What Settings Do I Use? | Olympus Pen E-PL7

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo 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).

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset
New Olympus camera bag

White Balance

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.

Shutter Speed

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 |


Picture 1

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


Picture 2

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

WhatSettingsStylonylonPicture 3 & 4

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!

The camera bag and lens pouch are from the new Olympus accessorises line. And a big thanks to @jessicarosewilliams for inspiring me to write this post!

Leave a Comment


  1. Super helpful post I had no idea how to custom the white balance so I can’t wait to try this out thankyou for yet another super informative post and sharing your tips. I now want the 17mm so bad and a camera bag, someone grow me a money tree so my life can be complete!
    Liza Prideaux recently posted…New Mum Quick Fix MakeupMy Profile

    1. Yay, so glad! Oh god, the 17mm is
      life-changing! Might be worth checking eBay for 2nd hand lenses. Or let me know if I can help with a discount xx

  2. Oh what a great post. I really want to buy a camera for blogging beauty products but don’t know where to begin. If I buy the Olympus Pen7 do I need to buy extra lenses?

    1. Thankyou! You don’t have to but I think the beauty bloggers are finding the 45mm is really amazing for product shots xx

  3. Thanks for the tips. Thinking of getting one of these just for the camera bag. Which flash would you recommend for taking family photos? (my kids are like runaway hens) .

    1. The bag is lovely!:) The Pen E-PL7 actually comes with a little flash of its own – but you can use the hotshoe on top to put in any flash you like. I do have a bigger flashgun one which does work. Have to admit though I don’t use flash ever. But yes, I have a three year old and it ain’t easy. Fast shutter speed and lots of good natural light is my approach!

    1. Hey Vikki! That’s so fab to hear, really glad it’s useful :)) good to know it’s coming across in a straightforward way as sometimes I wonder if it all makes sense, haha!
      Julia xx

    1. It’s from the new Olympus accessories collection. There is a link at the end of the post above 🙂

  4. Such a great post! I’ve been wanting to buy a new camera for a while now and have been eyeing this one. If I end up buying it, I’ll make sure to come back and read all your helpful posts with tips! I found a discount code on another blog but sadly it’s not working for me. Do you happen to have one or know where I can find one? Thanks in advance 🙂 x

  5. I may have already left a comment on another post but these posts are so helpful and I’m so excited to be finally ordering one this has been on my wish list for so long! I’ve had trouble with a discount code from another blogger, is there anyway you had one or knew where I could get one? lovely blog x
    Caitlin Davies recently posted…BIRCHBOX JANUARY 2016My Profile

  6. This was such a helpful post! Thank you! I’m sat on the train home writing notes 🙂 I’ve just bought one this weekend! Xxx

  7. Hi

    I would like to ask you a question I wish you could help me. It is too bright whenever i use olympus pen EPL7 to shoot picture of sky. I can’t see blue color. May i know what is the problem?

    1. It sounds like your exposure value is too high. Make sure it is about 0.0…

  8. I have been struggling with my camera in low lighting and was wondering if you knew what to do. When I try to take portrait shots in the evening (low lighting), the camera is extremely yellow toned, even orange. When I try Auto, it goes quite blurry. Is there anything you can advise around this? I am thinking of buying a ring light for support. I also was wondering if you can recommend a tripod for the Olympus Pen. I have been searching everywhere.

    Thank you for these tips!
    Sophie | It’s Cultured xx
    Sophie recently posted…Spring/Summer Lip ColoursMy Profile

    1. Are you shooting on Auto White Balance? If yes, you can try to set “Keep Warm Color” to Off in Custom Menu -> section G. Or just use one of the WB presets like artifical lightning.

  9. Hello, I can’t work out how to switch my camera to manual focus. I’ve got the cogs, thanks to you…. Can you help? I’m away from home and the instruction disc!

    1. Hey Frances! Have you got the Super Control Panel switched on? You can do it in there in the focus bit…

  10. Thanks for the tips! I just have a question when taking selfies with olympus pen epl7, why is it shakey/blur when I use (A) but clear when I use (iAuto)? Is there any way I can reduce the blurry shots caused by my shaky hands? Because I love the lighting and all when I set the dial to (A)! 🙂

    1. Because the iAuto will have set the settings to allow a really fast shutter speed so shake doesn’t matter. But your own settings will get a nice result! If you want to keep them as they are then put your camera on a surface and use the self-timer remote on your phone via the Olympus Share app or set fully to manual and try making the shutter speed faster (but you’ll have to adjust other settings maybe), or just hold the camera really still 😉

  11. I like to know ,when I use epl7 to shoot at the object ,why it is not like as sharp as the LCD.Thank you

    1. Hello! I’m not sure, maybe check if your lens is clean on the front? Let me know!

      1. Thank you so much for replying me,for your advice I will usually check my front Len and clean it before I use to shoot my photos,I really don’t know the problem,perhaps you can help me.tq

        1. No problem! To be honest it’s hard for me to know without seeing the camera & problem for myself. Can I suggest tweeting your question to @olympusuk as they can put you in touch with some tech people, or taking the camera into a camera shop where someone can have a look. In my experience the picture shills match the sharpness you see on screen…

