trying to do some "daily shots" thing, and I was wondering what's the best setting for black and white portraits in areas that are well-lit and sometimes not (fastfoods, restaurants, malls)

I want to mostly do candid shots and I have with me a standard 35-80 zoom lens in a Canon EOS 50 film camera, the subjects often are friends and family so I can get as close as I need to (yep, I need to get so close sometimes because my lens, in a way, sucks).

I'm trying to get a grasp of this aperture-DOF relationship, so shots that I usually do are focused subject with out of focus backgrounds, something like this: enter image description here

most recommend a small aperture (at around f/22 or f/19) but I often mess up my shutter speeds to the point that I usually get a lot of blown-up highlights. That often happens when I use the light meter for exposure in Manual Mode.


There are no "correct" settings. The settings you need will depend entirely on the lighting on the day, the subject you're photographing and what kind of photograph you are trying to produce. Therefore this answer can't be responded to with anything more concrete than general advice.

It sounds like what you need is to expand on your base knowledge of photography and exposure. I would recommend that you buy a copy of Bryan Peterson's excellent "Understanding Exposure" which excellently explains the relationship between shutter speed, aperture and ISO and caters for both film and digital photographers.


I shoot my Canon AT-1 with ISO400 all the time, you don't need heavy filters to achieve well exposed photos - you need to understand how to read your camera's built in light meter and how best to configure the settings to achieve the desired result.

  • 2
    +1 for 'having a solid understanding of the basics of exposure.' I'd give this more votes if I could... Feb 13 '11 at 22:17
  • The heavy filters aroun't about getting a correct exposure -- they're about using the maximum aperture (for shallow depth of field) while corralling the shutter speed. "Sunny 16" is a bit optimistic in some environments (snow, lots of light concrete), so keeping the shutter speed lower than the camera's max (I don't know hat the EOS 50 is comfortable with) while keeping the lens wide open means something's gotta give, and the film version of changing the ISO setting without changing the film (if chromogenic, there's not much choice) is filtration.
    – user2719
    Feb 13 '11 at 22:21

You want a small f-number, not a small aperture. Your lens is a variable-aperture lens, ranging from f/4 to f/5.6. That means you'll need to be pretty close to wide-open and pretty close to your subject to get a shallow depth of field (sharp subject, blurry background) at any focal length you have available. What settings to use depends on your film. If you're shooting a 100/125 speed film, you should have no problem with shutter speeds -- you'll be well within the camera's limit unless the sun goes nova. With a 400-speed film, you might want to use a heavy filter -- something with a filter factor of 4 or better, like a ND 0.6 or a 25A red, or a combination that add up to four or more -- in bright light.

  • I usually set my shutter speed at 1/1000, I end up with blown outs if I follow the sunny 16 rule for ISO 100 films for shots like these (1/100 shutter speed). Any recommended shutter speeds?
    – Ygam
    Feb 13 '11 at 21:40
  • and is it not that larger f numbers correspond to smaller apertures?
    – Ygam
    Feb 13 '11 at 21:45
  • Does your camera have a light meter, or do you have an external light meter? You shouldn't be choosing your shutter speed based on a suggestion on the internet, you should be choosing it based on the level of light you actually have at the time you're taking the pictures... Feb 13 '11 at 21:46
  • I usually use the light meter (or exposure meter as I have termed it here, I have got to edit that). but like I said, if I aim for the center of the meter, I often end up with blown-up highlights XD
    – Ygam
    Feb 13 '11 at 21:49
  • Yes, larger numbers correspond to smaller apertures, but that will give you the opposite of what you're trying to accomplish -- everything will be more-or-less sharp with a small aperture. If you are shooting white or Asian people, do a spot meter of the mid skin tone (neither highlight nor shadow) and set the exposure for one stop overexposure of that point. In harsh light, highlights may blow out in printing on standard (#2) paper -- so lower the contrast grade (you can fiddle around quite a bit on VC paper).
    – user2719
    Feb 13 '11 at 22:09

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