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Getting Started Guide to Camera Basic Settings

Release Date: 2023-08-03  Views: 99
Getting Started Guide to Camera Basic Settings

Still stuck in automatic mode? This is the fastest way to take pictures. But it provides little flexibility and creative control. For this, you need complete control of the camera settings.

Camera settings play a role in multiple factors, from blurring of photos to color. Photography settings include exposure, white balance, focus, drive mode, file type, etc.

Learn the basics and how to change camera settings in this beginner's guide.

Photographer changes settings on DSLR
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Exposure setting
In automatic mode, the camera will choose settings for you. However, the computer in your camera does not have the same creativity as yours.

To turn a vision into a photo, you need to understand and adjust the exposure settings.

The exposure setting determines how light or dark the image is. You can adjust them in P / S (TV) / A (Av) / M / B mode. Exposure settings can also control motion blur, depth of field, resolution, and other factors you wouldn't even think of.

We often think of the three key settings as part of the exposure triangle. They are shutter speed, aperture and ISO.

Shutter speed
When the camera takes a photo, the shutter opens and closes to let light in to take the image. The shutter speed determines how long the shutter stays open.

A longer shutter speed will allow more light to enter and produce a brighter image. A slower shutter speed will result in a darker exposure and will also reduce the amount of motion blur.

The shutter speed is expressed in seconds. On the camera, a shutter speed of 1/1000 second will be displayed as 1000. If it is one second (or longer), write it as 1 inch.

A fast shutter speed (eg 1/500) will freeze most of the movement in the photo. Only subjects that move very fast (relative to the frame) will be a little blurry. In the case of air shows or sports events, the shutter speed is prioritized over other settings. Keep it up very fast.

But a faster shutter speed will restrict light from entering the lens.

In a darker environment, a relatively slow shutter speed (eg 1/60) may be required. This prevents the image from being too dark or underexposed.

Choosing the shutter speed is a matter of finding a balance between exposure and blur. If the subject is still or moving slowly, the shutter speed can be set to a lower value, such as 1/60.

If the subject is moving, such as in a street scene or a concert, you may want the shutter speed to be at least 1/250. As mentioned above, the demand for sports events is greater.

If you cannot achieve the required high enough shutter speed, increase the ISO and introduce more noise. It is much easier to correct noise compared to images with fixed motion blur during editing.

Remember, blur does not just come from moving objects. If you set the shutter speed too low, slight hand movements can blur the image.

Generally, keep the base of the shutter speed at or greater than the focal length. This is a peer-to-peer rule.

Therefore, if you are shooting with a 50mm lens, you should use a shutter speed of at least 1/50. Please note that we are referring to the equivalent focal length. It can be calculated by multiplying your true focal length by the crop factor of the camera.

Long lenses will aggravate camera shake. When using a 200 mm lens, you should use a shutter speed of at least 1/200. When using a tripod, there is no need to worry about the rule of camera shake. The optical image stabilization system can also reduce jitter.

A quick note on resolution. If you are using a high-resolution camera, the countdown rule may not be enough to keep the scene clear. The high-resolution sensor is more sensitive to slight camera shake. Try to use the camera and hand stability to understand the limits.

Female photographer shooting in the forest

aperture
The camera lens aperture controls the size of the opening in the lens. Just as a larger window allows more light to enter, a larger aperture allows more light to enter the photo. This creates a brighter image.

We use the f-number to measure the aperture. A lower f-number (for example, f/2.8) is a large aperture that can enter a lot of light. A high f-number (such as f/11) is a narrow aperture that allows less light to enter.

The aperture not only affects the exposure of the photo. It also plays a role in depth of field or image clarity. The background of a photo with a shallow depth of field is very soft or blurry. A photo with a wider depth of field will make more details clear.

Like shutter speed, aperture is also a balance issue. A larger aperture helps blur the background to draw attention to the subject. It can also balance dark exposures caused by insufficient light or excessively fast shutter speeds.

