Picture Perfect: The 6 Most Important Camera Settings – Global Outings™

SF_City_MuralWell, after more than a month, I finally removed my spankin’ new camera from the box. I had to since I signed up for a class called “Digital SLR & Camera RAW Field Workshop.” It was 6.5 hours of Cameras for Dummies – just my speed.

The class not only taught me about my camera, but also about how to use computer photo software to enhance your photos. Bonus!

Six Most Important Camera Settings

I learned the 6 most important settings on my camera:

1) RAW: You have the option to shoot in RAW mode – which will allow you to doctor your photos afterwards with the software. I like the idea that I can make corrections if I mess up. (To a point anyway. If you shoot a blurry picture. You have a blurry picture.)

2) White Balance: Our teacher Brad said we really only need to know about 2 white balance settings:

  • Direct Sunlight – to use at night with a light source (like neon lights), sunrise and sunset.
  • Auto – to use every other time.

SF_City_Mural_WomanNow, what I really learned is not to try to over-think the instructions from the professional photographer (like why is the setting called “direct sunlight” yet we don’t use it during the day?). Just go with it.

3) Exposure Compensation: In essence, this makes your image brighter or darker. So if there’s a lot of white (like a snowy day or a wedding scene), increase the positive value of the exposure. The reverse is true for taking shots of pure black, dial the exposure down to -1.0 or -1.3.

This concept is very loosely held in my brain right now. I expect it to be totally gone by tomorrow.

4) Histogram: Love this! A picture that tells you whether or not your exposure is correct. Basically you want the graphic to mainly be in the middle, not too far to the right or too far to the left Goldilocks.

First you take a picture, then check out the histrogram, then you make adjustments if you need to. Simple. Sort of.

5) Metering System: This was more than 3 hours into the class and I pretty much had reached saturation and stopped listening. My notes mention I need to pay attention to 2 things that work in combination:

  • Shutter Speed – determines how much light reaches the sensor.
  • Aperture – controls the depth of field and what’s in focus

90% of the time you leave the camera in pattern / matrix mode so that the entire frame is in focus. The other 10% of the time, switch your camera to “spot” mode to focus on the center of the scene. Supposedly this is really helpful if your subjects are backlighted. Hmmm….OK.

SF_City_Blue_Mural6) Focus Mode: There are 3 options in this mode:

• Continuous – Use with moving subject. Clear enough.

• Single Shot - Use with still life. Love it. Simple.

• Manual - Use in special circumstances like when shooting through glass.

So I’m told when taking your picture, first lock your focus, then recompose your photo.

There was also some talk about ISO, but all I heard was Charlie Brown chatter at that point.

Practice What You Preach

I ended up buying a new lens (since I only had a zoom lens), an extra camera battery and a grey card. I also took Brad’s card with me. I have a feeling I’ll be in need of a refresher course in a week or so.

My goal is to take 10 pictures every day for the next 10 days to practice what I learned. Let’s see how I do. Maybe I won’t need that refresher course after all. Hah! Not likely!

p.s. These are pictures of neighborhood graffiti in the Mission area of San Francisco. Cool! 

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This entry was posted on Monday, November 29th, 2010 and is filed under What to Pack.

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