Pick the Best Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO Settings


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  • Great video, and food for thought.

    I've had my Nikon for just over 6 weeks. It's the first DSLR that I have used nothing but manual mode and shot in RAW format.

    I'm not an expert by any means, but I wouldn't have started with such a low (large) aperture straight away. I would want my subject, in this case, the eagle, to be totally in focus.

    Using the lowest possible depth of field as the initial setting, my concern would be that only a specific part of the eagle would be in focus. I've shot a lot of pictures that look great initially, but when I process through Lightroom 6, I see areas that are sharp and then slightly out of focus radiating out. So I always shoot at the highest (smallest) aperture I think is possible that will get me the results I am looking for.

    Of course, all these settings all depend on the lighting conditions at that moment.

    For an overcast sky, such as what is typical in Alaska, I would start out ISO 400 1/250 @ F8 to get this shot. All basically middle of the road settings. If the subject is repeatable, you have the luxury of being able to dial in your settings. And depending on the light meter to tell you what the settings should be can be a double edged sword.

    Diffused light? Sunny sky? Slightly overcast? Matrix? Evaluative? Center Metered? Spot? The meter will give you different settings depending on the type of lighting and type of light meter you choose. Indoors, yes. Outdoors, it's a craps shoot.

    The 1/250 shutter speed should be adequate to freeze the motion, the ISO is sensitive enough to allow enough light without too much grain (noise) and the aperture is small enough to keep the subject totally in focus and blur the background.

    I'm told to get the shot right in the camera FIRST, then, then, if needed, you can tweak the image in Lightroom (providing you are shooting in RAW). I've taken some terribly under / over exposed photos but revived them to an acceptable image in Lightroom 6.

    This past week, I shot over 400 photographs of the St. Patrick's day parade without using the light meter or program/auto setting. Sky changed from sunny to cloudy to slight overcast dozens of times at the drop of a hat. Each time I was able to change my aperture and shutter speeds accordingly. A few I totally bombed on, but I'd say 95% were spot on or close. And Lightroom substantiated my choices.

    Obviously, it is preferable to be able to set your cameras exposures to be close to optimum – and that takes practice. Lots and lots of practice. But post processing a RAW image can turn a bad/mediocre shot into something that is still quite acceptable.

  • Thank you! finally a person who speaks basic language to explain a complicated subject. I've watched so many tutorial clips on aperture, shutter speed and ISO, and eureka finally I get it. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • This is really helpful! Thank you! I started reasoning a bit better with these parameters!
    I just need more exercise! I don't have eagles here but I can try with squirrels!

  • every tutorial I watched say the perfect mixture is;
    Aperture: 2.8 (or the lowest, the better)
    Shutter speed: 50
    ISO: 100 (or the lower, the better)

    but my pictures look very very dark and the subject isnt visble at all.
    am i doing it wrong?

    What I want is to have a crisp subject and a blurry background, and one more thing the pictures look professional on the monitor of the camera but when I move it to my laptop it looks like it was taken with a normal camera? any inputs?

  • I would kind of like to see the opposite of this, obviously fast motion needs fast shutter speed, the aperture and shutter speed of this IMO were fairly obvious, what I find a hard time with is low light stuff where I'm not sure to sacrifice aperture or shutter speed. Obviously if I only need a narrow depth of field ok, but if not lets say f3-f5 how do you tell when some parts are slightly out of focus from depth of field vs motion blur from shutter speed?

  • Thank you, that was perfectly explained.
    I am a beginner with digital photography and still struggling with the decision on which part of the exposure setting should be changed…..

  • Very well explained , but ,, what keeps me from sleep is , how do I measure all that in the right perfect instant ?( when the eagle appears out of nowhere and I want to take the pic….) pls help

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