Understanding the Olympus Pen Camera Settings & the ones I use

March 15, 2017 27 Comments

I want to start this post with a bit of a caveat. I am not a camera expert or a professional photographer these are just a few of my Olympus Pen camera settings that I use when I shoot outfit pictures, blog photos and flatlays and I started to get asked so often what they were and for tips, that I thought it would be easiest to do a post. These settings are just a starting point only as every situation will always need some manual adjustment based upon what you are shooting, the light etc but I'm hoping ths post will give you some ideas of where to start and also explain some of the camera functions in less techy speak so its a bit easier to understand.

This post is based upon the OLYMPUS PEN EPL7 as thats the one I have. I'm not sure if the location of some of the settings is different on the EPL8 but the settings themselves will all do the same thing on the EPL8.

Now everyone has a mode they like to shoot in and for me I like to shoot in APERTURE PRIORITY (A on the dial). Ideally you want to get out of shooting in AUTO just because you'll have more control over the way your pictures look. Here's a quick explanation of what each mode is.

Olympus pen camera settings


iAUTO - Basically point and shoot. This means all the settings will be selected for you.

P - This is halfway between Auto and Manual. The camera will select the optimum shutter speed and aperture but by clicking the top wheel you can adjust the exposure.

A - Aperture priority mode means you adjust the aperture and the camera will auto adjust the shutter speed to suit. Great for adjusting background blur You can also adjust all other settings.

S - Shutter priority mode means you adjust the shutter speed and the camera will auto adjust the aperture to suit. Great for moving subjects. You can also adjust all other settings.

M- Manual mode means you can adjust shutter speed AND aperture giving you full control over your images.

I shoot in APERTURE mode simply because I like to adjust my blur without having to worry about shutter speed. It gives me the amount of control I want and I've always understood aperture better than shutter speeds, so I don't often use manual on the Olympus Pen.

I think there are so many photography terms thrown around and for many they can be pretty confusing so I thought I would give a couple of simple explanations of some of these terms. If you know all of this then do skip down to my settings!


This can be the most confusing one for many. The aperture is essentially the opening in the lens through which light passes. Its controlled by the F-STOP which when adjusted varies the size of the hole through which the light comes. I think the confusing bit can be that the lower the F-STOP number the bigger the hole! Imagine it like an iris. If you lower the Fstop number the iris opens.  The below diagram is really brilliant at helping to understand both Aperture and Depth of Field.

(photo credit - Expert Photography)

The kit lens that comes with the Pen only goes down to F/3.5 but the gorgeous 45mm lens will give you a lower F-Stop of f/1.8. By adjusting the Aperture you also control the depth of field. This basically means how much blur you get on a photo. The bigger (wider) the aperture the narrower the depth of field ie more blur! Thats why the 45mm lens gives such a lovely blur to photos because it has a lower f-stop. I'll be covering lens in another post though.

Large aperture  = Small f-number = Shallow (small) depth of field = more blur
Small aperture = Larger f-number = Deeper (larger) depth of field = less blur


This is basically the amount of time the shutter is open. Shutter speed is measured in fractions of seconds. The bigger the underneath number the faster the speed eg 1/1000 is much faster than 1/60. 


The ISO is the level of sensitivity of your camera has to light. The lower the ISO number, the less sensitive it is to the light, while a higher ISO number increases the sensitivity of your camera. If its a bright sunny day you will only need a low ISO number whereas if its a lower light situation you will need a higher ISO number. Bear in mind that the higher the ISO the more "noise" you will get in images eg grainyness.  I tend to keep my camera on AUTO ISO but I'll talk about what I set it to manually below.


Exposure compensation on a camera is used to alter the exposure from the value that has been auto selected by the camera, making photographs brighter or darker. In A Mode you can adjust this yourself to make your snaps brighter if need be. But beware in A mode if you make your Exposure too high the shutter speed will automatically slow down and you may get blur.


The first thing you are going to want to do is set up the SUPER CONTROL MENU if you haven't already. You'll find the instructions in my Olympus Pen Review and once activated will look like below.

