A beautiful view of the world.

Which camera setting do I use for landscape photos?

8. September 2019

I would like to briefly explain the individual modes of the camera. With most cameras you can choose between the modes M, A, S, P and Auto. Then there are various camera manufacturer-dependent programs, such as Effects, Macro, Night, etc.. There are no limits to the creativity of the manufacturers.

If you are halfway serious with your camera, only the four programs M, A, S and P are of interest. But what do these programs mean? These are briefly explained here.

  • M: Manual mode. Aperture and time have to be adjusted manually.
  • A: Aperture priority. The photographer has to set the aperture and the time is calculated automatically.
  • S: Aperture priority. The photographer sets a desired exposure time and the camera calculates the required aperture.
  • P: Program priority. Time and aperture are set by the camera.
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I use the A mode of the camera for 85% of my everyday shots. I give the camera the aperture and the time is calculated. With this program I can determine for myself how great my depth of field is. This is essential for me when choosing my subject. Time plays a subordinate role. You can also counter time with a higher ISO value. With newer cameras, you can also let the camera’s ISO automatic work with a predefined ISO range for a calmer conscience. Thus one is even more flexible in the choice of the aperture also in darker environments. And should it get too long due to my desired choice of aperture, ISO and the associated exposure time, the camera comes on a tripod.

But when will it be time for a tripod?

There is a good rule of thumb that still holds true, apart from the advantages of image stabilization.
“Focal length equals maximum exposure time”

Consider your chosen focal length and take it as the maximum exposure time for freehand shots. So if you shoot at 50mm, the exposure time should not be longer than 1/50th of a second. At 300mm focal length you should not undercut 1/300 second. And with a wide angle of 15 mm it can be 1/15 second. With this basic rule, which of course is not a binding formula, I have driven very well so far. Of course one knows with the time also his personal limits and his calm hand and can exhaust these values a little bit further. This guideline can also be “extended” with technical aids.

Nevertheless, a tripod should be obligatory for a high-quality landscape photo!

There is a further saying, which offers a solid starting position straight with landscape photos:
“The sun laughs, aperture eight.”

As ridiculous as this sounds, it is a good starting point for normal landscape photos. I don’t want to get into the depth too much, but with aperture 8 and a subject at a slight distance, you will have enough sharpness in the picture due to the “hyperfocal distance” to form a landscape properly. Not to mention that the lenses only show their optimal sharpness in a certain aperture value range.

If you want to take a “normal” landscape photo, you should adjust your camera as follows:

  • ISO: The ISO value should not be too high to get a noise-free image. With me mostly between ISO 100 and 400.
  • Iris: The aperture value should be in the range 8-13. With this you will have enough depth of field in a wide landscape to get a clear picture of everything.
  • Time: The time results from the two previously set values, but should be compatible with the above rule of thumb. In the ideal case the camera is anyway on a tripod and the value becomes irrelevant in this case.

Of course, you can’t take these settings blindly, but they should give you a good clue. Maybe one day a picture of you will be in a museum. Do you have any questions about the settings? Just write me a comment.