This time we will talk a bit about the way we work with lenses and setting the camera body. Most people, who are not photographers but only use cameras to take pictures on holiday or just to capture everyday moments, shoot on automatic. On the camera it is denoted as "A". When you take pictures with this setting, it means that the camera does everything for you. It calculates the light and makes a setting that will fit the scene you are in. However sometimes your own judgement might be more precise than the one of the machine. Taking the first step into manual setup , the "M" on your camera might be a little off-putting but in the end there is a great payoff in form of much higher quality and deeper mood in your images.

Let's  run you through some of the basic settings on the camera, so that you understand what number means what and how to change them.


The focus is essential to getting the image that you want. The switch between manual and automatic focusing is often on the lens itself. If you can't find it there, look for a two way switch marked A/M .  The situations in which you use manual focus are very specific, You can choose this option when you are trying to achieve a very specific look or target and object focus in a way the automated option doesn't allow. Most of the cameras are advanced enough to provide you with smooth and precise autofocus and you can stick to it for most part.

Then the next thing to set is the focus points. Here is how you can find it on Canon & Nikon. For example when taking pictures of outfits, you want the "dot" to be on the person's face so that it is sharp. Also the point, which is in focus is the starting point from which the aperture effects the "blurriness". Find and example below-  either focus on the plant, which is in the air or on the object on the table and it gives completely different results. Experiment with capturing the same frame through different focus areas and see what difference it makes!

2. ISO

This measures the sensitivity of the image sensor. It is very technical, but the whole idea is that different ISO setting are used in different light conditions. So when taking pictures outside in the sun put the ISO pretty low- between 100-600, but when taking pictures at a darker place, let's say a bar or restaurant, where there is only little light put the ISO to a higer number.

On a camera the ISO will range a lot, e.g. from 100 to 25,000. HOWEVER- and this is important. If you blow up the ISO too much, the pictures will get very grainy, especially on cropped- sensor cameras.  Full frame cameras, can handle higher ISO, but you have to always use your best judgement of what looks good even with them.

Just remember- when it is really sunny outside, take the ISO down, and if you are inside and it is dark- put the ISO higher. And you can test on your own camera, what ISO is too high for you specifically ( meaning that the images get too grainy).


This is also called one of the three pillars of photography- the other two are ISO and aperture. It is very important to understand it in order to get good pictures. Again, for a beginner, the shutter speed will very much affect the amount of light the camera lets in. So if you have a really long shutter speed - for example 20seconds, it means that the camera is taking the image in for 20s (You can use this shutter speed on a tripod when you want beams of light, or car lights making lines through your image as they move). But if you want a nice and sharp image, you need much shorter shutter speed. For the beginning do not go lower than 1/80 and work around that. Take into account if your object is moving or not and increase the shutter speed based off that.

SUM UP- if the object is moving: over 1/120 is best, for example when taking pictures of animals or people in action. If it is really dark and you don't have a tripod, don't go below 1/80 or 1/60- if you want pictures of lights forming lines, the longer the shutter speed the better, but you need a tripod! Below is an example of a picture, which had too low shutter speed and then the cat is blurry. Remember if you are taking pictures of a moving object the shutter speed needs to be relatively high!



The aperture is the most important thing to get right. If you are taking details you want it lower, because then it focuses only on a small part and the rest is blurry, but if you are taking photos of nature I try to get it as high as possible, so that everything is nice and sharp. The aperture is also the thing that controls how much light goes into the camera. This means that when you move with the aperture it will also affect how light the photo is. So if you are outside and want to take a detail picture with low aperture (something around 1,8-2,2) you need to change the other settings as well (ISO and shutter speed).  However you need to test out your own lens and what aperture is best. The above mentioned is more a rule of thumb- some lenses will take great sharp photos of nature with a aperture of 1,8. So it really depends what gear you are working with! 

Below is an example of using an aperture of 2,5 to take a full body picture and 1,8 on details.As you can see, the model's whole body is in focus, but on the second picture only the ring is in focus and the rest of the body is blurry. Another example is the coffee cup, where the cup is in focus but the background is blurry



Ok, so now I hope you understand what the different settings do. The next step is to learn how to combine them. It takes some practice, but it is not hard. Below you can find a basic guide of how to combine all of the things together.




Since there is a lot of light and you want as much in focus as possible this is what you do. Start with the aperture and then set the rest from there. So, in this scenario put the aperture over f8 and from there set the ISO around 1000. The last thing to change is the shutter speed. If it is sunny you will probably get away with a rather high shutter speed and maybe even the ISO can go lower. But if it is cloudy and there isn't much light the ISO might need to be higher and the shutter speed lower!

- combination: high aperture, high ISO, adjust shutter speed


In this scenario you want a low aperture around f1,8-2,5. This means that the camera is taking in a lot of light, so to compensate for that you take the ISO lower- around 100-500. And again adjust the shutter speed, but it will probably be very high 1/3000-1/4000.


Low light means that you need all the setting set so that the most light is taken in. Low aperture, high ISO and low shutter speed. It is easier to take nice photos in low light when you have a tripod, because the shutter speed can go very low. Just so you understand, if you are using low shutter speed the camera needs to be very steady so that the image is sharp.

So now take your camera and play around with the different settings and see what happens! Below you can find a cheat-sheet, where we tried to visualise the different settings, so maybe it is a little easier to get the general overview.

PHOTO TIPSOurs Abeille