What Are The Best Camera Settings For Travel Photography?

August 06, 2023

Inland Kaikoura in Clouds 2Inland Kaikoura in Clouds 2

Middlehurst In The Mists, 2023
Fujifilm X-H2 XF 55-200mm, f9 @ 1/40 second, ISO 125

The best camera settings for travel photography are the ones that get the best shot, so let's make this question easier by defining 'travel photography' as being ready for any eventuality while on the street or on the road.

Theoretically, a fully automatic exposure setting is the one to use because the camera takes care of everything. However, consider the aperture and shutter speed. If your subject requires more or less depth-of-field, you may choose to use aperture priority so you can control the depth-of-field. Similarly, shutter priority would be useful to ensure you have a fast enough shutter speed, but usually you can control this with the Auto ISO setting as well. So, thinking it through, aperture priority with an Auto ISO setting using a minimum shutter speed might give you the best of all worlds – and is certainly how I shoot most of my travel.

Photographers also ask about the metering mode and I find the matrix or multiple area modes are superior for travel, compared to centre-weighted average or spot metering, especially when you're keeping an eye on the histogram. Things happen quickly with travel, so I have my exposure compensation set to -0.67EV (minus two thirds) as I would prefer to deal with dark shadows than burnt-out highlights. This works well for me most of the time.

For focusing, I'd set continuous autofocus for moving subjects (or a moving photographer), with a wide-area or subject-based focus setting, depending on my subject. Face-recognition is great, as long as the AF is recognising the right face in a crowded situation. However, maybe I'm better working with a wide-angle lens and an aperture with more depth-of-field to get the shot?

And while I probably have my camera set to single frame advance, when shooting from the hip I'm happy to hose down my subject at 10 or 20 frames per second, to compensate for the volatile situation and the fact I'm framing blind. I think a lot of photographers take too few exposures and expect to get a winner. My observations of great studio photographers is that they took a lot of photos in a controlled situation to get one right, so I wonder why some of us think we can just take one or two shots in a completely uncontrolled situation and have high expectations! Take lots of photos!

 


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