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Camera Settings & Why They Matter


In this list of camera settings there are options which are not available on all cameras. In fact, cell phone cameras won’t have easy access to most of these controls. However, most DSLR cameras and some camcorders have these setting options. If you can controls some or all of these settings, there are guides here to help you choose good settings.

Factors that affect the light you need for filming:

  • ISO (under 1600 or 3200 if possible) — The higher the number, the more sensitive your camera’s sensor is to light but that added sensitivity also means you’ll have more image noise or “grain” and it will look bad. This is also hard for even professionals to “fix” during post processing and amateur videographers won’t have the tools or skill set to fix it. Also be sure to turn off “Auto ISO” or at least set the top ISO option in Auto ISO mode to 1600 or lower.
  • Aperture — This is the size of the opening of your lens. Wide settings let in more light but they also flatten depth of field. In a small studio with good lighting, f/5.6 or f/8 is a good place to start. If your image is too dark, add more light.
  • Shutter speed (should be double of frame rate) — DSLR cameras that allow filming usually capture at 30fps (25fps in Europe PAL standard) You can also film “high speed” for slow-mo playback (60 or 50fps) with some newer cameras. Be sure to set your shutter speed to somewhere near double the frame rate to avoid any video capture issues.
  • Ev — This is the term for exposure compensation. It is a semi-automatic way to make your filming capture brighter or darker but you should leave this set to “0” because Ev can only adjust ISO, Shutter speed, or aperture. So if you have your aperture, shutter speed (frame rate), and ISO already set and locked, Ev adjustment would be over-riding one of your settings to make the change and this is undesirable.
  • After adjusting all your settings, if your video image is too dark, Get more light!
  • Finally, lock your exposure. Have a stand-in for locking aperture & focus.

Besides lighting/exposure stuff, also LOCK

  • Set and lock your white balance. Use a white card & get an incident light reading. You can have a WB preset saved with most cameras. Look this up in your camera manual.
  • Good tripod. Step back and zoom in to make faces look normal.  Camera should be face-high so you’re eye-to-eye with the talent.
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