I will be thankful if someone may provide me with a reference exposure settings for different situations like landscape and group on a sunny day, jungle, hilly areas, portrait at night indoor in faint light etc. Beginners then may start with that reference and build upon that over experience. I just purchased a NiKon D3500 with 18-55 mm and 70-300 mm lenses.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you read about Sunny 16 and Looney 11? \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Jan 6, 2020 at 20:18
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The suggested duplicate might not seem like exactly the same question, but check out my answer there — I provide a chart of exposure values which correspond to some common lighting situations. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Jan 7, 2020 at 1:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ I could not find your answer or a link to one. Please provide one. Thanks. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 7, 2020 at 6:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @user2306700 It's the accepted answer and thus appears at the top of the list of answers, regardless of the view settings you have selected. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Jan 7, 2020 at 19:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ There are already rough guesstimates (sunny 16, cloudy 8, looney 11) that shooters use...but they are very, very rough. Please make learning how to use a light meter a top priority for before the shot calculations along with learning to read a histogram for after the shot tweaking. \$\endgroup\$
    – OnBreak.
    Jan 10, 2020 at 4:48

2 Answers 2


Your journey into photography starts with wonder & confusion, but asking for lists of ideal settings will not help you learn… nor will they ever really be truly ideal.

Yes, there are some guidelines for some of these things, but tbh, you will do better using your camera on Aperture Preferred if you want to learn how to use it - Avoid all the completely automatic teases on that dial, they won't help.

Switch to full manual to experiment & be prepared for 99 out of every 100 shots to be completely unusable in the beginning.

Your results are instant, right there on the back screen, your learning curve is shortened considerably compared to learning on film. Just go for it, try things out.

Take lots of pictures of things that don't get bored. Your family snaps you can do on your phone for now - families don't have much patience compared to flowers, hills, trees, buildings, umbrellas on a beach… trash cans on rainy streets...

  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree. But a reference point / chart is definitely helpful. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 7, 2020 at 6:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @user2306700 There is no "reference point / chart", it does not exist. Every scene is different. How would the "reference point / chart" know how much light is in each/every scene you may encounter ? If you follow Tetsujin's suggestions then after much practice and experience you have a knowledge or "reference point / chart" in your brain. \$\endgroup\$
    – Alaska Man
    Jan 7, 2020 at 20:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a very good answer. But if you insist, I will just provide this link to Fred Parker's Ultimate Exposure Computer \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Jan 9, 2020 at 13:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @osullic Thanks for your reference \$\endgroup\$ Jan 15, 2020 at 11:17

I agree with @Tetsujin that a fixed set of numbers for different settings in different contexts may actually not be that helpful. If nothing else making mistakes which end up with over-exposing and/or under-exposing helps iterate towards an instinctive feel for what you want.

That said, here are a few pointers which have served me well over the years:

1) You need to have a clear idea of the composition before you figure out the exposure. The composition determines overall light levels as well as what 'things' you want to highlight. The classic example is the portrait shot with the person in sharp focus and the background blurry and colourful (the jargon word for it is 'bokeh'). That is referred to as shallow 'depth of field" and requires the aperture to be at a low f-stop number (i.e. wide open). If this makes everything too bright, you can compensate with shutter speed.

2) [Disclaimer: strong personal opinion]. ISO is evil! I do a lot of night time photography so it automatically works against what I am trying to do. For me, it's a necessary evil if I need more light and it's my only option. My opinion aside it's not a bad idea to start with keeping it low so you can learn the aperture-shutter speed relationship first and then introducing a third variable.

3) If you don't mind, try taking the same photo multiple times with different settings. I used to put a glass of beer on the table, get it into very clear focus and take one photo for every f-stop which ends up being about twenty photos. And hey presto, as the theory says, the background came into sharper focus as the f-stop went up. Your 18-55mm would be good for that and there's no better way to learn the craft in a natural manner.

4) The 18-300mm range of your two lenses obviously provides the opportunity to take many different types of shots. Use it in counter-intuitive ways as well as more regular. See if you can get a traditional portrait shot of a friend with the telephoto fully extended to 300mm (it's totally possible). You'll really have to think about how to set it up.

5) If you like landscape and architecture, get a good tripod. Unavoidably, shooting with a tripod is a measured process where you really get time to think through all elements of the photo.

6) I really could go on for hours but I'll bring my thoughts to a close here with a challenge: see if you can photopgraph rain (it doesn't matter if the lens gets wet). Autofocus won't be able to identify the subject so you will have to decide on a lateral plane of rain drops and try and get them in focus. It's really difficult!

Good luck and just practice practice practice!

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks all. Very useful suggestions. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 15, 2020 at 11:17

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