In preparation for an upcoming workshop, I asked everyone who registered, “What is the one burning question you must have answered in this workshop?” The one I addressing here is “What camera settings should I use in various conditions?” I chose this question because I am frequently asked about how to capture great images in low light condition, when the sun is overhead, of the moon at night, etc. The title of this post came after it was written and really says what these settings allow for. As you are walking around, say in a new city and have no idea what the situation might be around the next corner, you will be ready to take your next great photo if you start with your camera at these settings and then adjust them for the situation. With practice, you should be able to quickly adjust aperture and ISO while looking through the viewfinder, to capture a well exposed shot in almost any situation.
EXPOSURE MODE: aperture value in Canon; aperture priority in Nikon
When the camera is in the aperture value or aperture priority mode, you select the f-stop and the camera selects an appropriate shutter speed. If you want a faster shutter speed, then you select a larger aperture. You also control depth of field with the aperture setting. There is an inverse relationship between aperture size and depth of field. Large aperture = shallow depth of field. Small aperture = deep depth of field. Shallow and deep are relative terms and may vary with lenses. Practice with yours so that you know the limitations of your lens.
SHUTTER SPEED: controlled by the exposure mode
This is a good mid-range starting point for general photography.
Always use the lowest ISO possible for the situation.
METERING MODE: evaluative
This is the best mode for all around shooting. I use this almost exclusively, unless the situation calls for spot metering.
WHITE BALANCE: auto
When shooting in RAW, this is the best for most situations.
FOCUS: one shot
FOCUS AREA: 1 point autofocus
DRIVE MODE: single
Use these settings as your starting point and with practice, you should be able to quickly adjust aperture and ISO while looking through the viewfinder, to capture a well exposed shot in almost any situation.