I started shooting with the Sony a6000 a little over a year ago after I saw a lot of other guys starting to use it in the water. I was wondering what all the hype was about, and when I got one, I realized what the hype was about. It’s an amazing camera! Now, If you shoot mainly with GoPro, don’t assume that you will just pick up the a6000 and start killing it. You won’t. I learned that the hard way and I almost gave up. The a6000 is a fairly simple camera in terms of the class of camera it’s in, but it takes some work to dial it in. I would even say after a little over a year, I still don’t have it down. It actually took me a very long time before I started getting shots that I was really satisfied with.
Lately, I have been getting some questions about my settings that I use for my Sony a6000. My first bit of advice is to just start doing some trial and error with settings. You can easily watch YouTube videos or read other blogs to know what settings mean. If you don’t know a whole lot about cameras to begin with you will definitely need to educate yourself. I have to be honest that when I first bought it, I didn’t even know what aperture was. Once you understand what things are and how they work, it will be much easier to dial in settings.
I know that most guys shoot in manual and I do some times, but I almost always shoot in shutter priority. With shooting waves, shutter speed is crucial. I usually shoot at sunrise or sunset and the lighting is constantly changing. I trust the camera to do the rest of the work as long as my shutter speed is in the right place. Plus, I’m only shooting with the kit lens anyway because that’s the only one that will fit in my housing (you can read the article about my housing here). Just don’t be a kook and set your camera to auto.
Shutter speed is really going to depend on the lighting conditions you are shooting in. Like I said, I usually shoot at sunrise or sunset and I have found that my sweet spot is around 1/1600. During sunrise I will lower the shutter speed until it gets a little brighter. You can drop it down to around 1/250 and get some motion blur, but I will set it at around 1/800 to get the most light with the wave still being fairly crisp (see picture 3 below). As the sun comes out more I bump up the shutter speed and if I stay in the water long enough I might get all the way to 1/2500 as the sun gets higher (see picture 1 below). When shooting sunset you would just do things in reverse order.
I’m just going to leave this one alone because I shoot in shutter priority which takes care of the aperture setting automatically. Just remember that when you shoot in shutter priority, the higher the shutter speed the wider the aperture will be open and vice versa.
Most Sony cameras including the a6000 are really good at reducing image noise at higher ISO, but I like to keep mine on the low end because of the look I am going for in my images. I almost always like to keep my ISO right at 100 (see pictures 1 and 4 below). Earlier in the morning or later in the evening I might get it up to 400, but never more than that. I like to keep the richness of the colors, and having a lower ISO helps with that.
My theory is that you can always add exposure to shots but it’s very hard to take it away. With that, I like to drop my EV compensation down to -.3 in order to avoid over-exposed areas. If you shoot in shutter priority like me then this will close your aperture a little more to allow less light in. You will lose some depth of field but not much since it’s only being dropped to -.3.
Focus Area Mode:
Since I am pretty much shooting from the hip with the housing that I have, I want to make sure I always know where my focus area is. The best way to be sure of this is to put it on center. That way when you get a shot that’s out of focus you can’t blame the camera.
These are basic setting that I run with. My other piece of advice is to make sure that you don’t have issues with water spots. Those things can ruin your shots and ruin your day. I wrote another post on my solution to taking care of them. You can read that here. If you shoot with a Meikon housing then another thing you will want to take advantage of is back button auto focus. I’ll do another post in the future on how to do that. Feel free to send me any other questions and I’ll do my best help.