Hi there. Today I’m going to show in one single article, what takes some film makers weeks, or sometimes even months, to learn. I’m going to teach you all the Basic Camera settings that you need to know, to get the best results from your camera.

When I was starting out photography and film making, I had to go through books, tutorials and countless articles and YouTube videos, to fully understand the things that I’m going to share with you in this article.

By the time you’re done reading this, you’ll be able to fully understand how to use your camera to get the best possible results, every single time.

Feel free to pick up a notebook and a pen, to write down some of the key pointers.

In addition to sharing with you what all these settings do and how to locate them on your camera, I’m also going to show you with real life examples of how to get the correct exposure, and show you exactly how to do it.

This article only covers the basics of running your camera, and is best suited for beginners who want a simple, straight-to-the-point guide on the Basic Camera Settings for Best Results.

Check out two of my favorite Film Maker Online Schools; Full Time Filmmaker, and Tomorrows Filmmakers.

How to Master the Basic Camera Settings for Best Results

In this article, I’m going to go over five main fundamentals of running your camera. It doesn’t matter whether you have a Sony, a Canon, a Fujifilm, or a RED camera. These five main elements are used in any professional camera.

These five main elements are;

  • Frame Rate
  • ISO
  • Shutter Speed
  • Aperture
  • White Balance

You might have come across a lot of articles and videos that only cover one of the above elements, but never give you the bigger picture of how they all work together. This is not one of those articles, as I am going to show you how to balance all of them to produce the best possible end result.

First things first; The most important thing to do, is to SHOOT IN MANUAL MODE. No matter what camera you have, always shoot in Manual Mode. When shooting in Manual Mode, your images are going to look better than higher-end cameras shooting in Auto Mode.

When you’re shooting in Auto Mode, you’re basically telling your camera to choose what to expose more.

So, set your camera to Manual Mode, and let’s dive in to the first element, Frame Rate.

Frame Rate

Basic camera setting for best results

Frame rate refers to how many Frames are in one second of your video.  This is commonly referred to as Frames Per Second, or in short, FPS. If you shoot something at 30 Frames per Second (30fps), that means that there will be 30 frames taken, in one second of footage.

Understanding Frame Rates is very important, as there are Frame Rates that you should use, and others that you should avoid.

Currently, the Film Industry standard for Frame Rate, is 24fps. This Frame Rate will give you the most natural looking motion, that is similar to what the eyes see. 24 fps is the most cinematic and is the Frame Rate that is used in Hollywood. If you want to have that cinematic look in your footage, shoot in 24fps.

What about slow motion? If you try to slow down something that you shot in 24fps, your footage will appear really choppy. To get that smooth slow-motion shot, you need to shoot in 60fps or 120fps, and then slowdown that footage a bit.

You achieve the smoothest looking slow-motion shots by shooting in a higher Frame Rate, to get more information for when you slow them down.

Just a reminder; Shoot normal clips at 24fps/30fps and shoot slow-motion at 60fps/120fps.

Now that we understand Frame Rates and how to use them, there are three aspects that you need to master, to always get the correct exposure. You have to balance these three settings, at the same time, in order to get the correct exposure. These are; ISO, Shutter Speed, and Aperture.


Sometimes referred to as ‘Fake Light’, ISO basically provides a way to make your images darker or brighter, entirely digitally. ISO allows you increase the exposure of your camera, regardless of whether it’s day or night time, or how well or badly lit your set is. It’s similar to the bar on your phone’s camera App, that allows you to increase/reduce the brightness of your image. In most cameras the ISO starts at 100 and moves upwards. The higher the ISO, the brighter your image is going to be.

You might be thinking, ‘That’s great. My external lighting doesn’t matter. If it’s dark, I just increase the ISO, right?’ Well, there’s one major downside to ISO. ISO produces ‘grain’ and ‘noise’ into your image. When you boost your ISO, it starts to look like there’s TV static on your image.

On a still image, the noise might not look so bad because if you have the ISO super high, the image might look like an old vintage-style photo. However, in video, the noise/grain moves and the footage starts to look like it has TV Static. I’ll demonstrate this by putting a cover on the lens of my camera, and then bump up the ISO.

Some Sony Cameras have really good ISO, that they hardly produce any grain/noise. Most cameras however will tend to get grainy/noisy starting from about 1600 ISO. So basically, while ISO controls the exposure, you want to keep it as low as possible, to eliminate the grain/noise from your image. When getting the right exposure, set the ISO to the lowest. Let ISO be the last thing you adjust, when getting the right exposure.

Shutter Speed

The Shutter Speed on your camera refers to how long your image is exposed to the world. The sensor inside the camera sees the world, and captures the image onto the SD Card. However, there’s a shutter in front of the sensor, that prevents the sensor from seeing the world. This is like the eyelid to your camera. When the Shutter opens, it lets light into the sensor, allowing the sensor to see an image, and then when it closes, that’s one picture taken. This is why in most cameras when a photo is taken, you can hear the sound of the Shutter opening and closing.

The image/footage captured will be brighter or darker, depending on how fast the Shutter opens and closes. If you have a very slow Shutter Speed where the Shutter opens for like 4 seconds and then closes, this will allow the sensor to let in as much light as possible, and hence your image/footage will be super bright. If your Shutter Speed is fast and it opens in a fraction of a second, it won’t allow the sensor to see much light and hence the image will be darker.

Just like the ISO, the Shutter Speed does not only affect the brightness of the image. The Shutter Speed also affects Motion Blur. If you use a slow Shutter Speed, there will be motion blur on your image/footage, and your subject will appear blurry. Filmmakers will sometimes use a slow Shutter Speed when they want the footage to appear dreamy.

