The Truth About Camera Settings (and a few Other Things You Should Focus on Instead)

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Here’s a scenario you may find familiar – You stumble upon an image online you love, you find out the camera settings of that image, then on your next shoot you dial these settings into your camera only to be disappointed when the results weren’t similar to the original image at all!

You're Settings Only Make Up Part of the Image.

Today I want to discuss with you why finding out the camera settings of other photographer’s images doesn’t always matter, and in fact might not end up benefiting your overall progression in learning photography.

A question we see time and time again from people learning photography is asking what camera settings were used to create an image online. Learning another photographer’s settings is in no way a bad thing and it’s good to be curious, but as you’ll learn, settings are only a small aspect of what makes up a good photograph.

What I suggest to you today is. Instead of worrying about camera settings right away, there are a few other aspects you should be looking at to better understand the inner workings of the images you that inspire you.

1. Gain a Better Understanding of Your Equipment. 

Why Camera Settings Don’t Matter-Matt-Marcus.jpg

The reality is, these settings won’t serve you at all unless you know how to tweak and change those settings for the environment you’ll be shooting in. On a real shoot, the chances of being in the exact same lighting conditions as the images you are trying to emulate are very slim.

Do You Properly Understand Your Camera's Manual Capabilities? 

That’s why you need to understand your camera in full manual mode. You’ll need to have control of your camera and an understanding of all the separate elements that come together in order to create an appropriate exposure - using aperture, ISO and shutter speed. 

Once you learn how to shoot in full manual mode, with practice, you no longer need to rely on the settings of another photographer. Over time you can start to make educated guesses as to how images were shot, and you become more interested in the other elements. Light should become your obsession, not settings. Light can make or break and image, the settings are only serve to capture that light to a desired exposure.

2. Determine Which Aspects of a Photograph You Like and Why. 

I mention this point often due to its importance. Take a little time to figure out what you like about an image. It takes a little more soul searching. Are you inspired by the lighting, the color grading, retouching, the location, the backdrop, the subject, the angle, the emotions portrayed by the subject? 

  • For example, does the image have a shallow depth of field? Then you’ll need to use a wide-open aperture.

  • Does the image have a female subject in a certain location or styled in a certain way?

So the next time an image inspires you, ask yourself what exactly you like about it and use that information to understand how to create something similar.

Why Camera Settings Don’t Matter-Image-Matt-Marcus

3. Work Out The Settings For Yourself

Once you break down the points made in step 1 and 2 – by having a good knowledge of how to operate your camera settings through practice, then have an idea of the lighting conditions or creative elements you need, the settings used in other images that inspire you almost become obsolete (in most cases).

From here it’s up to you to figure out your own settings and find the best lighting, locations and team members to achieve the results you desire.

To wrap up

For any photographer learning their craft my advice would be to focus less on others’ settings, and more on practicing, understanding light, and the technical operation of your camera and lenses. Before you know it, you’ll soon be figuring out quite accurately other photographers’ methods in order to produce your own high quality images. 

I would love to know if you have any other suggestions that could be helpful to photographer’s learning their craft? Or has this post helped you in any way? 
Share your thoughts below in order for us all to grow together and create mages we love.