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Suggested Camera Settings for Landscape Photography

Suggested Camera Settings for Landscape Photography

It is crucial to set your camera properly if you want to take the highest quality landscape photos. However, with the large range of menu options and settings found in cameras today, it isn’t easy to find the optimal setup. Keep in mind that all of these are personal recommendations rather than absolute necessities, but they will be useful if you are trying to figure out where to start with your own camera in the field.

landscape photography

In a nutshell, here are some basic parameters that could serve as a starting point depending on the lighting conditions and desired effect:

  • Exposure mode: Aperture Priority
  • Drive mode: Single shot
  • Aperture: f/8
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: Determined by the camera
  • White balance: Varies (depending on the lighting conditions)
  • Focus mode: Manual

Here are some more detailed settings that are recommended and commonly used by landscape photographers:

  • Shoot RAW
  • Turn off high ISO noise reduction
  • Turn off lens corrections
  • Turn off Active D-Lighting (or Dynamic Range Optimizer – goes by other names)
  • Autofocus: Acceptable to use in good conditions, however, manual focus will give more control when composing
  • Autofocus using the AF-ON button (or assign a button to that task)
  • Select the autofocus point manually
  • Use single-servo autofocus in live view for nonmoving scenes
  • Use continuous-servo autofocus for moving subjects
  • Manual focus: Use if autofocus is not giving you a sharp result
  • Focus manually at 100% magnification in live view, with a tripod

Mountains under snow with moving clouds on top captured on long exposure

  • Picture Control: Set to its default style, or to the lowest possible contrast if you are a histogram maniac (though beware of underexposing)
  • White balance: Use whatever gives you a good preview (often just Auto), or find your camera’s UniWB if, again, you are a histogram maniac
  • Turn on long exposure noise reduction, assuming that you are willing to wait twice as long for your camera to capture long exposure photos in exchange for fewer hot pixels
  • Enable alerts the histogram for under and overexposing
  • Disable “rotate tall”
  • Enable one-click zoom when you review a photo (if available)

A well exposed image results in a photo that's close enough to a sky and foreground, meaning that you can recover any lost details when you process the image. Here are some recommendations:

  • Use manual or aperture-priority mode so that your camera doesn’t adjust the aperture automatically
  • Set your aperture to balance depth of field and diffraction – typically, at a full-frame equivalent of f/8 to f/16 (but a larger aperture for nighttime photography, when you have no other choice)
  • Keep your ISO at its base value. In most cases, turn off auto ISO or set to the minimum
  • Set your shutter speed to give you a properly exposed photo
  • If your chosen shutter speed introduces too much motion blur, you’ll need to raise your ISO in order to use a faster shutter speed
  • Use whatever metering mode you’re most comfortable with
  • Adjust exposure compensation if your meter is recommending exposures that are too bright or too dark

an arctic city captured on total silence

Landscape photography means that most of the time long-exposures are going to be the main workflow, therefore, a shutter remote release and a sturdy tripod are essential. Some other additions could be a different variation of filters and suitable lenses.

Related Article: 6 Tips for Better Landscape Photography

About The Author Manuel Delgado:

Manuel Delgado is an award-winning photographer with a specialization in travel and documentary photography. He writes for Contrastly and is a Mentor for NGO Photographers Alliance, having led workshops in Africa with a focus on ethical and humanitarian photography. His work has been exhibited in Europe and the Americas.

Driven by an innate curiosity for his surroundings, Manuel´s process is mainly focused on capturing people in their natural environment; translating through his lens the subtle threads of daily life that are shared across cultures, borders, and races. Depicting people from diverse backgrounds, his work is united by a shared aesthetic that serves to tell each individual’s story. Manuel is currently living in Düsseldorf, Germany. 

Manuel Delgado Instagram Profile

cape town captured from the skyline

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