To be a great photographer, you first need to master camera settings. While you might assume every camera comes ready to rock with the same settings, that’s not really the case. You can definitely point and shoot to take pictures without ever looking at the settings, but if you want more detail, more realistic pictures, more vivid environments, and sharper portraits, you need to learn camera settings basics.
There’s more to go over than just the different camera settings. You also have to understand the different camera modes, how each setting affects the next, and how to initially set up your camera to take pictures on day one.
Before we get started, it’s important to note that camera settings are mostly identical no matter which brand of camera you have. Since all cameras work the same way, the settings are going to be universal.
What Are the Most Important Camera Settings?
The most important camera settings need to be set immediately before you start taking pictures. First, determine the proper file format. If you want to take great pictures, this should be set to RAW. Always shoot in RAW for the most spectacular images. It’s true that RAW files take up a lot of space, but that just means you need to have some reliable storage.
Plus, shooting in RAW means you don’t need to worry about things like sharpness, contrast, saturation, color space, or white balance. These can all be changed later in post-production, as necessary.
The second thing to check will be in-camera lens corrections, things like dynamic range optimizations and noise reduction settings. These should all be turned off before you begin shooting in RAW.
Which Camera Mode Should I Use?
Before you begin taking pictures, you must choose which shooting mode is best. Professionals often claim shooting in manual mode is the best because it gives you the most control of your camera settings. However, this isn’t necessarily true. Considering how technologically advanced modern cameras are right now, automatic mode is often the best to shoot in. This is especially true for amateurs.
When your camera is set to auto, the technology inside automatically figures out the proper light, adequate exposure, the focus, and everything else needed to take a perfect picture. It’s the ideal mode to shoot in. This is double true for when you’re just casually taking photos and don’t want any stress.
There’s also a middle ground between auto and manual. There are semi-automated camera modes like aperture priority mode that gives you full control over certain aspects without making you manually set everything. In aperture priority mode, you have control over your camera’s aperture and how bright or dark you want the image to be. And if for whatever reason you need to change the brightness, you can always use the exposure compensation button to make adjustments.
To sum up, automatic mode is perfect for everyone and especially newcomers to photography. You should definitely learn to use manual mode at some point, but auto mode is still going to leave you with outstanding photographs.
How Do I Set My Shutter Speed?
Shutter speed determines how long the shutter of your camera remains open, and therefore how your final photograph looks. Depending on what you’re taking a picture of, your shutter speed will be different. A slower shutter speed will help to make photographs look dreamier because the exposure time is longer. But if you’re taking a photo of something moving quickly and want to capture it in a single, sharp frame, a faster shutter speed is better.
To change your shutter speed settings, simply adjust your shutter speed to be higher or lower, with higher settings used for taking faster pictures with shorter exposures.
What Is Metering Mode?
Metering mode is all about your camera choosing the best exposure for you. Metering is the term for how your camera determines the proper shutter speed and the correct aperture judging by the amount of light going into the lens and what the ISO setting is. In general, you should keep the metering mode to “matrix.” This is the best default and will do the best job at metering the scene.
How Do I Activate Image Stabilization?
Most modern cameras are advertised to come included with image stabilization. Either that, or vibration compensation, vibration reduction – something that keeps your camera stable when shooting in handheld mode.
To activate the image stabilization in your camera, simply turn it on in the menu when shooting handheld. Always remember to turn the image stabilization setting off when you attach the camera to a tripod, otherwise, you may have blurry images even with a stable shooting surface.
What Is Autofocus Mode?
Getting a handle on the best autofocus modes can be tricky. There are two main modes: single area focus mode (AF-S) and continuous focus mode (AF-C). There’s even a hybrid mode that automatically switches between the two depending on what your subject is doing.
How do you know which autofocus mode is best? It depends on your subject. If you’re shooting a portrait of a person, single area focus mode is better because you’re not tracking anything. Your subject isn’t moving. However, if you’re shooting wildlife at a sporting event or trying to track a subject on the move, you need to use continuous mode. Continuous mode will try its best to stay focused on the moving subject.
The hybrid mode is handy because your camera will switch between the two automatically, leaving you free to take photos without messing with the camera settings.
Finally, there’s auto mode. The automatic mode assesses the scene and focuses on the nearest subject or the subject your camera thinks is important. As a beginner, it’s recommended that you avoid autofocus because you always want to have your camera focused where it should be. This is one camera setting you generally want to have full control over.
What’s The Best Aperture?
The aperture setting on your camera controls two things. It affects how your subject appears against the foreground and the background. It also affects how much light enters your camera lens. The aperture is critical in every situation. The aperture will impact how sharp your picture is, the depth of field, and even how bright the picture is.
The larger the aperture, the more light enters the lens. In general, you want the aperture to be pretty wide. The wider the aperture, the brighter the photograph. But there’s a balance that must be met. If the aperture is too wide, the picture will appear way too bright and foggy. If it’s too small, the picture will be dark and murky.
But there are other ways to play with the aperture. For example, a small aperture can give you a fantastic background blur effect known as bokeh, which is especially useful in portrait photography. A small aperture can also make a landscape photo extremely sharp and vivid.
At the same time, if you want to make an image blurry on purpose to change the background and give more detail to your subject, you can make the aperture wider.
Aperture settings are F numbers, also known as F-Stops. The smaller the F-number, the larger the aperture. For example, F/2.8 is larger than F/4. This is one of the more difficult camera settings to master and will take a significant amount of practice before you automatically know which aperture to use in which situation.
What Does The ISO Camera Setting Do?
The ISO setting is usually best left at its lowest. Increasing your ISO in an ordinary situation will produce increased noise and grain in your pictures. Blasting your ISO from 200 to 2000 will make your pictures blurry and grainy like a TV with bad reception. To avoid tarnished images, it’s best to just keep your ISO at a low and reasonable setting.
The only times you need to jack up your ISO setting is when shooting in an environment without a lot of light. When taking pictures at night, when taking pictures of a dark sky, or when taking pictures inside where there’s no natural light, the ISO can be turned up. This will allow your shutter speed to remain the same while still producing bright enough pictures. In a scenario where there isn’t a lot of light, ISO helps to illuminate a picture that would otherwise be dark or even black with no details.
Every camera setting is important. From which mode you shoot in to the type of image file format you’re using, everything has a purpose and everything can change the quality of a picture. Changing settings like ISO, aperture, and shutter speed can alter images creatively to give you the desired effect. All the settings work together and changing one will impact the rest.
The only way to truly master the camera settings is to go out into the world and take pictures and tweak settings and look at the results. This is just part of becoming a professional photographer.