Olympus pen camera settings

Within the SUPER CONTROL MENU you'll be able to adjust so many settings quickly. 

WHITE BALANCE -  I'll be honest I set mine to AUTO. But you can adjust for the specific type of weather/situation eg sunny, cloudy. Also if you are at an event and the lighting is a funny colour then try Incandescent (Light bulb symbol).  Also try Custom White balance which I'll teach you how to do in my Flatlay settings below.

AUTO FOCUS MODE - In here you can choose how you want your camera to focus. I choose S-AF which means SPOT AUTOFOCUS. This means when I half press the shutter it will focus to where I have placed my focal square (the magic green square I will come to later)
If you always want your focus to always be at the centre of the photo then choose C-AF.

FACIAL RECOGNITION - Great for when outfit shooting but I turn it off in any other shooting situation.

METERING - Metering is how your camera decides what the shutter speed and aperture should be, depending on the amount of light that goes into the camera. I set mine to ESP which is essentially auto. 

IMAGE RATIO - Here you can adjust your images to square for instagram setting 1:1 and other sizes too. I shoot outfits/products in 4:3 with the occasional long photo in 16:9. 

IMAGE FORMAT - Here you can choose the type and quality of your image. I mostly shoot in jpeg but sometimes I will shoot my outfits in RAW. RAW is only needed if you want to be able to do lots of editing and retain the image quality. JPEG is fine for most people.

FOCUS GRID - This is where you control the magic green square. The green square is the focus point which you can set by opening the grid and moving the square using the click buttons.

ISO & WHITE BALANCE - Here you can adjust your ISO and White Balance easily.

When your not in the SUPER CONTROL MENU and just taking a photo you can use the circular click button to access the below settings.




By pressing UP on the circle button you can access the F-STOP and EXPOSURE COMPENSATION.


Press up and down to adjust the F-STOP.
Remember the lower the number the wider the aperture.


Press left  and right to adjust EXPOSURE COMPENSATION.
The higher the number the brighter the photo.




Press down on the circle wheel to access shooting mode. Here you can select single photo and self timer options as well as sequential shooting options. The rectangle and H (HIGH) will take a series of shots as long as you hold the shutter down at a fast speed. The rectangle and L (LOW) will take a series of pictures but at a slower speed. Some people nickname this burst and use it for outfit shooting to capture movement. It is good but beware its very easy to end up with hundreds of blurry photos you have to go through.



By pressing left you will bring up the focus point grid. Here you can use the click up/down/left/right buttons, click wheel or touch screen to move your green square to where you want your focus point to be. If you press INFO once in the grid you can also adjust the size of green square using the click wheel.


When taking a photo you'll notice a box on the left hand side of the screen with a green square in it. This has three options all you need to do is tap it to switch between them. Note if it keeps disappearing just press MENU, then come out and it will reappear! 

OFF - No touch screen, half press the shutter to focus or manually move the green square on the grid menu above.
GREEN RECTANGLE AND FINGER - Touch the screen to select the focus area. This means you can tap the screen to locate the focus point but still take the picture with the shutter release button.
GREEN BUTTON WITH FINGER - By pressing the screen now you will not only focus where you tap but also take the photo too

I haven't mentioned FLASH because to be honest I never use it. Its included in the box but I hate the look of flashes so only ever shoot without it.




borg collar denim jacket outfit winter
Gucci GG Supreme shoulder bag
metallic midi skirt with embroidered jumper outfit

I shoot outfit photos using my 45mm lens as I like the blurry background. I have my F-Stop at 1.8 the lowest it will go and I adjust my exposure until my photos look bright enough. Usually I will have my ISO on AUTO but I never want it higher than 400. I never shoot in direct sunlight but if an outfit is dark or the background is white which bounces light I may need to adjust the exposure to a negative to keep the photo from over exposing. I always opt for ever so slightly darker photos that are crisp and brighten in Photoshop than go too high with the exposure.

I keep Face priority on and adjust the green square so it is at the top of the photo where my head will be when the camera is in portrait orientation. Then use the shutter release button to take the photos. When shooting outfit detail photos I tap the green square to where I want to focus to be eg the earring and then take using the shutter release button.



