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Photo Recipes

When starting out with photography it's sometimes hard to workout what setting you should be using for any given situation. Here are some guides on what settings are a good starting point for different situations.

How to use these recipes

The settings in each recipe will be listed from most important to least important. The values for each of these settings are just guides as your scene may have too much light or not enough for these particular settings to work. Adjust the other settings to increase/decrease the amount of light hitting your sensor. To help you understand how the different settings work see this guide on aperture, shutter speed and ISO.


- 1 sec Shutter Speed or longer
- 100 ISO
- f11 Aperture

Tips: The slow shutter speed makes the water look smooth and the longer the shutter the smoother the water. Using a small aperture helps keep everything in focus. The low ISO reduces noise. Frame your shot to try and remove distracting elements like busy trees, leaf litter and blown out skies.


- f11 Aperture
- 100 ISO
- Shutter speed to taste

Tips: Using the small aperture will help keep everything in your scene in focus and you can make it smaller if you need to. Try to focus on something in the mid ground or use your lens’s hyper-focal distance. Use a fast shutter speed to freeze moving leaves or a slow shutter to smooth out waves.


Studio Portraits

- f8/f11
- 1/160 sec shutter
- 100 ISO
- 85 mm lens

Tips: In the studio you have more control over the lighting and backgrounds of your shots. This lets you use an aperture of f8 to f11 to keep everything in focus including the background. Most strobes and speedlights require a shutter speed slower than 1/200 sec to expose the entire frame so keep it close to but not faster than this speed.


Outdoor Portraits

- f2.8/f5.6 Aperture (the widest your lens will go).
- 1/125 sec Shutter
- 100 ISO
- 85 mm lens

Tips: Wide open apertures lets you blur out the background in your image which isolates your model in the image. Focus on the eye that is closest to the camera and make sure it is sharp. A shutter speed of 1/125 and higher will freeze involuntary movements from your model. The 85 mm lenses are more flattering for photographing portraits because they keep people’s features in proportion.


Stars/Milky Way

- 30 second Shutter
- 18 mm lens or wider
- f1.8-f5.6 or as wide are your lens can go
- 1600 ISO or higher

Tips: The stars are really dim and if you want to photograph them you need to collect all the light you can. However the stars move relatively quickly across the sky so 30 seconds is the longest shutter speed you can use before the stars stop being points of light and start being lines in the sky. A wide angle lens also helps reduce the appearance of the stars movement. Open your aperture up as much as possible and turn your ISO up as much as you need to achieve a clear image.


Tracking Shots

- 1/30 sec or slower shutter speed
- f8 Aperture
- 100 mm lens or longer
- 100 ISO

Tips: Tracking shots give you an image with motion blur in the background and a sharp subject. This effect is achieved by following/tacking the moving subject with the camera while using a slow shutter speed. Your aperture should be small enough to keep your subject in focus but isn’t critical for this effect. Lenses with longer focal lengths also help. Remember you will need to take lots of images to get one that works.



- 1/200 sec or faster
- f2.8 Aperture or as low as your lens will go
- 200 mm lens or longer
- 100 ISO

Tips: There are three important things to do in sports photos, freeze the action, isolate what is important and remove distractions. Having a fast shutter speed will prevent motion blur in your images and make everything stop. Using a low f-stop will blur out your background which helps separate your subject from the things around it. Also it's good to get in close to the action which is why a long focal length is essential.



- Lots of patience
- 200mm lens or longer
- 1/200 sec shutter speed or faster
- f2.8 or a low as your lens will go
- 100 ISO

Tips: Be prepared to wait, but while you are waiting make sure you are using a long lens to get in close to the animal you are trying to photograph. Fast shutter speeds will help you freeze the action if the animal is moving. An open aperture will help you capture as much light as you can when using a fast shutter and also give you nice blurred backgrounds.

Damian WallsComment