  12. I never really thanked you for all this useful tips on Olympus Pen, I basically learnt all the settings and basics on how to use this camera effectively from your website! Thank you and keep up the good work! 🙂

    1. Oh brilliant! That’s so good to hear 🙂 Have you checked out my new photography podcast series? It’s on the main menu, or you can listen on iTunes if you search ‘Phototalk With Stylonylon’. Also I do an Insta Live most Fridays at 12pm where you can ask me any photo/camera questions! 🙂 x

  13. You’re so helpful! I’m so appreciative of your blogs and camera tips! Thank you, thank you, thank you! ???? #beginer

  14. Finally a blog about photography I understand 😉 Thnx a lot! I have some questions though…I would like to buy the Olympus Pen for my traveling photos (scenery and kids) and my instagram account (selfies and close-ups)…I know a lot of purposes 😉 plus I am in love with the Bokeh effect though, which actually can also work for the purposes mentioned earlier…Would you recommend the Pen 7 or 8 to start with and would you buy the body only and buy the 45mm straight away or buy the ‘starter’ 14-42 mm kit? Love,


  15. Thank you for your post! It was so helpful. I’m learning to shoot with this camera =)

    1. Ah brilliant! Glad of use 🙂 Planning some more how-tos with this camera too! 🙂 x

  16. Hello! Thank you for those tips! I am actually in desperate need for some photography advice… I am struggling to choose between the Sony a6000 and the Olympus EPL8. Both are really amazing and I can’t seem to decide what to choose. I am aiming to learn as a beginner and eventually use my camera for more creative shorts including portrait, fashion photos and travel photos.

    I haven’t been able to read a lot of comparison between those two systems and I wanted to know your opinion. If you had the possibility to switch to a Sony a6000, would you?

    Is 16mp on the Olympus enough for amazing photos ? Is the lack of viewfinder a drawback ?

    Thanks and kisses xx

    1. Hi there! I will try to help but probably not in best position as I have never tried the Sony. I’ve heard people say really good things about them 🙂 The view finder could def be a deciding factor – although these days I shoot about 80% with screen there are times when a viewfinder is useful like when it’s very sunny. The 16mp prove absolutely fine for photos as far as I am concerned. Personally I think it’s more about how the camera feels in your hand – it might be worth popping into a camera shop and holding both to get a feel for them. Visually I prefer the looks of the Pen and I think part of that is to do with how good it is to handle. I’m not crazy keen on the proportions of the Sony to its lenses, there doesn’t seem much room for you hands. And I think the high raised grip is a bit of an eyesore although probably very necessary! Hope that helps! xx

  17. Very helpful tips! i just bought my first Olympus Pen (e-pl8) and am trying the ropes. Your tips and Tricks are easy to understand with lovely examples. Thanks a lot 🙂

  18. Hiya,

    I found this post very, very, very helpful.

    I’m looking to get a flash gun to use with my e-pl7 but I can’t find for the life of my, anywhere any information to say that one would work with this camera as it states everywhere it’s not a normal hotshoe so I can’t use all the ones I find online, is that right? Sorry I’m so new to this lol….

    1. Hmmm where does it say it’s not a normal hot shoe? I’m pretty sure it is a normal one 🙂

  19. Hi! Your posts are a great help to understanding my camera and making the most of it. However, how can I set the ‘square settings (what I call them)’ – brightness, colour, blur etc.? The camera sets them all back to zero once it switches off, then I have to start from scratch every time I switch it back on. Kinda cumbersome if you wanna take a quick shot. Is there a function to set those permanently? Thanks!!! Eve

  20. Hi, I have the Olympus PEN Lite E-PL5 and I’m kind of getting frustrated because whenever I try to do a long exposure shot it’s always blown out. I put the ISO to 200 because that’s the lowest I can go, I have it on f.22, I also used a nd filter, the time was set for 2 seconds and at the end it’s always blown out and white everywhere can’t see a single thing! Need help. It’s also set on manual. Tried everything

    1. Sounds like too much light coming in. I would experiment with shortening your shutter speed… but are you shooting in the dark or daytime?

  21. Really love this post! found it so useful as I got the Olympus Pen a couple of days ago so this really helped me get to basics with it!

  22. Thanks for the lovely read – definitely can’t wait to have a play around now.
    I was wondering if you could help, I am an artist and I need to take clear shots of my art with my EPL7, I have a small setup with the correct lighting and backdrop and through the camera viewer it looks great but when I look through playback the images have lost all their light and are even yellow toned. Is there a certain setting you can recommend to fix this? I need to be able to boost the brightness without loosing any clarity of my artwork. I am not sure where to start, would love some advise 🙂


    1. Hi there! Sorry not to reply sooner – how are the pictures looking when you import them? Still dull and/or yellow? Remember the playback is not a totally accurate representation of the picture, but gives an overall indication, esp with WB.
      What settings are you currently using? If you set you WB to Auto that should address any yellow tones – there is a setting in WB, on INFO, where you can turn off the warmth, but it is quite a minor adjustment. My concern is that there is something in your settings that is throwing the picture off. Is your exposure at 0.0 or 0.3? And is your fstop at its lowest number?

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