Conquering Your Camera Settings in Landscape Photography

Understanding basic camera settings is important so that you know how to react in different conditions such as varying light, moving subjects, or to achieve maximum depth-of-field. In this 10-minute video, Adam Karnacz from First Man Photography discusses his techniques for working his camera while doing landscape photography.

While knowing precisely the camera settings a photographer used to achieve a certain shot is not entirely useful, understanding how they came to choose those settings is a good learning experience.

Karnacz talks about his full shooting workflow from the moment he turns on his camera until he takes the final shot, explaining the settings that he uses in the majority of cases.

Firstly, he always shoots manual. The majority of the time he will shoot at his camera’s base ISO (100) to minimise noise. He may occasionally increase this in order to get a faster shutter speed, but using a tripod means base ISO is perfect for most situations.

Next, he will choose the aperture based on whether or not there is anything in the foreground that should be in-focus. If so, he may use f/16 in order to achieve maximum depth-of-field. If not, he sticks to f/8, which is the sweet spot in terms of sharpness for most lenses.

Finally, he will adjust the shutter speed to achieve the correct focus. In most cases with landscape photography, the shutter speed is the least-critical part of the exposure triangle as your subject is rarely moving, which means a fast shutter speed is not necessary.

However, there are cases where the shutter speed is important, and Karnacz takes us to a location with a waterfall to demonstrate how he would set up his camera for this shot; using a slower shutter speed to show movement in the water.

He then travels to a different location to demonstrate how he would take a shot in a case where the foreground should be sharp. He also shows how he would use the in-camera metering as well as live view to check the histogram and ensure the image isn’t blown out.

While the knowledge of how to adapt to specific scenes, it’s not everything.

“It’s not the camera settings that are going to make you a great landscape photographer,” Karnacz says. “It’s about the visualization, about actually getting out into these amazing landscapes, and then just putting your personality into your photographs.”