So you’ve got your new Olympus Pen E-PL7 (update: or Pen E-PL8!) and you’ve got all the right menus set up, now what are the right settings to use? I guess it differs for everyone and every light situation will vary, so I can only tell you what I do for my pictures. Here goes…
On my Pen E-PL7, I like to shoot on Aperture Priority (the A on your dial on the top of the camera). For me, this is somewhere between Auto and Manual – you can set everything thing apart from Shutter Speed, which the camera decides for you. Shooting on Manual is just one step away (you set the Shutter Speed yourself – which is super easy, as you just need to turn the Shutter dial – the front dial – right or left until your exposure reads something between 0.0 and 0.7 ) but I just find this takes that little bit extra time and I like to shoot quick!
So where to start?
Because I like my pictures to be light and bright, and with blurry backgrounds, my focus is always the Aperture. I usually put this as low as the lens will allow. On my 17mm, 45mm, and 75mm this is f/1.8. On the kit lens, this is f/3.5 (for me, this isn’t quite low enough which is why I don’t really use the kit lens). I find that setting your aperture low will let in as much light as the lens is capable of, so always good if you’re shooting in low light too. However, it’s not the always the answer. Setting your aperture low also gives you shallow depth of field, which means not everything in the photo will be in focus. Which is often the look I’m going for, but not always appropriate, ie. for landscape shots or city shots when you want everything in focus. Or a flatlay shot where you have items of differing heights and you want it all in focus. In which case you want to put your f/stop to a higher number like f/5 or more.
Next up is exposure. Again, because I like a bright photo, I tend to have my exposure a little higher than what’s considered the perfect exposure of 0.0. I usually have it at 0.7. But if things are crazy bright, you can always adjust down. But I rarely go lower than 0.0.
And then the ISO. You can either set this on Auto when on Aperture Only (A) and let the camera decide or do it yourself. Rule of thumb is 100-400 for good daylight (or the Pen has a Low Setting which I’m guessing is about 100). And if it’s darker you can push it up. Remember the higher you go, the grainier your shot will be. The great thing is you can see the effect on your screen before you’ve taken the shot, so you can see what’s working (although not the graininess, really).
White balance is another one you can set that can really make a difference. A normal sunny day, choose the sun symbol. If it’s cloudy, see if you like what the cloud symbol does to your picture. The really useful one is Incandescent, the lightbulb symbol, to use for indoors in artificial lighting, both day (eg. press days) and night (at home, in restaurants). Sometimes, for example, at a press day, where the lighting can be both artificial and natural, you will want to switch between the two. Basically the light bulb throws a blue wash over things, making everything a more normal colour. But it’s never perfect, and I always edit photos I’ve taken in Incandescent mode afterwards, which can make a huge difference. The other trick is, if you’re shooting flatlays or on a white background, is to set your custom WB. I describe how to do this in my most recent #PenInPractice post, but here it is again:
To set a custom White Balance click into WB, select Capture WB Info and press the little round Info button. The camera will then direct you to photograph a white sheet of paper – this can be whatever is plain and white in the environment you’re shooting in. Then make sure you say Yes to capture the info. Now you can take your picture!
For the Auto-Focus settings, I like to have mine on S-AF. This mean Spot Auto-Focus – you half press the shutter release to focus, and you can navigate exactly where you want your focus to be by clicking the control circle to the left of the OK button, to bring up the focal grid. Then you can move across the green squares to focus where you want. I always think having an off-centre focal point is what can make a photo really interesting. Also you can tap the screen to focus too – you need to have this feature on. Tap the finger tapping square box icon in the left-hand corner to turn this on, off or to activate screen tapping shutter release. If it’s disappeared, press the Menu button, then go back to screen and it’ll be there again. However, for ease, and if you like to have your focus always in the centre, adjust the setting to C-AF.
So I’m kind of leaving this out, as shooting on Aperture Only the camera decides this for you. I should say again that switching to Manual (M) only means that you need to turn the front dial until your Exposure is at the right level and then you will have your Shutter Speed. I’m not really an expert on speeds (it’s something I should swot up on) but I do love playing with long exposure every now and then. Especially for water or night. Use a tripod, set your Shutter Speed to a minute or more and get gorgeous running water shots, car light trails or bright gorgeous stars.
Or you can set you dial to (S) where you can set the Shutter Speed, but the camera decides your aperture for you. But as my photography is very aperture focussed, I tend to avoid this. Or you can go one step even more Auto by switching your dial to (P) where the camera decides aperture and shutter speed, but you can do the ISO and WB through your Super Control Panel.
This is how the settings on my Super Control Panel generally look on Aperture Only… To find out how to set you the can’t-live-without-it SCP, see this post here… The SCP is touchscreen which is handy, and also note I have Face Priority (the little smiley icon) set to OFF, as this will search for eyes and faces in a photo and can conflict with the normal focus.
| Photo Case Studies |
So for this photo, here are the settings I used. The photo was taken on a white table in a white room by big window doors, so, a lot of light is coming in. Loads of light really is the key to getting a light, bright shot. And white surfaces and walls always help as they bounce the light back onto the subject. I have post-edited – lifting the exposure, clarity, desaturating, adjusting shadows a bit – but nothing major. Shot on a 25mm lens.
ISO 100, Aperture f/2.5, Exposure 0.7, Shutter 1/125
For this photo, I wanted to isolate my subjects, the pins, and have the rest of the shot blurry. The trick is to get close in on your subject and give quite a bit of space behind to allow things to blur. Shot on a 17mm lens.
ISO 100, Aperture f/1.8, Exposure 0.7, Shutter 1/200
For the berries and pussy willow, I wanted to do a comparison. The one on the left, I use the widest aperture (f1/8) for some shallow depth of field, blurring the bits I’m not focussing on and for the one on the right I used a narrower aperture (f/11) to have everything more in focus. Not the best example as the pussy willow is so soft and furry, but I hope you can see the difference. Shot on the 17mm lens. So settings for the picture on the left:
ISO 200, Aperture f/1.8, Exposure 0.7, Shutter 1/3200
And for the picture on the right,
ISO 200, Aperture f/11, Exposure 0.7, Shutter 1/100
See how by setting the Aperture to f/11 (which lets in less light) the camera has compensated by making the Shutter Speed longer, at 1/100, to let in more light. It’s all a balancing game, within which you can get the type of pictures you want! So, I hope this hasn’t been too much of a garble and it’s been actually helpful! Do leave any questions in the comments below!