How I Have My Camera Set Up to Shoot Weddings

How I Have My Camera Set Up to Shoot Weddings

The Nikon D750 is one of the most talked about cameras in a long time. It’s a small lightweight body that packs a major feature set and has even lured Nikon D4 shooters to "upgrade." The camera is packed full of customizations, some of which can be pretty hard to understand and even difficult to find. I’m here to explain what I feel to be the best overall setup and why. This article is geared towards the Nikon D750, however the majority of the settings, if not all, are applicable to most cameras.

Aperture Priority

I know... manual is the best and you’re not a pro if you don't shoot manual. However, if I’m shooting a bride getting ready in front of a window, then her dad walks in to see her for the first time and he is standing in a dimly lit doorway, the quickest way to get that shot is aperture priority. In addition to aperture priority, I have auto ISO set to ON, my minimum shutter speed set to 1/200, and my max ISO set to 12,800. With these settings I can walk around looking for moments and not have to worry about what my shutter speed is at. Is it too low and I need to raise my ISO? Is it too low and the last 10 images I took are a mess with motion blur? No more worrying and double checking.

The key to using aperture priority like this is that in the menu, under custom settings, I have ab3 easy exposure compensation set to ON. What this does is links my exposure compensation to the rear wheel so that I can quickly adjust exposure compensation without the need to press any buttons. With practice you’ll be able to quickly see a scene and know if you need to go up or down with your compensation. For this kind of work it’s important to realize you are not looking for perfect exposure in every shot (although that helps), you are trying to catch the moments as they happen. If you are not sure whether you need to go up or down with your exposure compensation, then err on the side of underexposed. It’s pretty easy to bring detail back from the shadows whereas it's significantly harder and sometimes impossible to bring the detail back from blown highlights.

Image straight out of camera

Image with fixed exposure and recovered shadows.

Back-Button Focus

When I first started shooting I had my camera setup like every other camera I have ever played with. You press the shutter button half way down to focus, and then all the way down to take the picture. It makes sense right? That’s the way it’s always been. Yet, there are a couple problems that I generally run into when shooting like this. One problem occurs when I’m taking a picture in single-shot autofocus (AF-S) and the focus locks; then it stays locked until I half-press the shutter button again. This is how I normally shoot. I am able to focus on my subject and then adjust my framing to how I like it because my subject doesn’t always align with a focus point. In this situation, if I’m trying to focus on a child and that child starts walking toward me, they are now out of focus and I miss my shot. The way I fix this is by switching to continuous autofocus (AF-C) and now whatever my focus point is on, it will constantly adjust focus as the subject moves toward or away from me. Now, if I go back to take a picture of the bride and want to focus and adjust my framing, I need to go back to AF-S. If I don’t, then when I adjust my framing the AF-C will readjust the focus to whatever the focus point is now on and I miss another shot.

This is where the back-button focus comes into play. In the custom settings menu I have the AE-L/AF-L button set to AF-ON which takes the focus away from the shutter button. From here I set my autofocus to AF-C. Now, when I press and hold the AE-L/AF-L button it will continuously focus on whatever my focus point is on. If I want to focus and recompose all I have to do is hold the button to focus, let go of the button, and then I’m free to adjust my framing and the focus won't move until I press the AE-L/AF-L button again. It’s the best of both worlds. One trick I found with using AF-C is in the custom settings menu I set a3 equal to 1 for quicker refocus when my subjects move. I also have a7 set to AF11 because these 11 points are the fastest cross-type autofocus points. This also speeds it up for me to move my focus points around the screen, since I can make larger jumps than I can with all the points active.

PV Button

I have this button set to MYMENU. This just allows me to make certain items within the menu quicker to access. Currently, the items in MYMENU are pretty minimal, but I will be adding things as I find the need to do so. Right now I have ISO sensitivity settings in here so that I can quickly adjust my minimum shutter speeds and my minimum and maximum allowed ISO. If im shooting at 20mm and my subjects are not moving a lot, then I can get away with 1/20 and get a much lower ISO. Next I utilize the image overlay function. This allows me to use any image on the camera to create a multiple exposure. The last item I have is the AF settings. I use this when I want to change from AF11 back to using all the autofocus points.

Fn Button

I have this button set to flash off. I love this button. When I’m shooting with off-camera flash and want to take an ambient only shot, I no longer have to remove my flash trigger or turn my flash off. I just press this button with my ring finger and it kills all the flashes, as long as I have the button pressed.

Live View Exposure Preview

Probably one of the most hidden and hard to find settings on the D750 is the Live View Exposure Preview.  It cannot be found in any of the menu subsets. In order to turn on the exposure preview function you first have to turn on live view. Then, press the "i" button on the left of the screen and scroll all the way down. From there, you can change ExpOFF to ExpON. Now when you are using live view you will have an on-screen representation of what exactly your exposure will look like. I love using this for situations that have difficult lighting. I don’t have to worry taking three or four test shots to nail in the exposure. Now I just turn on live view, adjust my settings until the image looks right, and fire away. I have no idea why this setting is off by default.

