is, at the top. I like to shoot at things from the, you know, from high up and shoot looking down and then that's where my subject usually is. I think that's it. I mean it's only camera settings. So until you don't know them, they're a big deal. Once you know them, you never think about them. Practice, practice and learn them until they become second nature, and you'll be doing yourself a huge favor. (gentle music)

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