A while back we published a post called Getting Off Auto For Architectural Photography which explained semi automatic settings for architectural photography. In this post we’re going to expand and explain full manual settings. A couple things to note. The settings below are not that different to semi automatic settings. The real difference is that in manual mode you’re not relying on the camera to meter the scene to decide how long the exposure will be. You do this all by yourself and with modern cameras that provide you a live preview of your shot it’s not that difficult.
Step 1: Manual Mode
Use the main dial on your camera and select manual mode, which is typically the letter M.
Step 2: Set your aperture to 11
Set your aperture to 11. This will give you a wide depth of field which is ideal for architectural photography. For more info on DOF check out this post.
Step 3: Set your ISO to 100
Change your ISO to 100 (This will provide you with the highest quality images).
Step 4: Turn your flash off
That small flash on the top of your camera is going to have little affect on big things like buildings, so turn it off and avoid any problems with it illuminating things up close to the camera.
Step 5: Adjust your exposure by changing the shutter speed
Ahh.. and this is the hard part. What is the right exposure? With semi-automatic settings we let the camera meter the scene to calculate the shutter speed, but with manual settings we need to figure it out ourselves. And that used to be part of the art and science of photography, but now with features like Live View you can see a preview of your image on the back of the camera and simply adjust the shutter speed (normally with the index dial) until you’re happy with the exposure. By adjusting the shutter speed you’ll make the image either brighter or darker, and because all the other settings above are generally fixed, the shutter speed becomes the only control you need to really worry about. For more info on Live View have a look at this post.
Step 6: Take the shot
You’re now in manual mode and taking photos!