I shoot my product photography using my 45mm lens. I have my F-STOP a little higher usually around 2 just to make sure the whole product including the label is in focus. You can shoot with the kit lens and get a blurry background you just need to have the camera close to the product and the background far away from the product to create blur. I have WHITE BALANCE and ISO on AUTO and again try to shoot in natural light. If I do use my ring light / soft boxes I ALWAYS bounce my lights off my white ceiling, never point them at what I'm shooting. Again I adjust my EXPOSURE  by pressing up and adjust it until my photos look nice and bright. I use the green square to make sure the label or product name is in focus.

For interior posts I use my 17mm lens. This goes down to f1.8 too so I tend to set it on that and again just adjust my exposure to suit.



I shoot my flatlays using the Olympus Pen kit lens. I always try and shoot with natural light and usually on a white board or my white bedding. Settings wise I shoot in A with my F-STOP at 3.5/4 and to make sure my picture is nice and bright I up the EXPOSURE to usually 1 or sometimes higher. I also most of the time shoot my flatlays in square 1:1.

To make sure your background is crisp and white then try setting up Custom White Balance. Click WHITE BALANCE on the SUPER CONTROL MENU, then scroll to the right to Capture WB Info and then press the Info button. You'll be prompted to photograph a white sheet of paper or anything bright white. Click to take the picture then select YES if happy. Now when you take your photos you should get a perfect white background!

So that turned into a mammoth post!! If you made it to the end, well done!! You can read my other Olympus posts here too Olympus Pen Review Updated & Olympus Pen Camera Accessories and I have a post coming all about lens including photos taken with each one! 

If you have any questions at all please do tweet me or comment below and I will try my best to answer them and I really hope you've found this Olympus pen camera settings post useful? Do let me know





Bang on Style

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  • Laurie March 15, 2017 at 8:36 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this. After reading your other post’s I have just invested in an Olympus. Now I just need to save for the lens! I now know where to come when I’m setting it up xx

  • Natasha Todd March 15, 2017 at 11:20 am

    This was such a helpful post Debs! After I met you at the upchurch event I did then invest in the Olympus as you had such good things to say about it! I can’t wait to get the 45mm lens to get some amazing depth of field!! x

    Tash | natashatodd.co.uk

  • charley March 15, 2017 at 11:40 am

    Oh this is really handy to know. I have an Olympus EM-10 so not exactly the same but I’m sure your tips will still help. Thanks for sharing :)


  • Heidi B March 15, 2017 at 9:04 pm

    Thanks for this really well explained post Debs. Much easier to understand than some I’ve read! Only had my Pen a few weeks, and so used to my Pentax DSLR, thIs seemed really different. But..it’s an amazing piece of kit! I can’t stretch to the 45 mm lens yet, but learning a bit more about how to use the camera will really help. Looking forward to your post on lenses, I have a bokeh lense on my Pentax, as well as a standard, so close ups on that are good.
    H x

  • Kerstin March 16, 2017 at 9:44 am

    Aaaah thank you so much for this post! I got my Olympus Pen about a year ago and never really worked out how it works. This guide is GOLD!

    Love, Kerstin

  • kerry March 16, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    Thank you so much for this post! I have had my Pen for two months but the manual came as a disc, I have a MAcbook, so no place for a disc to go hahaha! Iv not been able to read the manual so its been trial and error. This has helped me out so much, thank you

    • Garth September 11, 2019 at 1:13 pm

      You can download an Olympus manual for any model, in any language, from Olympus on line site.

  • Stephanie Canham March 16, 2017 at 7:25 pm

    This is by far the best and most helpful post yet that I’ve read on the Olympus Pen, I already knew a little bit of what you’ve written about but it’s helped me beyond belief with other bits so thank you so much Debs.

  • sarah March 21, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    Brilliant, thank you so much for sharing this x


  • Emma Harrison March 28, 2017 at 1:47 pm

    This is the post of my dreams! Don’t get me wrong I love my EPL-7 and I wouldn’t trade it for the world BUT just lately it has been driving me insane and mainly because I know what I want to do with it but I don’t know how to do it. Your post will help massively so thank you!

