Skip to main content
Humanities LibreTexts

1.3: Recommended Camera Settings

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)\(\newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    The DSLR camera manual settings allow for creative control, so you can decide which aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and various other settings are used when creating photographs.

    A digital camera with the various external components labelled.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{8}\): DSLR Digita Camera (CC BY; Guru Camera via flickr)

    Image Description: An image of a Canon digital camera with the various external components labeled, including the power switch, shutter button, mode dial, built-in flash/AF-assist beam, lens mount index, and more.

    The settings below can be accessed via your camera’s menus.

    • Image Quality refers to the resolution of the image. Choose the RAW file format. This is the unprocessed image data from the camera’s image sensor and results in the highest quality image.
    • Color Space is the range of colors shown in a photo. Select Adobe RGB 1998, which is the largest color space your camera has available for image capture and creates images with the best range of color.
    • White Balance determines the camera’s relationship to the color temperature of the light you are working in. Choose from three options:
      • Presets for color temperature of lights, i.e., tungsten, fluorescent, etc. This is a good setting if you understand lights and their relationship to color temperature.
      • Custom White Balance = most accurate setting. Use when possible.
      • Auto White Balance = good for general purpose. Second best choice.
    • Metering Mode determines how the light meter inside the camera measures exposure and the amount of light available in the scene. DSLR cameras measure reflected light, the light that bounces off a subject and is reflected into the camera.
      • Select the matrix or evaluative setting, which is the most balanced overall option for in-camera reflective light reading.
      • You can also use a hand-held light meter, which measures reflected light and incident light, which is the light falling on a subject. Measuring incident light is a slightly more accurate way to correct exposure for a photograph.
    • ISO determines how sensitive the camera is to the amount of light in the scene being photographed. The lower the ISO number, the higher the image quality (free from grain or noise), but the more light is required to take a picture. A higher number requires less light to take a picture but can result in a grainy or noisy image with lots of digital artifacts.
      • ISO 100–400 is recommended for best image quality. If using an ISO above 400, your image will be full of digital artifacts.
    • Aperture determines the intensity of light let into the camera through the lens and controls the depth of field.
      • F/2.8 = a wide-open aperture, lets in a lot of light, and has a shallow depth of field.
      • F/8 = a medium opening or the mid-point, not too much or too little light, and has a medium depth of field.
      • F/22 = a small opening, lets in very little light, and has a wide depth of field across the image (preferred).
    • Shutter Speed controls how long light is let into the camera through the lens and is measured in fractions of a second. Set this speed according to the exposure meter reading. Use the camera timer or remote to reduce camera shake for longer shutter speeds.
      • 1/5 = one fifth of a second, a slow/long shutter speed; the motion will blur.
      • 1/60 = shutter speed that freezes motion.
      • 4,000 = one 4,000th of a second, very fast/short shutter speed; the motion will be frozen.
    • Exposure is the relationship between ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. Therefore, achieving the correct exposure will depend on the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture settings you choose according to the visual effects desired.
    • Lens Focal Length describes a photographic lens, represented in millimeters. It describes where the light rays entering the lens converge before striking the image sensor.
      • 18–35 mm are common wide-angle lenses that capture a broader view of a scene. Wide-angle lenses can produce image distortions such as bowing of the horizon or the sides of buildings.
      • 50 mm is standard for DSLR cameras and results in the least amount of image distortion.
      • 80–300 mm are common telephoto lenses that allow you to magnify a subject that is far away. These lenses compress the space of a photograph, making objects appear closer.
      • Zoom lenses provide the most flexibility because you can change the focal length.
      • Fixed lenses have one focal length that cannot be changed but they produce a sharper image.

    This page titled 1.3: Recommended Camera Settings is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Jessica Labatte and Larissa Garcia (Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI)) .

    • Was this article helpful?