best settings for portraits with a canon dslr camera


Hey there, photography enthusiasts! Are you ready to take your portrait photography game to the next level? Well, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we will explore the best settings for portraits with a Canon DSLR camera. Whether you are a professional photographer or just starting out, these settings will help you capture stunning portraits that will leave everyone in awe.

But before we dive into the settings, let’s understand the importance of using the right configuration when it comes to portrait photography. A portrait is more than just a photograph; it’s a means to capture the essence and personality of the subject. The right settings can make all the difference in bringing out the best in your subjects and creating timeless portraits that tell a story.

Now that we have set the stage, let’s explore the seven best settings for portraits with your Canon DSLR camera:

1. Aperture: A Wide World of Possibilities 📷

Aperture, also known as the f-stop, is a fundamental setting that controls the amount of light entering your camera and also determines the depth of field in your portraits. For capturing portraits with a beautiful background blur and a sharp subject, we recommend using a wide aperture, around f/2.8 to f/5.6. This narrow depth of field will draw attention to your subject and create a pleasing bokeh effect.

Understanding Aperture

To better understand aperture, let’s take a closer look at the different f-stop values and their effects on your portraits:

f-stop Effect
f/1.8 – f/2.8 Creates a shallow depth of field, perfect for isolating your subject from the background.
f/4 – f/5.6 Offers a balanced depth of field, maintaining sharpness on both the subject and background.
f/8 – f/11 Provides a greater depth of field, suitable for capturing group portraits or landscapes.

Experiment with different f-stop values to achieve the desired effect in your portraits. Remember, a wider aperture lets in more light but reduces the depth of field, while a narrower aperture allows for more depth but requires longer exposure times.

2. Shutter Speed: Freeze the Moment ⏰

Shutter speed plays a crucial role in portrait photography, especially when it comes to capturing movement or preventing camera shake. For sharp and crisp portraits, we recommend using a shutter speed of at least 1/125th of a second. However, if your subject is in motion, you may need to increase the shutter speed to freeze the moment.

Shutter Speed and Its Effects

Let’s take a look at the different shutter speed values and their effects on your portraits:

Shutter Speed Effect
1/125th – 1/250th Provides sharp images with minimal camera shake, great for portraits in controlled environments.
1/500th – 1/1000th Freezes fast-moving subjects, ensuring sharpness in action-oriented portraits.
1/30th – 1/60th Creates intentional motion blur, adding a sense of dynamism to your portraits.

Keep in mind that the optimal shutter speed may vary depending on the lighting conditions, focal length, and type of movement you intend to capture. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find the right balance between freezing the moment and adding creative motion to your portraits.

3. ISO: Mastering Light Sensitivity 💡

ISO determines the camera’s sensitivity to light. Selecting the right ISO setting is essential to avoid noise or graininess in your portraits. For optimal results, start with a low ISO setting, such as 100 or 200, in well-lit environments. However, in low-light situations, you may need to increase the ISO to maintain proper exposure.

ISO Settings and Their Impact

Let’s explore the impact of different ISO settings on your portraits:

ISO Setting Effect
ISO 100 – 200 Delivers excellent image quality with minimal noise, perfect for well-lit environments.
ISO 400 – 800 Provides a good balance between image quality and sensitivity, suitable for moderate lighting conditions.
ISO 1600+ Increases sensitivity, allowing you to capture portraits in low-light environments. However, be cautious of noise.

Keep in mind that higher ISO settings may introduce graininess or noise in your images. If possible, try to utilize natural or artificial lighting to maintain a low ISO and achieve cleaner results.

4. White Balance: Capturing True Colors 🎨

White balance is a crucial setting that ensures accurate color reproduction in your portraits. Different lighting conditions can cast a color tint on your images, but adjusting the white balance helps you capture the true essence of your subject’s skin tone and surroundings.

Choosing the Right White Balance

Let’s explore the various white balance presets available in Canon DSLR cameras:

White Balance Effect
Auto Automatically adjusts the white balance based on the lighting conditions. A safe option for most situations.
Daylight Creates a warm tone suitable for outdoor portraits taken under natural sunlight.
Cloudy Enhances the warmth in your portraits, ideal for overcast or cloudy conditions.
Shade Produces a warm and cozy atmosphere by compensating for cool lighting conditions.
Tungsten Counteracts the yellowish tint caused by indoor tungsten lighting, ensuring natural skin tones.
Fluorescent Neutralizes the greenish hue cast by fluorescent lighting, resulting in more accurate colors.
Flash Provides a balanced white balance when using a camera flash, delivering natural skin tones.

Experiment with different white balance settings to achieve the desired mood and color rendition in your portraits. The right white balance can significantly impact the overall feel and aesthetics of your images.

5. Focus: Sharpening Your Vision 🔎

The focus setting is critical for capturing sharp and well-defined portraits. The Canon DSLR cameras offer various autofocus modes and points to suit different shooting scenarios.

Choosing the Right Focus Mode

Let’s explore the autofocus modes and when to use them:

Single Shot AF (One-shot AF)

This mode is suitable for still subjects, allowing you to lock the focus on your subject and capture sharp portraits.

AI Servo AF (Continuous AF)

Use this mode when photographing moving subjects, such as children or pets. It continuously adjusts the focus to keep your subject sharp.

AI Focus AF

In this mode, the camera automatically switches between One-shot AF and Continuous AF based on the subject’s movement. It is a versatile option for unpredictable situations.

