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This post was most recently updated on January 8th, 2023

Studio photography tends to be a more commercial style of photography, opposed to more ‘anything goes’ styles like street photography. In the studio clarity and sharpness is more important than in other situations.

Usually in the studio you are trying to shoot a product in perfect light to show the product in its clearest form. When it comes to aperture, it depends on what you are shooting.

If you are shooting a detailed shot, very close up like an earring, you could get away with a lower aperture as the only thing that needs to be in focus is the earring, and it can look nice if everything else has a soft blur to create that beautiful depth of field.

On the other hand if you are shooting a fashion/editorial shoot, the model in a full length shot and you want to get all his/her clothes totally sharp, then a higher aperture is essential to avoid parts of the shot being blurry.

In this article we will go through some studio situations and what shutter, ISO & aperture settings work best.

Product Shots (Moisturisers, Lip Stick, Drink Bottles etc)

Product photography is an umbrella term used to describe photography for products for the use of commercial sale. In terms of photography settings, it really depends on what you are shooting. Products vary massively in shape and size, each needing settings unique to the product.

On the one hand you could be photographing something small like an earring, where an aperture like 2.8-4.0 would be great. On the other hand you could be photographing a sofa, due to its larger size and bigger depth of field, you’ll have to set a higher aperture like 5.4-9.0 to ensure the entirety of the product in focus

Settings – Assuming Lighting Is Correct In The Studio

  • Camera mode – Manual
  • ISO – 100-200
  • Shutter Speed – 200/300
  • Aperture – 2.8/5.6

Fashion – Editorial Studio Photography

Fashion - Editorial Studio Photography

This style of photography is about using a photo to convey a message, normally it’s in line with what’s written in the magazine or newspaper. The image has to convey what has been written. So often the image is telling a story, whether it’s an action or use of story telling props.

This can mean a wide range of settings will be used. In terms of the ‘right’ aperture for this style of studio photography, well, there isn’t really one.

You can get creative in this type of photography, but in general if you are shooting full length model shots you’d want an aperture of at least 4 to make sure the whole subject is in focus (If that’s the style you are going for). If you are shooting ‘edgy’ portraits you could get away with going a little lower.

Settings – Assuming Lighting Is Correct In The Studio

  • Camera mode – Manual
  • ISO – 100/200
  • Shutter Speed – 200/400
  • Aperture – 2.8/8.0

Portrait Studio Photography

Portrait photography can be looked at a few different ways. Sometimes it can be very powerful to get one part of someone’s face in focus and the rest slightly blurred, really highlighting that particular part of the face provoking a powerful feeling.

To do this the lower your aperture is the better. Somewhere in the range of 1.2-2.8 can be great for this style.

In other situations it can be great to have the whole face in focus, highlighting all the features, whether it’s purely from a beauty standpoint, or whether it’s conveying an emotion. In this situation you want your aperture around 3.2 – 4.0.

Portrait photography is one of the most common types of studio photography and requires the least amount of preparation. Ultimately you need a model that’s willing, and a studio.

Settings – Assuming Lighting Is Correct In The Studio

  • Camera settings – Manual
  • ISO – 100/200
  • Shutter Speed – 125/300
  • Aperture – 2.8/5.4

Food Photography

Food photography can offer a lot of variety in terms of aperture settings. For some foods it can be beautiful to highlight one part in focus whilst the rest softly falls away with a soft faded blur.
In other scenarios you can have the whole plate of food in focus.

If you are trying to promote the whole plate for promotion purposes then this is the better option. If you are photographing more than one plate of food it can be nice to have one plate in focus and the other softly in focus.

Settings – Assuming Lighting Is Correct In The Studio

  • Camera settings – Manual
  • ISO – 100/320
  • Shutter speed – 200/400
  • Aperture – 2.8/7.4

Action Photography

In the studio, you can shoot action shots as well. If you’re looking for a clean and powerful image then the studio is a great place for this. These can be great if you have a bit of experience.

Action photography is all about capturing the moving subject at the perfect moment, this can be done in a sharp and commercial way, or you can get artistic and try to slow down the shutter speed and create some cool motion blur.

If you do this right then you can get the part of the shot you want perfectly in focus, and the rest is a beautiful blur which exaggerates the feeling of movement and action in the shot. All you need is the will to experiment with your camera settings. The results can be fascinating and incredibly powerful when done right.

Camera Settings – Assuming Lighting Is Correct In The Studio

  • Camera settings – Manual
  • ISO – 100/200
  • Shutter speed – 60/1500
  • Aperture – 2.8/11

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Take Good Portrait Photos In A Studio?

  • Set the right shutter speed for your camera.
  • Select the best aperture and ISO for portraits.
  • Use this go-to lighting setup for full-length portraits.
  • Get the most out of umbrellas.
  • Practice, get creative

What Aperture Is Best For Low Light?

A fast lens which has a wide aperture, usually f/1.4, f/1.8, or f/2.8, is great for low light photography because it enables the camera to take in more light. A wider aperture also allows for a faster shutter speed, resulting in minimal camera shake and sharper images.

Final Thoughts

Studio photography offers many different scenarios requiring many different styles and settings. There is no one perfect aperture for studio photography. It depends on what you are shooting and what style you are looking for.

In short, the definition of aperture is the opening in your lens that lets light pass through to the sensor.

Large apertures, which correlate to small f-stop numbers (aperture numbers), produce a very shallow depth of field. On the other hand, small apertures, or large f-stop numbers, produce images with a large depth of field.

Some things in studio photography need to be shot with lower f stop numbers, because the product is small and will look better if shot with a shallower depth of field. When you are shooting in the studio it’s good to be familiar with your aperture settings, as usually you are under time pressure.

Follow these guidelines and you will be in the right ballpark. From there you can get creative and see what you prefer with small adjustments. At the end of the day, photography is art, and it’s subjective to a degree. But it’s important to get these basics right so you don’t ruin the session.