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General Camera Settings for Portraits for Semi-Pro Photo Shoots

written by: Brian Nelson•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 2/18/2009

Many camera settings are about that one shot, but these digital camera settings are the ones you can set and forget at the beginning of your photo shoot. Of course, these are also the ones that can ruin your whole set of pictures, so get them setup right at the beginning.

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    Set These Settings First

    White Balance

    Certain settings should be adjusted first, either because they will not change during the course of a session, or because their adjustment will require other settings to be adjusted as well. The first of these settings is the white balance.

    While balance is nothing more than telling your digital camera what it should regard as white. All other settings are adjusted from here. The easiest way to set the white balance is to use a special card which you place in front of the camera and let the camera measure the white balance. Another useful way to set the white balance is by the type of light you have. In a studio setting, you can use this method if you are using all the same type of lighting.

    ISO

    Setting the ISO speed dictates how your camera will handle other settings. The ISO speed should be set after setting the white balance, but before making other adjustments. You want your ISO to be set as low as possible. Assuming you have enough light, this should be 100 or 200 depending upon your camera. Use an ISO of 100 if you can. If too many composition choices trigger the low light alerts in your camera switch to ISO 200 which should allow you camera to perform a little better in the lower light without introducing to much grain.

    Focus

    Set your digital camera’s autofocus mode to “One-Shot" or whatever setting is suitable for still subjects. Then, you can either set your camera to allow you to choose the focusing spot, or you can leave it at auto and then use your camera’s “focus lock" feature to ensure that you are getting the camera to focus exactly where you want it to. Most digital cameras with a focus lock feature work by pressing the shutter release button down half-way. The camera will focus, and you keep the button pressed half-way down. As long as the button is not released, the camera will use the same focus.

    Keep in mind that with close up portraits that it matters which part of the face gets the focus. You want to focus on the subject’s eyes whenever possible, so don’t just allow the autofocus to set the focus point on the hair or ears.

    Drive Mode or Shot Speed

    laughing-portrait If your camera allows for continuous shooting (taking more than one picture by holding down the shutter release button), then turn that feature on. Although your subject will be relatively stationary, good portrait photography is often about catching that one moment that really shows off the subject. As you develop your portrait photography skill, you will be able to see that moment and capture it. For now, hold down the button to take continuous shots whenever the subject starts laughing or has any other spontaneous exhibition of emotion (maybe not crying…) One of the shots you capture this way, might just end up being the best one.

    Sounds

    If you have the ability, turn off any sounds that your camera makes. Much like a patient in a doctor’s office, and your subject will begin to wonder what the various sounds mean, and more importantly, whether they are “good" or “bad" sounds. This may cause you subject to tense up or act unnatural which will ruin your ability to get a good shot.

    Now that our camera is all set, it is time to bring in our subject and start taking some pictures.

Semi-Pro Photography - Taking Pictures of Friends and Family for Profit and Fun

Sooner or later, people are going to notice that you are good photographer. When they do, they'll want you to photograph them and their events. By building up your skills as a semi-professional photographer, you can earn money and develop your craft. If along the way you become full pro, great!
  1. Semi-Pro Photographer – Shooting Portraits of Friends and Family for Profit and Fun
  2. Semi-Pro Photography - Photographing Friends and Family in Portrait and Semi-Manual Mode
  3. Using Manual Mode for Portraits
  4. General Camera Settings for Portraits for Semi-Pro Photo Shoots
  5. Posing Subjects for Digital Photography Portraits Tips