Camera Settings – Do they Matter?

Photography amateurs will often become obsessed with knowing what the ‘right’ settings are for a composition. They will look at other photographs and settings and want to know which aperture, shutter speed, and ISO were used to capture the results. But is knowing this information useful?

Someone else’s camera settings usually don’t matter. When you see stunning photographs, the way the camera is set up to take it is entirely dependent on the conditions at the time. The lighting and the picture make the settings, not the other way around. In this post, we look at what is important when you’re learning photography.

Know Your Conditions

When you’re composing a shot, you need to know how the conditions you’re shooting in affect your settings. Don’t forget, these conditions are dynamic and often change continuously. When you’re shooting during the day, the light will be different depending on where you’re stood and what time it is. You need to know how to account for these changes in your photography.

There are no specific settings you should use for certain conditions. They also depend on the composition, your subject, and the effect you’re trying to achieve. You have to adapt to your environment.

Know Your Settings

If you’re shooting in good lighting conditions and using a short, wide-angle lens, your settings often won’t make too much of a difference to the final outcome. Settings don’t give you pictures, pictures give you settings.

With this in mind, it’s vital that you understand how different settings should be used. You need to be able to visualise how you want your shot to turn out, and then choose your camera setup accordingly. It’s an organic process that requires you to develop your understanding of photography principles.

Aperture, Shutter Speed, and Depth of Field

Knowing how someone else has chosen to set up their camera for a shot won’t give you the knowledge to shoot a similar scene. You will have to adapt your camera settings to meet the lighting and environment of where you are.

Your aperture will not only impact what shutter speed you use, but it will also determine how blurred or clear your background is. Using a lower aperture means you will create more bokeh (blur), but will also mean that your shutter speed can be faster. However, if you then move close to or further away from your subject, the overall effect will change.

The more experience you have, the easier you’ll find it to adjust your settings to fit the conditions. Remember, you need to know how your settings work, and what that means for the situation you’re shooting in. With some practice, you’ll be able to pre-visualise your image and then decide on the appropriate settings to achieve that.

Work hard to understand your camera and the principles behind the settings. Remember, the picture makes the settings, not the other way around.

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