Hi everyone, Jake here. Thanks for reading Courtney’s blog. We really enjoy taking these photos and I’m glad so many of you are enjoying them too. Some of her wonderful readers, that’s you 😉, have asked for more specific information about how we get her photos. I’m happy to share, but keep in mind that I’m not a professional, just stubborn enough to keep chipping away at something until I’m happy with the results.
I’ll explore equipment and composition in different posts. For now, let’s talk about camera settings. My goal is to shoot in such a way that the focus is entirely on my subject. There are four things I concern myself with: (1) the focal length of my lens, (2) the sensor’s sensitivity to light, called ISO, (3) the shutter speed, which is the length of time the sensor is exposed and finally, (4) the aperture, also called f-number, is the size of the opening that allows light to hit the sensor.
I keep my focal length between 85mm and 135mm, but I’ll sometimes stretch it all the way to 200mm. I’ve found a focal length around 100mm is about ideal because it keeps my subject in the photo and far enough away to mitigate perspective distortion (the fishbowl effect).
Aperture stays at f/2.8 (Aperture is expressed as a fraction, the smaller the second number, the larger the opening). Large apertures create a creamy blurred background, called bokeh, but also reduces depth of field, which can make your subjects appear blurry if it’s too narrow.
ISO stays at 100, but I’ll increase this if I can’t capture enough light at a sufficient shutter speed. Increasing this too much creates “noise” which looks like film grain or splotches of distortion in a photo. It’s worth noting that I’ve never had an issue with noisy photos, but that’s in large part due to my camera’s relatively large pixel size.
Shutter speed is where I make most of my adjustments, I start at about 200 and move up (the photo’s too bright) or down (the photo’s too dark) from there. My rule of thumb is to keep your shutter speed higher than the focal length. I like my focal length at about 100mm, so my shutter speed stays at least 1/100 sec. If my photos are too dark at 1/100, then I’ll increase ISO.
Finally, I pick the right white balance for the scene, usually “Cloudy”, set my photos to save as RAW files, my Metering mode to Spot, turn on auto-focus, and leave everything else alone.
Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions. Stay tuned for more posts about specific equipment, composition, and Courtney’s photography tips.