Depending on what camera you are using, you might have a whole load of settings on your camera that you have never used. It’s a bit like using a phone without ever switching on data roaming. You are missing out on a whole host of possibilities. In this post I will explain to you how to get the right settings on your camera so you can take photos like a pro on your next holiday.

How the Exposure Triangle works

I’m going to start with the Exposure Triangle first because if you can understand the way ISO, aperture and shutter speed relate to each other on your camera then you have learnt the key fundamentals of photography. Shutter speed and aperture control how much light reaches your camera’s image sensor, while ISO controls your camera’s sensitivity to that light.


ISO refers to the sensitivity of the film you have chosen in your camera. With digital photography, ISO settings control your camera’s sensitivity to light. Put simply, brighter conditions require lower ISO numbers, and darker conditions require higher ISO numbers.

When you are going to take your photo, keeping in mind the table above, you should always shoot using the lowest ISO you are able to, this will give you the sharpest imagery with the least amount of noise. But be careful, if you take a photo using ISO 200 in a dark environment you will have a very low lit photograph and won’t be able to distinguish your subject.


Aperture is the size of the opening that allows light through to the camera’s sensor. Aperture dictates the focal length of the image you are going to take.

Shutter Speed

The shutter speed controls the length of time that the aperture is open. 

If you want to capture a moving subject or want to minimise the chance of getting a blurry photo then a higher shutter speed is really important. 


When I am shooting manually, the first thing I think about is the subject matter and what I want to achieve with the image. For example, if I am taking a shot of wildlife I would make sure the ISO is on the lowest setting I am able to use, around the 200/400 mark. Then I would select the shutter speed to be around 1/250 or higher to help capture the movement, then finally depending on the focal range I want I would select an aperture, in this situation f/8 or f/4 would allow me to create a shallow depth of field.

More expensive camera lenses allow you to go lower with your aperture, creating a stronger depth of field even in lower light. It’s always worth spending the money on decent kit.

Camera settings for fireworks?


  • Average shutter speed 1/8
  • A fast film speed ISO 100/200
  • A small aperture f/11 to allow for a greater depth of field

 A tripod is essential to achieve good firework photography, this allows you to have a shutter speed of 1/8 minimising any camera shake.


Camera settings for portraits?


  • Average shutter speed 1/125
  • A medium film speed ISO 400
  • A large aperture f/2.4 to allow for a shallow depth of field

Camera settings for sunset?


  • Average speed 1/125
  • A medium film speed ISO 400
  • A large aperture f/32 to allow for a greater depth of field

Camera settings for waterfalls?


  • Fast speed 1/1000
  • A medium film speed ISO 400
  • Depending on the type of photograph you want to take, you can select the right aperture/ depth of field. 


If you want to take a photo showing the water moving. You need to lower the shutter speed, and set your camera up on a tripod.

Camera settings for action shots?


  • Fast shutter speed 1/1000
  • A medium film speed ISO 400 (if you are in bright light) 800+ (if you are using a zoom lens)
  • A large aperture f/2.4 will give you a shallow depth of field

Camera settings for photographing children?


  • Average speed 1/125
  • A medium film speed ISO 400
  • A large aperture f/2.4 to allow for a shallow depth of field

Hero feature photo by Lilly Rum on Unsplash


Vicky is a senior digital designer for a well-known fashion brand. Her love of travel stems from long summers on the beaches of Cornwall and Wales and family holidays in Tuscany. She loves art galleries and finding fantastic vegetarian and vegan food. Her favourite destination is Greece where she spent two summers working as a photographer.

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