    Emma | HarmonyBlaze.co.uk

  • Josh @ lookdwn.com March 31, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    Great tips. I don’t have the Olympus Pen but going to use this advice for my camera.


  • Megan June 2, 2017 at 10:31 pm

    Amazing I’m getting my Pen hopefully at the end of the month and I’m so excited!! Have bookmarked this post to help me!! Thank you

    Megan | http://www.Mummyandharrison.co.uk

  • TravelinaAngelina August 9, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    I just bought an EPL-8 and feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the information I need to read. Thank you so much for these quick, concise tips much appreciated.

  • Gen September 3, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    Maria recommended your blog to me for this matter, and so many helpful posts!
    Quick question though, I’m trying to connect my camera to my phone through wifi, but I can’t seem’to find the wifi button which apparently is on the top-left of the screen 😕


  • Kara // Heels In My Backpack January 25, 2018 at 6:03 pm

    Thanks so much for this <3 I've been searching all over the internet for simple instructions on how to use my new camera and this has definitely done the trick! Cheers! x

  • sly February 20, 2018 at 9:09 pm

    Do you have any tips of what camera settings to use for something like inside a restaurant when it’s dark? My shots ended up being all blurry!

    • Bang on Style February 22, 2018 at 6:50 pm


      Yes you’ll need to up your ISO (sensitivity to light) and make sure your shutter speed isn’t too slow. I’d shoot in A and adjust the exposure comp to brighten the image and the shutter speed adjusts automatically so you shouldn’t get blur as long you don’t go too nuts with the exposure comp. I tend to opt on the side of dark but sharp images and brighten up in editing after.
      Hope that helps.

  • Nina September 8, 2018 at 5:53 pm

    I have just bought one after your post inspiring me.. however any advice on how you transfer photos onto your phone? tried setting up by downloading the app etc but they still arent copying over! Any advice?

    • Bang on Style September 8, 2018 at 8:42 pm

      Ah thats strange! Send me a DM on instagram and I can talk you through it! I’m @bangonstyle over there xxx

  • steve edmunds September 23, 2018 at 4:53 pm

    I finally moved to digital photography 4 years ago anf bought a olympus pen ep-5 which is quite similar to the epl pen cameras.
    Discovering how to bring up the super control menu on the screen is a true eureka moment for me.
    It makes using my camera so much easier so thanks for that not to mention all the other good photo info on this site.

  • Chiino October 30, 2018 at 10:53 am

    I need to thank you for this post. I’ve had the camera for months and didn’t bother changing a thing for fear I’d break something. This properly explains everything I’d need to change. I’ve learned so much. Good stuff!

  • Clare Dorotiak January 30, 2019 at 9:06 pm

    Thank you for your review it is very helpful.
    Please can you help me with taking close up photos of nails, I have a white background and use a daylight lamp and I am finding the pen el8 difficult to focus for close up nail shots. I am using macro setting without flash and the pics are not light enough or in focus. Any tips would be so helpful!

  • Kara March 5, 2019 at 11:55 pm

    Thanks so much for all your tips. I am about to go travelling and when I flip screen down for selfie it does switch therefore I am looking at myself or the image upside down.
    Can you help please?
    Many thanks

    • Bang on Style March 14, 2019 at 9:54 pm

      Hi Kara, ping me an email explaining exactly what your problem is and I’ll try and help bangonstyle@gmail.com

  • Ro May 4, 2019 at 10:40 pm

    Brilliant!!!!! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge; just bought the camera and your post makes so much sense. :)…I can breath now…I made the right decision.

  • Amelia June 27, 2021 at 1:27 pm

    Thank you so much! I couldn’t figure out how to set the auto focus although I did set up the super control menu following a Youtube video. The settings for Blog, Flatlays and Outfits are also very useful.

  • Carol October 31, 2021 at 2:21 pm

    Thanks so much for your helpful tips.
    My Olympus has developed a fault. When it is turned on the screen is black. It stays black whatever the setting. So I am unable to take photos. Any ideas please?

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