User Settings

A great feature of the D750 is the ability to save custom user settings. I don’t use this as intended, but say you share the camera with someone and you both like to have it set up a completely different way. With the D750, you can save the settings for user one as U1 and the second user saves their settings to U2. In order to adjust every setting to the way you like, all you have to do is adjust the dial to U1 or U2. Since I don’t share my camera with anyone, I found another way to use this option:

U1

For this setting I have all the same settings that I shoot with when using aperture priority but without back-button focus. Instead, I have the AF tied back to the shutter button. The reason for this is because I always shoot with two cameras and in certain situations, for example the first kiss, I’ll use both cameras at the same time. One camera in my right hand at 35mm and the second camera in my left hand at 85mm. But holding the cameras this way it’s impossible to hit the back-button focus, therefore I resort back to the shutter button focus. In addition, when handing my camera to someone, I don’t want to have to explain to them how to focus with the back button. So instead I switch to U1, hand them the camera, and let them take the picture.

U2

I have this set to the exact same settings that I use all day when shooting aperture priority but I have the flash set to off. The reason for this is because when I’m shooting the formals, reception, or anything to do with flash, I’m shooting in manual. If I’m shooting the formals and the flower girl starts doing something cute behind me, I don’t want to have to switch to aperture priority, adjust my ISO, and hold my kill flash button in order to grab that shot. Instead, I quickly switch to U2 and grab my image. Then I switch back to manual and continue on with the formals.

Flash Button

Nothing is more annoying than hitting that little flash button on accident and having the pop-up flash spring into action. A lot of people just tape the thing down and call it done. However, I like to use this pop-up flash every once in a while as a commander flash for off-camera lights. So I still want the ability for it to pop up, but I don’t want it to pop up accidentally. To fix this, press the flash button and have the flash pop up, then hold the button and spin the rear wheel till you get to the flash off setting. Now, press the pop-up flash back down and it will no longer pop up when you press the button. You do have to turn this setting back to on if you want to use a hotshoe flash or flash trigger. Or, back to what I was saying earlier, you can save this setting to U2 and never worry about it again.

Conclusion

These are not all the custom settings I use, but they are what I feel to be the most important. Here you can download my actual Nikon D750 settings file and load it to your camera if you would like. You should know this will not save settings to your U1 or U2, and this will change the copyright info and file naming to my information. So if you use it, make sure you change it or I’ll own all your images!

What do you think? Do you use any of these settings? Do you use something different? Why? What do you have saved to your MYMENU and user settings?

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88 Comments

Previous comments
Cathy Alba's picture

If I've already set my back button focus how do I make a custom U1 with the AF button going back to the original shutter button?

Jason Vinson's picture

you will have to link the shutter back to the normal button, save U1, then reset it back to the back button focus.

Hello Jason, great article as always. How do you shoot when you are going for those expressions that last for just a couple of milliseconds? I would rather take a shot not being technically ok (being soft, or wrongly exposed) rather than losing it.
Which is the mode that you would switch to for this type of expression hunting? What about your auto focus mode? Area? Spot?
Thanks for your time
Alex

Jason Vinson's picture

totally agree. The mode I'm in for this is aperture priority, single AF point with back button focus and I'll move this point around as needed.

Hi,
what are guys the auto focus regions that you use. Do you use d9 and you hover those around for example? In AF-C and Auto camera looks very capable in tracking faces it is a question though if for a wedding would leave that thing doing its stuff in auto mode.
Alex

Jason Vinson's picture

i only use flexible spot focus where i can set my focus point and leave it. i don't want to leave the decision on where to focus up to the camera.

Thanks. So flexible spot that you move around with AF 11. Right?
Last question...the first time you turn on the d750 and you take the first shot immediately... does not take the image preview 5-6 secons before showing up? After that image preview is kind of instant (0.5-1 second).
Samve behaviour I also get when comer exits sleep mode. first shot needs 5-6 secs image preview.
Is this normal or i have a defective model
Alex

great article. i saved it for when i purchased my D750, which i did last week. what do you do for white balance with this setup ?

Dannielle Walter's picture

Brand new here. Just happened upon this article and absolutely loved it, so I decided to join. This was the exact post that I needed and immediately helped me learn my camera better. I used these settings to get ready for a small wedding later today :-)
Do you have any setting articles for the 750 for landscape and long exposure shots?

Jason Vinson's picture

so glad it was helpful for you! I don't have anything particular for the 750, but you could take a look at this one and it might cover some of what you are looking for.

https://fstoppers.com/education/how-incorporate-night-photography-weddin...

