Just bought a cam­era and going to the first shoot? Not sure where to start set­ting up your cam­era? Feel­ing strong enough to switch to intim­i­dat­ing man­u­al mode? Do you want to con­cen­trate on work­ing with a pho­to mod­el, and not ran­dom­ly sort through the but­tons?

We tell you what man­u­al cam­era set­tings a novice pho­tog­ra­ph­er should pay atten­tion to, as well as what incor­rect­ly set para­me­ters lead to.

Prop­er man­u­al cam­era set­tings allow you to get a beau­ti­ful shot, while spend­ing a min­i­mum of time on post-pro­cess­ing / Source: unsplash.com

Image for­mats
col­or space
white bal­ance
Focus modes
Cam­era expo­sure

Image formats

The first thing to do is to choose the for­mat in which you will shoot. There are three options: RAW, JPEG, and RAW+JPEG. Any pro will advise shoot­ing in RAW, but for a begin­ner, every­thing is not so sim­ple.

  • RAW is a “raw” source that requires addi­tion­al devel­op­ment — devel­op­ment. This is lit­er­al­ly the same as a neg­a­tive in film pho­tog­ra­phy — you can’t pull out the film imme­di­ate­ly after shoot­ing and give it to the cus­tomer.

RAW con­tains a large amount of infor­ma­tion, which allows you to strong­ly bright­en and dark­en a pho­to, remove noise, increase con­trast, and cor­rect col­or with­out los­ing qual­i­ty.

Shoot in RAW if you have already begun to be inter­est­ed in retouch­ing or if you need pro­cess­ing in prin­ci­ple for shoot­ing / Source: unsplash.com
  • JPEG is a print and pub­lish ready for­mat. Pho­tos to JPEG do not need to be con­vert­ed: they are read by any device and pro­gram. Such pic­tures, like RAW, can be “dri­ven” through a graph­ics edi­tor. But be pre­pared that with a strong cor­rec­tion, the final qual­i­ty will suf­fer.

Shoot in JPEG if you don’t need deep image pro­cess­ing, you save space on your mem­o­ry card, or you need to return pho­tos as soon as pos­si­ble after shoot­ing.

  • RAW+JPEG. After the pho­to ses­sion, you will have a copy of each pho­to in two for­mats. This option is cho­sen if, imme­di­ate­ly after shoot­ing, you need to send a JPEG to the cus­tomer so that he selects frames for retouch­ing.

color space

The col­or space is respon­si­ble for how many shades and sat­u­ra­tion will be in the pho­to. Cam­eras now have two spaces to choose from: Adobe RGB and sRGB.

  • Adobe RGB. Gives col­ors more sat­u­rat­ed, offers more shades. Minus: if you do not print pho­tos, then no one will see it. Of course, pro­vid­ed that the end user does not have a pro­fes­sion­al Adobe RGB mon­i­tor. This space is used in the pro­fes­sion­al seg­ment, main­ly for print­ing. If you upload one to the Inter­net, the col­ors will be dis­tort­ed and fad­ed.
  • sRGB. Not so diverse in shades, but a uni­ver­sal col­or space that is read by absolute­ly all devices from mon­i­tors to pro­jec­tors. It is also dom­i­nant on the Inter­net. If you know that your pic­tures will be viewed on social net­works through phones and tablets, then take pic­tures in it.

white balance

He is respon­si­ble for the puri­ty of the col­ors in the pic­ture. If the white dress of the bride sud­den­ly turns green in the pho­to, then the frame has the wrong white bal­ance.

It depends on the cam­era set­tings and light­ing on the set. For exam­ple, with a warm set­ting sun, the col­ors in the pho­to will go to red and orange / Source: unsplash.com

To adjust the white bal­ance on the cam­era:

  • select one of the auto­mat­ic modes (cloudy, sun­light, flash, incan­des­cent lamps, etc.);
  • set the approx­i­mate white bal­ance in man­u­al mode. In this case, a grid will appear on the cam­era where you can set the tint of the pho­to. What to rely on? If the pho­to is clear­ly “green”, then add a magen­ta tint, and if it gives off a blue — red.
  • adjust the white bal­ance with any gray or white object. To do this, take a close-up pho­to of such an object (for exam­ple, a sheet of paper, a white pil­low­case, or a T‑shirt) so that it takes up almost the entire frame, and then select this pho­to as a ref­er­ence.

