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How To -- Basic Camera Settings


Being a Professional Photographer is not about shooting wonderful picture or have a deep technical knowledge. I know serious amateurs that can easily compete with many “professional photographers”. Be a PRO is much more have a solid workflow. Sometimes during my workshops, I felt that solid foundations are not as common as must be, for this reason we have created this small series of White Paper to cover some fundamentals of photography.


1. Always shoot RAW. If you’re not shooting RAW, START. Go change your camera settings right now. I’ll wait… OK, good. In all seriousness though, you’re really doing yourself an injustice if you are shooting in JPEG mode. Starting with the biggest and most high quality file you possibly can and is the foundation you should be building off of.

2. Autofocus vs. Manual focus. This one is more of a preference than any of the other settings in this list, but it will really play a large role in the way your final image will turn out. I personally always shoot in autofocus with a single focus point. Most of the modern cameras and lenses have pretty strong AF systems that can quickly and reliably achieve focus. I prefer to use a single autofocus point that I choose. I do this because I typically shoot with a very shallow depth of field and sometimes even the seemingly minuscule movement from focusing and recomposing will throw an image out of focus. Experiment and find out what settings fit yours style the best though.

3. Adobe RGB > sRGB. I am not entirely sure why so many cameras come set to a sRGB colour space but I permanently have my camera set to Adobe RGB. It’s a significantly larger colour space so it will give you the largest possible gamut to work with. This goes back to that solid foundation principle. Start with the most data you can possibly work with.

4. Single Shot Drive Mode. Photography is expensive. Cameras, lenses, lights, studios, computers, it all adds up. One constant expense you will encounter is film and now hard drive space. Don’t waste needless space or precious film by shooting in burst modes. Using the single shot drive mode will make you stop and consciously consider what’s in your frame before you take the shot, making you a better photographer. The only time I really use shooting in a burst mode is when your model is moving in some way. Also, remember if you are using studio flash you have to wait at least 0.7s for the next shoot.

5. Choose your White Balance. Cameras are getting more and more advanced and with those advancements, the automatic settings programmed into them have continuously improved. Perhaps the most improved is the white balance function. Most current cameras have fairly capable automatic white balance settings. However, I still prefer to choose my white balance according to the lighting or the desired outcome. The presets fairly accurately represent the lighting conditions for which they are designed, Kelvin is always a better alternative, particularly in tricky lighting situations. I, also, prefer to finalise my pictures in camera because this made my workflow more effective.

6. Manual exposure. All of the time, every single time. We’ve started and ended with the two most important camera settings you could possibly choose. You/re shooting raw. Your images are in focus and of the proper colour, but none of that will matter if your exposure is off. You should absolutely be using manual exposure 100% of the time. No exceptions. Your camera isn’t smarter than you. Don’t let it tell you what your exposure should look like. It should be your creative choice whether your image is dark or bright, have a shallow or deep depth of field, freeze motion or allow it to blur. Especially when shooting with strobes. Learn equivalent exposures and know them from memory. This is the most very basic principle of photography so you should be well versed in it.

These are just some very basic settings that should always be used when shooting. Refine them to fit your style and feel free to share any custom settings or personal preferences you like shooting with us.

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