Best Sony A6000 Settings for Portraits

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If you’re looking for the best Sony A6000 settings for portraits then you’ve come to the right place. The truth of the matter is that if you’ve recently purchased the Sony A6000 or similar camera models such as the A6100, A6300 or A6500, then it’s not necessarily simple or straightforward to shoot beautiful portraits from the get-go if you’re just starting out on your photography journey.

The best Sony A6000 portrait settings to use, like most things in photography, is subjective but I will aim to help you have the basics down of what you need to change from default so that you can take beautiful portraits with limited photography experience and without having to understand all the deep technical aspects of photography.

1. Choose an appropriate lens

If you’ve only recently started using the Sony A6000 and only have the standard kit lens of 16-50mm at your disposal it’s going to be difficult to shoot beautiful portraits. When I say beautiful portraits, I’m talking about crisp images of your subject with a blurred background and light reflections (known as bokeh).

While you can still get nice close-ups with the standard kit lens, if you want to achieve the type of portrait photography I’ve described, you’re going to need to invest in one of the best portrait lenses for Sony A6000 cameras.

The right lens to choose is going to depend on your photography needs and budget, but if you’re looking for a dedicated portrait lens then the E 50mm F1.8 OSS (also available from B&H Photo here or from Adorama here) or the E 35mm F1.8 OSS (also available from B&H Photo here or from Adorama here) are both fantastic options.

These are prime lenses, that are going to allow you to shoot with a shallow depth of field and in low light conditions.

If you want to invest in a lens with a bit more versatility that can be used in a variety of conditions then consider the E 16–55mm F2.8 G (also available from B&H Photo here or from Adorama here) which is a premium all-in-one lens that can be used for portraits at the upper range of its focal length.

The E 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 OSS (also available from B&H Photo here or from Adorama here) is another option if you want an all-in-one lens but it’s higher f stop will mean you won’t necessarily be to achieve a blurred background but it will be an improvement in image quality compared to the standard kit lens.

Both these lenses are great options if you are planning on travelling and want to use one travel lens for the majority of the time.

2. Shoot in Aperture Priority Mode

Now that you have the right lens on the body of your camera, let’s focus on what shooting mode to use in order to achieve the best Sony A6000 settings for portraits.

If you’re still getting started with photography and don’t necessarily have the confidence to be shooting in full manual model, then I would recommend moving the dial at the top of your camera to ‘A’ and shooting in aperture priority mode.

This mode lets you set, the f stop you shoot at while automatically adjusting the shutter speed to ensure you have balanced photos. This means you can manually adjust your photo to get the right level of blurring in the background that you hope to achieve without having to worry about your photos being under or overexposed (i.e. too much or too little light).

If you’re completely new to photography and you just want to start shooting, then feel free to start out by using the ‘Intelligent Auto’ mode (the gold camera mode). This will let the camera adjust everything automatically and once you get more comfortable you can move towards using the Aperture Priority Mode.

Sony A6000 set on Aperture Priority Mode
Sony A6000 set on Aperture Priority Mode

3. Set your ISO

The ISO value on your camera adjusts the camera’s sensor sensitivity to light. If you’re shooting on ‘Intelligent Auto’ mode this is set automatically have you to ensure your photos are balanced. If you decide to shoot on ‘Aperture Priority Mode’ then you have the option of setting this to Auto as well or alternatively, manually adjusted the ISO value.

As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to keep your ISO as low as possible. This is because a high ISO can distort your images and make them look more grainy. Ultimately though if you’re new to portrait photography and shooting on Aperture Priority Mode, then Auto mode is fine to start off with and you can then work your way to adjusting the ISO manually as you gain more experience.

To change the ISO setting on your Sony A6000, you can press the right side of the dial with the label ‘ISO’ on the back of your camera.

4. Choose Your Focus Mode

When it comes to the right focus mode for the best Sony A6000 settings for portraits, it is highly dependent on the subject that you’re shooting. If you’re an experienced photographer, you’ll likely want to shoot on manual but if you’re just starting out choose one of the autofocus options.

If you are trying to take a portrait of animals for example, who might be moving around a lot and not staying still then you’re best to use the ‘AF-C’ option which is continuous autofocus. This will allow the camera to adjust the focus as the subject moves around.

If you’re subject is still then the ‘AF-S’ option is a basic option that will focus on one area of the image. Finally, the ‘AF-A’ is a hybrid of the two that is a good option if you don’t know what your subject will be acting like!

You can see what area the camera is focusing on by pressing the shutter button halfway down before taking your picture.

To change the focus mode on your Sony A6000, press ‘Menu’ then go to tab ‘2’ and select the 6th option aptly named ‘Focus Mode’.

portarit of dog
Use continuous autofocus when taking portraits of animals

5. Switch On Face & Smile Detection

The Sony A6000 has an inbuilt option to help you focus on the faces of people while shooting portraits. This helps you focus on your subject and is really helpful if you’re not at the stage where you’re comfortable using manual focus or prefer not to.

To switch this on, press ‘Menu’ go to the 5th tab and down to the 6th option called Smile/Face Detect and press On.

6. Shoot in RAW

If you’re planning on editing your portraits, make sure you are shooting in RAW to allow yourself as much flexibility as possible to adjust the photo in editing. RAW files, while much larger than JPGs, store a lot more data about the photo that you’re taking and will allow you to correct issues with your photo in post.

You’ll need to ensure you have a large enough memory card if you plan on taking a lot of photos but the extra expense will be worth it so you can make adjustments to your photos down the line. You can change the file size you are shooting at by pressing Menu and in the first tab going to the third option named ‘Quality’.

7. Use Default Options for Other Settings

As outlined upfront, this guide to the best Sony A6000 settings for portraits focuses on the key things you need to change from default in order to shoot better portraits.

If you haven’t adjusted other settings on your camera previously, then you don’t need to worry about adjusting other things in your camera. For example settings such as White Balance can be left as ‘Auto’.

In my view, the Sony A6000 does a pretty good job at shooting great imagery out of the box so there’s really no need to get into all the technical options of your camera when you’re just starting at.

portrait of cat
A portrait of a cat with a blurred background

The Sony A6000 settings that I’ve outlined above are the main items that I would recommend focusing on when starting to take portraits. They will give you the most control over your images and help you take sharp and beautiful portraits from the get-go!

Are you looking for the best Sony A6000 settings for portraits? What settings do you like to use? Let me know in the comments below!

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Michael is the founder of Capture That Snap, a website dedicated to helping photographers improve their craft. He loves travel photography and is always on the hunt for new destinations to explore and shoot.

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