Couple of days ago I posted my cheat sheet for manual exposures on ISO 800. At the moment I shoot mostly without a light meter and sometimes a memo like this comes handy. I made a pocket size printable version of it too and added also the settings for ISO 100, 200 and 400, since I typically almost always shoot at 800 and I’m in big trouble when I shoot slower films.

The settings between ISO 100—400 are not very well field tested just yet, but I’ve determined them very simply by subtracting one full stop from the same setting on a one stop higher ISO.

Settings on ISO 800 tried and true. I’ve used these settings a lot and I can tell by experience that they work amazingly well straight as they are. Or at least they work as a very reliable starting point. Adjustments and compensations will be needed of course some times.

The settings are mostly based on the sunny 16 rule and my personal experience. I live in Finland which isn’t known for it’s amazing sunshine. That is something to bear in mind if you live somewhere closer the equator (you lucky bastard) and want to print out one of these. I’d be very happy to get some feedback as well, if you encounter critical brain farts or corrections.

The chart isn’t 100% comprehensive, but it describes the most common lighting situations you’d most likely to encounter, which means you can use these settings as a good starting point. Make your own judgement and compensate for variables. Tall buildings may for example block a significant amount of light, one or two stops perhaps, depending on the situation, even though it might otherwise be delightfully bright — train your eye! (Remember the old wisdom: when in doubt, lean towards over exposure.) Use the chart for what it is, as a cheat sheet, and don’t follow it blindly, just as you wouldn’t trust a light meter blindly.

The chart also doesn’t go beyond f2.8 since that’s my main lens at the moment and I put this together based on my own experience. But that just goes to show you that it is indeed a fast enough lens for most situations. I only use natural and/or available light and I don’t use a tripod.


Low light setting of my chart. Portra 800. Shutter speed: 1/15, aperture: f2.8. Hand held. No colour corrections in Photoshop.
Well lit indoor lighting. Not quite like an Apple store, but a very well lit department store. Portra 800. Shutter speed 1/125. Aperture f2.8.
Shit weather settings. It was a very bleak day and I could have used average weather settings for this one, but the buildings blocked enough light to justify a one stop compensation. Shot on Portra 800.
Typical indoors light. Portra 800. Shutter speed 1/60. Aperture f2.8.
Average weather settings. Not exactly sunny, not exactly dark. Just a very overcasty day. I used a middle of the way shutter speed and a middle of the way aperture. I of course metered for the children in the foreground, which was a much darker area than the sky, which is almost overblown in this image. That’s why it may appear to be brighter than it actually was, but in fact the sky was very grey and much darker than it appears. Shot on Cinestill 800.
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