Last week I was telling you things to keep in mind when you go out and take autumn pictures. Today I'm revealing to you the manual settings and adjustments that I recommend (and that I personally use) to achieve a correct autumnal photograph. Once again, today's article demonstrates once again how easy manual mode is, no matter how difficult it may seem. Once you use these settings and start experimenting with them, you won't want to know anything about automatic mode again.
Camera Settings for Photographing Autumn
I can't give you the exact settings because they will vary depending on the scene, the time of day, the amount of light, whether it's sunny or cloudy. You have to try (and learn). Yes, I can propose the settings that I would use as a starting point to shoot that first or second test photo, from which I would modify these settings in one direction or another.
Autumn is a season of low light, or at least, this is less intense than summer for example. If we add to this the ideal moment in which we take an autumn photo, which would be in the early morning or late afternoon, we are presented with a situation that requires us to make adjustments similar to the following.
1) Adjustments for photographing a general fall landscape
Do I photograph a landscape/general scene? Do I want all the elements within the frame to come out well focused? If the answer is yes, here are the adjustments I would personally depart from:
This allows me to achieve a large depth of field, or in other words, a level of sharpness and homogeneous focus for all elements of the frame: background, trees, leaves on the ground, river, mountains, everything will appear correctly focused.
Careful, an opening like f/11 will darken my picture. The higher the f/ value, the more underexposed (dark) the photo is. I will compensate this with the following shutter speed and ISO settings that we will see below.
Shutter speed: 1/20
I start from this shooting speed to compensate for the low light that the camera captures as a result of the previous point. Remember that the slower the shutter speed, the more light we get. So I start shooting at 1/20. That the photo is too underexposed? Under that speed a pelín, type 1/10 for example, and so I go.
Watch out, the slower the shutter speed, the more "blurred" the photo will end up being, because the camera will capture the movements of my hand holding it and shooting the photo. This, the only way to mitigate it is by using a good tripod (a good one of truth, with enough stability to withstand the wind characteristic of autumn. Here are some recommendations).
A remote trigger wouldn't hurt either.
If I don't have a tripod, I want to prevent the photo from climbing (moved), and I'm having an underexposed photo, I have a solution: I'll increase the shutter speed, even beyond 1/20. I could try with 1/30; 1/60; or 1/200 if necessary. How high speeds would the photo be very dark? Nothing happens, let's go for ISO sensitivity.
My reflex camera is set to ISO 100 by default. It's the value I work with by default, and it's also the setting I touch the least. I don't touch it unless it's absolutely essential, as in this case.
Suppose I take the first picture with ISO 100, aperture and shutter speed as I said before. Now, let's imagine that the photo is underexposed. Let's suppose that I'm not able to lower the shutter speed because in that case the photo would be shaky.
What should I do?
Raise the ISO sensitivity beyond 100. I will test with ISO 200, ISO 400, and so on until I get to the point where the photo is sufficiently exposed. Remember that the higher the ISO value, the more light the camera captures but also the more noise (grains) appears in the photo, so try to find the balance. To a bad one, I always prefer to have a photo well exposed but with noise, rather than a photo clean of noise but totally underexposed.
2) Adjustments to portray an isolated autumnal element
If what I am looking for is to portray autumn through one of its characteristic elements: a fig or seasonal fruit, a chestnut, a leaf fallen from a tree, or if I want to photograph the portrait of a person set in an autumn environment, here are the settings I would use:
I mean I would use the widest possible aperture (lowest f/ value) that the target would allow me. In my case I have a 50mm f/1.4 target (which I call the King of Targets) and it does allow me to reach that opening. Other objectives less generous in light will offer you an opening f/4 or f/3.5 as the minimum possible value. Nothing happens, use it. The point is to use as little f/ value as possible. Why? With this, the camera is able to capture huge amounts of light, so in the process we get rid of having to make up for the lack of light with the rest of adjustments.
Moreover, with an aperture f/1.4 or similar we might even have to reduce the light by playing with the shutter speed or using some other factor.
A large aperture (f/ small value) can also isolate the subject or object, give it a very precise and sharp focus, and leave the whole background completely out of focus, which gives the subject a total prominence.
Shutter speed: 1/500
As I said in the section on aperture, using such a low f/ value causes the camera to suddenly capture immense amounts of light. I therefore need a relatively "fast" shutter speed that compensates for the excess light and provides some balance. It will depend on whether it's a very sunny day, or whether it's in the afternoon, and a lot of factors that interfere with the settings, but so from the start 1/500 seems a good starting point.
In this situation, I almost certainly won't have to make use of ISO sensitivity. The only thing I would want it for would be to capture more light, which I already have thanks to having used a large aperture (f/1.4), so I have ISO stays at 100.
As you can see, manual mode opens up a whole world of creative possibilities that you can capture with your camera. The only way to harness the creative potential of autumn is to use the manual mode. I've shown you two examples, but they're just a starting point. Practice them if you can, but above all experiment and explore different settings. You can be pleasantly surprised by your own results.
Thanks for reading this far. I hope you found the article useful. If so, don't stop spreading it on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. It will make me happy 😉