Learn more about white bal­ance.


ISO sen­si­tiv­i­ty is a set­ting that deter­mines how sen­si­tive the cam­er­a’s sen­sor is to light. The depen­dence is this: the larg­er the ISO num­ber, the brighter the frame.

When there is enough light, set your cam­era to ISO 100 or ISO 200. If it’s not enough, stay in the region of ISO 400 — ISO 800. In twi­light and twi­light, ISO val­ues ​​\u200b\u200bcan range from 1000 to 1600.

The “raised” ISO has a big minus: the high­er it is, the more noise appears in the pho­to, and it looks of low­er qual­i­ty. In addi­tion, if you raise this set­ting too much, the frame will be over­ex­posed / Source: unsplash.com


Adjusts the size of the open­ing through which light enters the cam­era. Marked with a let­ter and a num­ber: f / 2.8, f / 5.6, f / 22, etc. The depen­dence is as fol­lows: the small­er the val­ue, the brighter the frame and the more open the shut­ter.

Closed aper­ture lens / Source: unsplash.com

In addi­tion, this para­me­ter affects the sharp­ness of objects, blur­ring the back­ground. The low­er the num­ber, the more the back­ground is blurred and the few­er objects are in focus. For exam­ple, at min­i­mum f / 1.4 or f / 1.2 when shoot­ing a large por­trait, only the eyes or, for exam­ple, the nose can be in focus.

What you need to focus on:

  • if you want to make the frame brighter with­out rais­ing the ISO, reduce the aper­ture;
  • if you want a por­trait with a blur­ry back­ground and bokeh, decrease the aper­ture. For exam­ple, f/2.8 or small­er;
  • the more peo­ple in the frame, the larg­er the aper­ture num­ber. For group por­traits, the val­ue can go up to f / 16 and above. The same applies to land­scapes and archi­tec­ture.

Focus modes

This is how the cam­era adjusts the focus on objects. Two modes can be dis­tin­guished:

  • Man­u­al focus. The pho­tog­ra­ph­er rotates the ring on the lens and decides where the pic­ture will be in focus. This is usu­al­ly used in sub­ject and macro pho­tog­ra­phy.
  • Auto focus. The cam­era itself choos­es which objects to focus on. It is divid­ed into two sub­species:

— Sin­gle focus. Suit­able for por­traits, land­scapes and any shoot­ing with sta­t­ic sub­jects. In cam­eras it is called dif­fer­ent­ly: Sin­gle, One-shot focus­ing mode or AF‑S.

— Con­tin­u­ous focus. The cam­era con­stant­ly seeks and adjusts focus. The mode is suit­able if you shoot mov­ing sub­jects. For exam­ple, reports, sports and dynam­ic por­traits in motion. Look in the set­tings: Ser­vo, AI Ser­vo, Con­tin­u­ous focus­ing mode or AF‑C.

Camera exposure

This is how long the cam­era shut­ter is open dur­ing the shut­ter release. Mea­sured in sec­onds: 1/125 (shut­ter opens for 1/125 of a sec­ond), 1/1000, 2” (shut­ter opens for two sec­onds), etc. The depen­dence is as fol­lows: the longer the shut­ter speed, the brighter the frame; the faster the shut­ter speed, the dark­er the frame and the bet­ter the motion “freezes”.

Long expo­sure pho­tog­ra­phy / Source: unsplash.com

What val­ues ​​to set:

  • when shoot­ing late at night, the shut­ter speed can reach sev­er­al sec­onds. True, in order for the pic­ture to turn out to be of high qual­i­ty, the cam­era must stand still on a tri­pod;
  • if it is impor­tant for you to “freeze” the move­ment, set a fast shut­ter speed — 1/500 or less. This may be nec­es­sary when shoot­ing dances, sports, loose mate­ri­als and liq­uids, when you want them to “freeze”;
  • set a fast shut­ter speed when shoot­ing on a bright sun­ny day, because some­times even at the min­i­mum ISO the pic­ture is too bright.