Using Focus Points

Canon DSLR cameras offer multiple focus points that allow you to precisely choose the area in focus. Here are some tips for selecting the right focus point:

  • For portraits with a centered subject, use the center focus point and lock the focus on your subject’s eyes.
  • When shooting off-center compositions, use the focus points closest to your subject’s eyes for sharp results.
  • Experiment with different focus points to achieve the desired depth and sharpness in your portraits.

Remember, the right focus can make or break a portrait. Take your time to adjust the focus and ensure your subject’s eyes are tack sharp for captivating results.

6. Picture Style: Customizing Your Output 📷

The picture style setting allows you to customize the look of your portraits by adjusting the contrast, saturation, and sharpness. Canon DSLR cameras offer several presets and the option to create your own picture style.

Exploring Picture Styles

Let’s explore some popular picture style presets and their effects on your portraits:

Picture Style Effect
Standard A balanced style that suits most situations, offering vibrant colors and moderate contrast.
Portrait Enhances skin tones, delivering warm and pleasing portraits with softer contrast.
Landscape Increases saturation and sharpness, ideal for capturing vibrant landscapes and nature portraits.
Neutral Offers a neutral and balanced look, suitable for post-processing or situations requiring minimal adjustments.
Faithful Aims to reproduce colors accurately, providing a starting point for professional post-processing.
Monochrome Converts your portraits into black and white, allowing you to focus on tone, texture, and contrast.

Feel free to experiment with different picture styles and even create your own to achieve your desired look and feel. Remember, the picture style can significantly impact the mood and storytelling aspect of your portraits.

7. Metering Mode: Perfecting Exposure 🎯

The metering mode determines how your camera measures the light to calculate the exposure settings. Canon DSLR cameras offer several metering modes to suit different lighting conditions and subject scenarios.

Understanding Metering Modes

Let’s explore the different metering modes and when to use them:

Evaluative Metering

This mode analyzes the entire scene and calculates the exposure based on various factors, including subject brightness and composition. It is a versatile mode suitable for most situations.

Partial Metering

In this mode, the camera meters the exposure based on a smaller area in the center of the frame. It is useful when your subject is backlit or surrounded by high contrast elements.

Spot Metering

Spot metering measures the exposure based on a specific spot or focus point. It is ideal for situations where the subject’s brightness varies significantly from the surrounding scene.

Center-Weighted Average Metering

This mode primarily meters the exposure based on the central area of the frame while considering the overall scene. It is suitable for situations where the subject is centered, such as formal portraits.

Understanding and utilizing the appropriate metering mode ensures accurate exposure and helps you retain details in both the shadows and highlights of your portraits.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Best Settings for Portraits with a Canon DSLR Camera


1. The wide aperture setting allows for a shallow depth of field, creating a stunning bokeh effect that emphasizes the subject.

2. A fast shutter speed freezes the moment, ensuring sharp and crisp portraits, especially when capturing subjects in motion.

3. Using a low ISO setting reduces noise and maintains excellent image quality, especially in well-lit environments.

4. Adjusting the white balance ensures accurate color reproduction, resulting in true-to-life skin tones and surroundings.

5. Choosing the right focus mode and point helps capture sharp and well-defined portraits, allowing you to emphasize the subject’s eyes.

6. Customizing the picture style provides the flexibility to create unique looks and enhance the overall mood and storytelling aspect of your portraits.

7. Understanding and utilizing the appropriate metering mode ensures accurate exposure, retaining details in both the shadows and highlights of your portraits.


1. Using a wide aperture may result in a narrow depth of field, making it challenging to keep the entire subject in focus, especially in group portraits.

2. A fast shutter speed reduces the amount of light entering the camera, which may require higher ISO settings or additional lighting in low-light conditions.

3. Increasing the ISO to capture portraits in low-light environments may introduce noise or graininess in your images.

4. Accurate white balance can be challenging in mixed lighting conditions, requiring additional adjustments during post-processing.

5. Choosing the right focus mode and point may require practice and experimentation to achieve consistent and desired results.

6. Customizing the picture style requires a good understanding of color theory and post-processing techniques to achieve the desired look.

7. Different metering modes may deliver varying exposure results, requiring additional adjustments or bracketing techniques for challenging lighting situations.

FAQs about Best Settings for Portraits with a Canon DSLR Camera

1. Can I use these settings for other camera brands as well?

No, these settings are specifically tailored for Canon DSLR cameras. However, you can adapt the concepts and principles to suit other camera brands.

2. Do I need a high-end Canon DSLR to achieve great portrait results?

While high-end cameras offer advanced features and better image quality, you can still capture stunning portraits with entry-level or mid-range Canon DSLR cameras using the recommended settings.

3. Is a wide aperture always preferable for portraits?

A wide aperture is often preferred for portraits to achieve a shallow depth of field and isolate the subject. However, there may be situations where a narrower aperture is desired to maintain sharpness in the subject’s entire face or capture group portraits. It ultimately depends on the desired creative effect.

4. How do I choose the right autofocus point for portraits?

For single-subject portraits, it is generally recommended to focus on the subject’s eyes using the center focus point. However, you can experiment with different focus points, especially for off-center compositions or to emphasize a particular facial feature.

5. Can I modify the picture styles in my Canon DSLR camera?

Yes, Canon DSLR cameras provide the option to customize and create your own picture styles based on your preferences and desired look.

6. Does the metering mode affect the exposure settings?

Yes, the metering mode determines how your camera measures the light and calculates the exposure settings. Different metering modes may result in varying exposure results

Related video of Best Settings for Portraits with a Canon DSLR Camera

About heru0387

Check Also

d5500 dslr camera with 18-55mm lens

d5500 dslr camera with 18-55mm lens

Introduction Hey there, photography enthusiasts! Are you on the lookout for a top-notch DSLR camera …