Bruce Stenman's picture

Underexposing is the wrong way to go. Simple to test this by taking a series of pictures of a couple with clothing that has reds and blues and then shoot at -1.0 EV, 0.0 EV, and +1.0 EV. Then convert from RAW and view them on a monitor.

The loss of color fidelity with the underexposed shots will be quite apparent. It will surprise you how at times the 1 stop overexposed image is better once adjusted during RAW processing. to the "correctly" exposed 0.0 EV image.

I started shooting with the D1x and learned to underexpose to avoid blown highlights. That was not the best approach to take when in 2008 I bought the D3 cameras but it was a hard habit to break.

I care about skin tones and texture and let shadows fall where they may. The B&G care about how they look and the bride cares about the detail in her dress for the formal shots.

Underexposing and then fooling around in post processing is a great waste of time and will not produce the best prints for your clients.

im using a pair of d750s right now and really liking them. Are you shooting AF-C S? I noticed on the d750 it lets you scroll through s / d9 / d21 / d51 / 3d / grp

terry james's picture

Hi Jason, I appreciate this an old article and not specifically related to the d750, but I have a question related to aperture priority and exposure. Neil Van Nierkerk, makes a strong case for shooting in manual for exposure purposes & more specifically metering for Brides white dresses & black tux suits. How do you combat that in AP to ensure you have an accurate meter reading for things like the brides dress or brightest tones in a scene?

Also, to quote Neil's book, regarding the use of TTL flash
"If you use the program or aperture-priority mode with TTL flash as your main source of light, your camera will vary your shutter speed between shots, and the amount of
ambient light recorded will, therefore, vary in turn." How would I get around this if my subjects are moving all the time and using TTL? Thanks in advance.

Jason Vinson's picture

I use aperture priority and auto ISO for situations where the light is constantly changing. for situations like this, I dont really care if my exposure is dialed in. I'm more worried about getting the shot and having my exposure being in a workable range where i can dial it in later in post. If i'm ever questioning my meter when shooting like this, I'll always error on on the side of under exposing the image, because i know the dynamic range of the d750 offers more leeway whith an under exposed image in comparison to an over exposed one.

I strictly use full manual 100% of the time when using flash. .

terry james's picture

Hi Jason, thanks for the prompt reply. It's great to hear two different & well respected Wedding tog's opinion on the settings they use & why. Can I just clarify your last post, in relation to flash? Are you saying that you shoot full manual on the camera or manual flash as opposed to TTL? Just a little confused, though I assume you meant manual mode on the camera.

Jason Vinson's picture

yup. full manual on the camera and then a mix of TTL flash and manual flash depending on the situation.

terry james's picture

Thanks for the clarification, Jason! Just what I thought :)

Steve Wantz's picture

I know this is an old thread....but Jason if you get this message...what metering do you use in your A mode configuration? Center-weighted? Thanks for the article, I like the way you use Auto-ISO.

Steve Wantz's picture

p.s. the reason I ask...is that exposure compensation can be tricky with matrix metering. Anyhow...curious how you meter, and if you lock exposure to re-compose. Thanks.

Jason Vinson's picture

I don't normally have to recompose much. But I use matrix metering. In the event I need to recompose and the fear the metering might change then I just error on the side of under exposure since the dynamic range if th d750 is so good.

Steve Wantz's picture

Thank you for responding! I agree that exposure compensation works fine with matrix metering as long as I'm not recomposing. I usually use the single point focus and stick with the center point, and so do find myself recomposing, which back button focus is great for. Do you use the 11 focus points so as to not recompose much? I may have to give that a go with the focus points. I'm just kinda old fashioned and like to use the center point/focus/recompose technique. Six of one, half dozen of the other, although being able to use matrix metering with the focus points may have advantages. Thanks again!

Very interesting article. Could you/someone please explain how you control your exposure when using BBF in aperture priority? Surely if you reframe your image, so the subject is offset, the camera will take its exposure not on the subject? Thank you

Jason Vinson's picture

I use matrix metering, so small movements wont really effect the exposure a ton. I think spot metering is better suited for manual shooting.

Hi Jason, thank you for great article.
I couldn't open your Nikon d750 settings. Could you please, emailed to me? Thank you.

I made the switch from Canon to Nikon (d750) a few months ago and at first I hated it, now I'm loving it, especially low noise and dynamic range. I've just made some user settings, one for daytime and one for dancefloor at night (wedding).

I was looking for inspiration on D750 settings for an upcoming wedding. This is a very useful article and thank you Jason.

In many settings we are thinking quite similarly. On the point of metering while recomposing with BBF what I do is link AE lock to the shutter. So I focus and when locked, I push half way the shutter locking the metering. Then I recompose without worrying no what lighting the recomposed frame has.

I haven't braved anything higher than 6400 on AutoISO but your 12400 is definitely tempting.

The PDF isn’t available for download anymore, does anyone have a link to it?