With the current quarantine situation leaving us limited to shooting mostly indoors, a lot of us may take up portrait photography projects. Now is actually a great time to channel our creative energies toward making great family portraits and even creative self portraits. For those who are fairly new to the craft, figuring out the best camera settings to use it can be a challenge. If that sounds like you (or someone you know), we have just the right photography cheat sheet to help get you started quickly. So, pick up your camera and take note of the settings you can use for your next portrait sessions around the house.
The cheat sheet below is just one of the useful guides Ann Young of Fix the Photo shared in her in-depth tutorial on portrait photography. While indoor shooting technically also includes shooting with studio equipment or even a single portrait light source, this guide covers the typical lighting situation you’ll encounter at home. Take note that this means making the most out of the natural light and shooting next to big windows or in the bright shade of a porch or balcony.
First, the guide recommends shooting in Manual or Aperture Priority (A or Av) mode. Set the ISO to 800 if you’re shooting with bright indoor light or 1600 for low indoor light. Set your aperture anywhere from f1.2 to f4. If you choose to shoot in manual mode, set the shutter speed to 1/60 sec to 1/200 sec if handheld, or as slow as 1/15th if you’re propping up your camera on a tripod. Lastly, don’t forget to set your white balance according to your light source.
Now, let’s break all these settings down. Your aperture should ideally be f1.2 or f1.4, but you can also go for whatever the widest setting is of your lens. Keep in mind that the wider the aperture, the more light passes through your lens. Despite the wide aperture, your shutter speed might still be too slow for handheld shots. To compensate, set the ISO to 800 and regulate the shutter speed as needed. Raise the ISO to 1600 or higher if you’re shooting in low light. Many modern digital cameras have superb low light performance, so you don’t have to worry much about noise. If you’re using a bright studio light without a flash ISO 800 will be fine.
As for the white balance setting, you can choose the “Fluorescent” mode if you’re shooting with fluorescent lights or notice that your sample shot’s tonality is too cool. If you’re shooting with tungsten bulb lighting, the “Tungsten” mode will balance the colors created by the warm light. In low light situations, you’d be best served by setting the camera to “Flash” mode and letting it select the correct white balance.
Liked these portrait photography tips? Don’t forget to check out our photography cheat sheet collection to find more that will come in handy for your next shoot and projects!