A narrow aperture can keep more photos clear, for example when taking group photos. It can also deliberately slow the shutter speed, for example when blurring the motion of a waterfall.

ISO standard
The final part of the exposure puzzle is ISO. This setting determines how sensitive the camera sensor is to light. The trade-off for increasing the camera's sensitivity to light is grain.

Low ISO (such as ISO 100) can maintain image quality, but it is not very sensitive to light. Settings like ISO 3200 are more sensitive, but also more prone to noise.

ISO helps balance shutter speed and aperture. For example, if you want to use a narrow aperture to keep most of the scene clear, you can increase it to a high ISO.

If you are shooting in low light, but need a fast shutter to freeze motion, you can increase to a high ISO.

If possible, such as when shooting on a clear sunny day, keep the ISO at a low level. However, you can use it when faster shutter speeds or narrower apertures are more important.

The ISO options and grain patterns differ between camera models. Try to take photos at each ISO setting of the camera. Determine which ISO is too high to use.

SLR camera mounted on a tripod outdoor

How to change camera settings for exposure
To change the shutter speed, aperture and ISO, you need to switch the camera's mode dial from auto to M.

So, how do I find my camera settings? Each model is a little different. On most cameras, use your right index finger to find the dial on the front of the camera. This allows you to adjust the iris. The dial on the back of the camera with your right thumb can adjust the shutter speed.

Some cameras have only one dial. In this case, press and hold the Fn button to switch the function of the dial between shutter speed and aperture. Adjust the ISO via the shortcut button or sometimes via the camera menu.

M or manual mode is not the only option to adjust camera settings.

The B (or bulb) mode is very similar to the manual mode, but there is an important difference. In light bulbs, the shutter speed is not predetermined. You can connect an external release (or press and hold the shutter button). This allows you to keep the shutter indefinitely. Very convenient when shooting long exposures.

In S/Tv (shutter priority) mode, you will adjust the shutter speed and the camera will select the aperture for you.

In A/Av (aperture priority) mode, you will choose the aperture, and the camera will choose the shutter speed for you.

In P (program) mode, you can use the dial to switch between the recommended shutter speed and aperture pair.

In S, A and P modes, the camera will still choose the exposure value it considers appropriate. You can use the exposure compensation button to brighten or darken the image.

These semi-automatic modes are very suitable for learning. They are also very useful in scenes with medium brightness and rapid changes in light.

DSLR camera on outdoor tripod at night

White balance setting
The light has different colors. We didn't realize it because our eyes were adjusting. The camera does not have the same function to adapt to different colors of light.

If the image appears too blue, yellow, green or purple, the problem is white balance.

Auto white balance allows the camera to adjust the settings for you. The automatic white balance works well. If the image color is off, manually adjusting the white balance will solve this problem.

The white balance settings are easy to understand because they are named after the type of light. Choose Cloudy to take pictures on cloudy days, Fluorescent to take pictures under fluorescent lights, and so on.

The purpose of white balance is to keep the white objects in the photo truly white. You can also set the white balance manually using the temperature setting. A more advanced solution is to take photos of white objects or color cards.

Changing the white balance setting varies depending on the camera model. Look for the shortcut button labeled WB or look for options in the camera menu. If you are not sure, please consult the camera's user manual.

If you are shooting RAW, then white balance is not a big issue for you. It is one of the few settings that is not "embedded" into the image file. You can make non-destructive changes during the editing process.

However, if you want to shoot JPG or video, you must set it correctly on the spot.

DSLR camera on dark background

Focus setting
In auto mode, the camera will choose what it thinks of the subject. Usually, it will select the object closest to the camera.

What if you don't want to focus on the object closest to the camera? What if the subject is moving fast?

Choosing the correct focus setting will increase the chance of getting a clear shot every time.

