Landscape Photography

Best camera settings for shooting landscapes without a tripod

While I consider myself a big believer in using a tripod to achieve blur-free images, there are times when situations are beyond your control and you have to work without a tripod. Some of this situation may include when you found yourself in an unstable terrain, when you are shooting on the side of a mountain or when you don't want to carry a tripod along with you. However, shooting a landscape without a tripod increases your chance of a camera shake; you have to use some special camera settings to help you achieve sharp images without a blur.

Anything is possible with proper camera settings, this is one fact most photographers do not know. Your camera comes with a lot of settings and you may not know or even remember most of them. However, there is good news, many of the camera settings can be pre-set so that you don't have to remember them every time you want to shoot. With the pre-set option, you can be able to pay more attention to your composition and settings by setting them before the day of the actual shoot.

You can have more time to think how to make your image more creative when you set up your camera in advance. Although this may seem insignificant, it can make a huge difference between an average and stunning image. Whether you are into landscape photography or any other type of photography, it is always a good idea to pre-set your camera especially when you plan on shooting handheld. There are many settings involved in shooting handheld, you will do a better job when you have more time to adjust your settings correctly.

In the next paragraph, I will take a look at some camera's setting you can use to shoot without using a tripod. I will recommend you make this setting in advance before going to your location.

Camera Settings For Shooting Landscape Without a Tripod

The most important part of your camera to consider when you are shooting without a tripod is the shutter speed. The risk of a camera shake will increase if your shutter speed drops too low.

​Most cameras coming out nowadays make it extremely easy to increase your ISO to make the shutter speed faster. However, you should have it in mind that a little thing can make or break your landscape image, if it is possible to keep your ISO low enough to prevent the risk of any unwanted noise, you should go ahead and do it.

Every other thing being equal, I will recommend you set your ISO to 200, this is ideal for daylight conditions. You might also consider turning on your vibration reduction feature if your camera lens comes with the feature. This feature will help you reduce the risk of camera shake. Again, I will recommend you pre-set your white balance to the Daylight option.

When you have completed the above settings, select your single shot AF mode and dial in a single point in your focus area. You will need to set the camera's drive mode to single shot. Once you complete these settings, you are now ready to shoot landscape without a tripod.

Further Adjustment To Consider

Remember that the settings I recommended above are better done in advance before going to the field. However, you can never be completely prepared for every eventuality; there are certain adjustments you can still make when you are in the field.

For instance, there may be no way to predict the light situation in the field; this means that you will have to make an adjustment to the light situation when you are in the field.

You can reduce or increase your exposure accordingly when you are in the field by using Aperture Priority mode just like I suggested above. With those settings, you can adjust your exposure by dialing in some exposure compensation. You can do this with the +/- button that is located around the top plate or rear dial area of your camera.

Keep your f/8 or f/11 aperture constant. No need change that when in the field, your shutter speed will adjust to either darken or let in more light to brighten the image. You may also make a small adjustment in your AF point. You need to keep it above a third of the way between the furthest one in the frame and your closest subject to make the entire scene sharp.

When you've completed the adjustments to your camera settings, take a test shot to ensure that everything is the way you want them. After taking the shot, view the image in playback mode and zoom to see the details. If your subject looks far from the focus, you can use a smaller aperture for more depth of field. Increase the aperture to f/16. However, watch out for the shutter speed.

In a situation where you are shooting with a crop-sensor camera and a wide-angle lens of around 18mm, don't allow your shutter speed to go below 1/30sec. Instead, it is recommended that you increase your ISO so you can avoid camera shake. You can use 1/15sec or even 1/8 if your camera comes with Vibration Reduction. However, you will need to keep yourself very steady when you go this low. Remember to take a test shot to check the sharpness of your settings.

Avoid Camera Shake Without a Tripod

You will need to steady the camera to avoid a camera shake, I will recommend you maintain a kneeling position or find an object you will lean on. This will help you keep your hands steady and avoid ruining your images with a blur that results from a camera shake.

Summary

To make the above easier for you, I have summarized the camera setting you will need to shoot a landscape without a tripod in a list form below.

  • ​File format to use = RAW
  • Recommended Exposure mode = Aperture Priority
  • Recommended Aperture = f/8
  • Recommended ISO = 20
  • Recommended Shutter speed = Set automatically by camera
  • Recommended Focus mode = Single-servo
  • Drive mode = Single shot
  • White balance = Daylight

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