It ’s a question of priorities
Which of the settings you prioritise depends on what you’re trying to achieve
Main priority: fast shutt er speed The chef in this teppanyaki restaurant wanted to show off his juggling skills with a pepper grinder, but it was dusk, so there wasn’t much light. The show involved throwing the grinder up in
the air, so my priority was to freeze it hanging in mid-air. Using a wide-angle zoom – a 12-24mm set to 19mm – meant that the grinder would cross the frame more slowly than if it took up more space at a longer focal length, but even so, the shutter speed needed to be 1/250 sec. The aperture was f/7.1, to ensure adequate depth of field, and even opening up to f/2.8 would not have done much to help, so ISO had to pay the price – ISO12800 on a D4. Main priority: reasonable shutt er speed
Pre-dawn at a busy fish market, working with a wide-angle lens (in this case, 24mm). This is the most active time in a market like this, and light levels are low enough for there still to be street lighting in use. Even though exposures for a shot like this can be kept darker than average in order to keep the pre-dawn feeling, the settings will still be challenged. The main subject is people interacting, so aperture can be wide open at f/2.8, provided that the focus is accurately on the faces. The main priority is to set a shutter speed that will stop most normal arm, body and face movement, so about 1/100 sec. ISO5000, which on a D4 is not extreme, allowed this. Main priority: very small aperture
This is a juxtaposition shot, taken with a moderate (80mm) telephoto lens, and because it’s deliberately comparing traditional with new architecture, everything had to be sharp, from front to back, which meant a very small aperture (f/18). It was also important to keep the ISO low, to capture as much of the fine detail as possible, without introducing any grain.
Even allowing for the fact it was quite bright, at f/18 I knew I’d have to set quite a slow shutter speed to let in enough light for an accurate exposure – and because this was a street photography walkabout I wasn’t carrying a tripod. In this case, a shutter speed of 1/80 sec was needed – just fast enough to shoot handheld (see Know your limits).
Two priorities: fast shutt er speed, but also low ISO
At this range, someone doesn’t need to be moving rapidly for a high shutter speed to be required. Normal movements travel quickly across the frame – and the minimum shutter speeds for freezing motion depend on speed in the frame, not on actual speed. I decided to use selective focusing to make the subject stand out, and the de-focused areas needed to be noise-free. An aperture of f/1.4 gave me the blurring I wanted. I then had to strike a balance between keeping the ISO as low as possible, while keeping the shutter speed as high as possible (to minimise motion blur). In the event, I set a shutter speed of 1/500 sec at ISO200.
Two priorities: small aperture, but also a reasonable
shutt er speed In this shot of a Chinese tea ceremony, I wanted to include both the musician playing the guqin and the tea being poured beyond. I chose an immersive wide-angle treatment which depends on everything being sharp, and so set a fairly small aperture (f/11) for a depth of field that extends from the nearest hand to the teapot. But the musician’s hands were moving, and so needed a moderately fast shutter speed, even though I timed the shot for the least amount of movement. The final settings were 1/80 sec at f/11 and ISO400. At ISO100 I’d have needed a shutter speed of 1/20 sec, which would have been too slow. Two priorities: small aperture and the lowest ISO possible
Interiors almost always demand two things: total front-to-back sharpness (so a small aperture) and a low ISO that results in no noise. This second priority is all the more important because first, most interiors often feature smooth, mid-toned surfaces, which reveal any noise; and second, they are often reproduced large in books and magazines. This is just such an image: a wide-angle taken with a 12-24mm lens at 19mm. It makes something of the depth in the scene, featuring a statue close to the camera. The only option was to set a slow shutter speed, so a tripod was essential. The settings were 4 secs at f/20 and ISO200.