Focus area mode
The focus area mode tells the camera which part of the image to focus on. The focus mode varies by brand.

Most cameras will have at least the following auto focus area modes:

Auto-area autofocus is the default autofocus setting. The camera uses this setting in automatic mode. It selects from the entire image area and determines what can be focused without user input.
Single-point autofocus mode uses a small point to focus. This is up to the user to decide. In this mode, you can use the arrow keys or joystick to move around the focus to tell the camera where to focus.
Dynamic or AF point expansion allows the user to select a single point. If the subject moves, it will use the surrounding focus. It is not as specific as a single point, but more customized than an automatic area. It is suitable for moving subjects.
Tracking auto focus or 3D auto focus allows users to choose a subject. Then it will track the movement of the object. If the subject leaves the screen, or there is not much contrast between the subject and the background, this mode sometimes fails.
Some cameras also provide face autofocus or eye autofocus. This will automatically find the eye or face to focus on.

A female photographer points to her Canon DSLR

Continuous or single auto focus
Autofocus camera settings tell the camera where to focus. They also indicate how often the camera focuses. These settings are essential for obtaining clear, focused action shots.

In single-frame (AF-S or single-frame shooting) mode, the camera focuses once when the shutter button is pressed halfway. This mode is suitable for stationary objects. If the subject moves, the camera will not refocus and the image will not be in focus.

As long as you press the shutter button halfway, continuous (AF-C or Al Servo) focusing will continue to adjust the focus. This means that the focus will continue to adjust until the image is actually taken.

This mode allows moving subjects to stay focused. For stationary subjects, avoid using it.

AF-A or Al focus AF is an auto focus mode that can be switched between AF-S and AF-C. To do this, the camera will try to determine if the subject is moving.

Although good for beginners, it is not as accurate as switching between AF-S and AF-C yourself.

Release mode setting
When you press the shutter, will the camera take one or two images? You can set it in the release (or drive) mode of the camera.

As long as you press the shutter button, the continuous shooting mode will continue to take a series of photos. This is different from the single-shot mode, which takes an image every time the shutter is pressed.

Some cameras have more than one continuous shooting mode. Fast mode and slow mode. The continuous shooting mode is very suitable for shooting action and perfect shooting timing, even smiling.

However, the continuous shooting setting will fill your memory card faster.

In addition to the continuous shooting mode option, the release mode setting usually includes other options, such as a Selfie. Selfie is great for jumping in front of the camera to take a selfie. Or to prevent camera shake when using a tripod to shoot long-exposure images.

Close-up of photographer carrying Nikon SLR

File type settings
Regarding how to save images, most cameras also provide different options. You can enter customization options, such as how to name each image. But the most important file layout to understand is the difference between JPEG and RAW.

JPEG is a typical digital photo, and it is also the default mode. JPEG is processed in the camera. The image is ready to be shared and printed outside the camera. JPEG is also smaller than RAW files. They take up less space on the memory card and sometimes do not slow down the camera like RAW files.

RAW photos are not processed. You cannot directly share RAW files to Instagram. But this file type opens up more editing options.

If you mess up the white balance, the RAW file can fix the error without affecting the image quality. RAW files are also suitable for smaller exposure adjustments. They store a larger dynamic range and can be used to create better contrast and vividness.

You cannot fix major exposure errors and RAW blurs. It is best to be as correct as possible in the camera. If you plan to edit these photos, RAW is the best file type.

Open the laptop on the edit screen in the home office

in conclusion
Camera settings can prevent common problems such as blur and underexposure. Your settings provide you with tools to capture creative images.

It can be daunting to start learning digital photography settings. Make one setting at a time, practice, and then move on to the next setting.

It is necessary to understand the different camera settings. Armed with this knowledge, you will know how to capture any potential images you encounter. You can learn more about camera settings through our beginner photography course.

Looking for more ideas for entry-level photography? Why not check out the post about the photography terms you need to know next!

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