I had the privilege of doing some photography mentoring last weekend. It was a gorgeous and unseasonably cool Sunday evening in St. Louis. My favorite time of day to do any type of shoot is during the last two hours of sunlight. It’s called “the golden hour” and this particular evening, the light shone true to it’s name. There is just nothing like it. I always say it is the kind of light you can’t pay for. It’s God’s amazing gift. Since a good part of what goes into photography is managing light, the golden hour is simply priceless.
Mary Beth, who is wanting to start her own photography business, asked me to come along to a shoot she was planning with her good friend Sarah who is 4 months pregnant. Sarah was a beautiful and patient subject as we discussed light, ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed. Understanding how these things work together is so often what keeps newer photographers from venturing from Program Mode, into Manual Mode. Sadly there is a lot of bad information on youtube and pinterest. Mary Beth mentioned to me she watched a youtube video that told her to put the camera in program mode to get the settings she would need in manual mode. Bad information. If it were that easy the camera would actually take a good picture in program mode.
I explained that it is as easy as 1: ISO, 2: Aperture, 3: Shutter Speed. In that order.
1: The first thing you do is choose your ISO by how much light you have (100/200=bright sun; 4oo=evening/shade and 800+ =low light and indoor).
2: Once your ISO is set you choose an Aperture. The Aperture determines how much light will be let in by the lens, and also determines the Depth of Field…simply put: how much of your picture will be in focus). I often tell people that the number of the Aperture can be thought of in terms of feet. So at a f/1.4 Aperture only 16 inches (depth) will be in focus and at a f/5.6 Aperture 5 and half feet will be in focus. Generally speaking: use f/1.4-2.8 when photographing a single subject; use f/2.8-5.6 when photographing 2-8 people, and use f/6+ when photographing a large group.
3: Once you have set your ISO and determined your desired Aperture, the only thing left is Shutter Speed. When we got to this point, Mary Beth had a light bulb moment and said, “so really once I get my other things set correctly, the only thing I need to change as I move around is my Shutter Speed?” Yes! Absolutely. I told her that a rule of thumb is that she should not go below a Shutter Speed of 1/100 when photographing a person. Because of the bad information she got on the internet, she was lowering her Shutter Speed to 1/50 or 1/60 because her ISO was set too low. In order to keep the Shutter Speed over 1/100 the ISO may need to be increased if not set correctly in the beginning. A comfortable Shutter Speed, to assure clear, in-focus pictures, is between 1/200 and 1/320. But, of course, in bright sun the Shutter Speed can be as high as 1/5000+. As the Shutter Speed increases, the amount of light let into the lens decreases, and the converse is true. As the Shutter Speed decreases, the amount of light let in increases.
After we covered the simple 1, 2, 3 of camera settings Mary Beth went to work. We talked through each detail of the shoot and she did a fantastic job. I was thrilled to catch these beautiful moments along the way!