On the other hand, if you set your Shutter Speed at an extremely high level, you’ll have no motion blur. You’ll have something that some people like to call ‘The Saving Private Ryan Effect’. You’ve probably noticed the hyper realistic jittery look, with no motion blur, in war movies. When the characters are just talking, everything looks normal, but as soon as the battle starts, you get that jittery look but there’s no motion blur. They don’t use any special equipment; they just adjust the Shutter Speed.

To get the most natural looking image/footage, there’s a rule on how to use Shutter Speed; Your Shutter Speed should be Double your Frame Rate.

Mostly, Shutter Speed will go up in increments of 10, sometimes 5.

So, if you are shooting at 30fps, doubling that would mean a Shutter Speed of 1/60. What if you’re shooting at 24fps? Doubling that would be 1/48. But since we’re going up in increments of 10, you can round off that to a Shutter Speed of 1/50.

That is the rule of thumb for getting the most natural looking Motion Blur; Your Shutter Speed should be double your Frame Rate. However, you can always break this rule depending on whether you want motion blur in your footage, or you want a hyper realistic jittery look.


The Aperture is like the eyeball of your camera. It is not inside your camera, but it’s rather inside your lens. Also known as F-Stop, the Aperture controls how much the lens opens up, and consequently, how much light will be allowed into your camera.

Think of it as the pupil in your eye. When the pupil closes, it lets less light into the eye, and when it dilates, it lets more light into your eye. This is exactly what the Aperture does as well. The Aperture closes, to let less light into the camera, and opens to let more light into the camera. It allows you to make your image brighter or darker, without changing the ISO or Shutter Speed.

Similar to ISO and Shutter Speed, the Aperture also affects something else known as the Depth of Field. The Depth of Field refers to how to how blurry the background of your subject is. Think of it as the amount of your image that is in focus.

When the aperture is at something like F16, it means that the lens is very closed and doesn’t allow much light into the camera. The image will be darker as there isn’t much light getting into the camera, but a lot of the background will also be in focus as shown by the image below.

When the Aperture is at something like F1.4, it means the lens is wide open letting in as much light as possible. My image will be really bright, and the background will be really blurry as shown in the image below.

If I turn up the ISO on the dark F16 image, and turn down the ISO on the bright F1.4 image, that will give my images the right exposure. Check out the image below to see what happens.

The photo on the left has a blurry background because of the wide-open Aperture. On the other hand, the image on the right doesn’t have a blurry background because the Aperture is completely shut.

So, Aperture does affect the brightness of an image, but also makes the background more or less blurry.

Mostly, Aperture will go from F22, all the way to F1.4. Nearly all lenses will be capable of going down to at least F5.6. The lower a lens can go, the more expensive it is going to be.

White Balance.

Basically, White Balance tells your camera what is pure white. If this setting is off, whites are going to look blue or orange, making all other colors to go that way too. Always tell your camera the kind of light you’re dealing with, so that it can compensate and make your whites look pure white.

All cameras have various presets that you can use to achieve the correct White Balance. They mainly include Auto White Balance (AWB), Daylight, Shade, Tungsten, cloudy, custom mode. You can set the White Balance to any of these if you are in that situation.

There’s also a Custom Kelvin temperature mode that allows you to set a custom Kelvin Temperature based on your lighting.

The AWB mode basically tells your camera to set the White Balance to any color it thinks is pure white. This is not a good practice as it makes the camera capable of changing the White Balance during the scene. Set the White Balance correctly, so that it does not fluctuate.

How do I get the correct White Balance?

Getting the correct White Balance is really simple. There’s two ways to do it.

  1. Know the Kelvin temperature of the lights in your scene/set, and set the White Balance to that.

Enter Image.

  1. Use a Grey Card. Just have your subject hold the grey card in front of the camera, and set the White Balance using the custom setting option.

Enter Image.

Congratulations, we have gone through all the main settings that you need to master to get the best exposure.

One more thing I’d suggest, is that you get some ND filters. These are like sunglasses for your camera. Sometimes when your scene is really bright, you can’t open up your lens all the way, as you’ll have too much light in the camera. ND Filters allow you to open up your lens as much as possible even in bright/well-lit scenes. So please, get yourself some ND Filters.

All professional cameras will have all the settings we talked about above.

Another super important setting to pay attention to, is the Exposure Meter Bar. On the information section of your camera’s screen there’s a meter bar that goes from about -3 to +3, that shows you where your exposure is. The Exposure Meter shows you if you’re under exposed, perfectly exposed, or over exposed. So, if an image is too dark, the exposure meter will be too far on the left (the negative side). On the other hand, if an image is too bright, the exposure meter will be too far on the right (the positive side). Whichever side the exposure meter is, you’re supposed to adjust the Shutter Speed, Aperture, and ISO, to bring the exposure meter to the middle (Zero).

A few Pointers;

  • I always increase the shutter speed before I increase the aperture.
  • I keep the ISO to the lowest, and it’s the last setting I adjust.

I hope this one article has helped you understand the Basic Camera Settings that you need to master to get the best results from your camera. Hopefully you won’t have to go through tens of blog posts and videos to understand Frame Rate, ISO, Shutter Speed, Aperture, and White Balance. You can now pick up a camera and be confident that you will get the correct exposure in your sets and/or scenes.

That’s all from us. To see real life examples, watch the video below.

Check out more photography tips and best practices here.

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