Simple Photography Tips | Uncommon And Essential Camera Settings
Your first camera can be a daunting thing. So daunting in fact, that even the more experienced amongst us have neglected certain useful, perhaps even essential, camera settings. The aim of this article is to give you some simple photography tips which will hopefully highlight a few settings and features that you were previously unaware of, or at least re-familiarize you with them.
Simple Photography Tips 1 | Color Space
This sounds like a complicated subject, but it’s not. I’m going to quickly break it down to its most simple form before telling you what I do.
- There exist different color spaces.
- Each one captures a different number of colors/tones.
a. SRGB captures the least,
b. Adobe RGB significantly more,
c. And ProPhoto RGB significantly more than that.
- Your camera will allow you to select either SRGB or Adobe RGB
- Your editing software will let you select those and ProPhoto RGB (Lightroom defaults to this)
- 99% of the time when we view and print images, we use SRGB
If you wish, you can get bogged down by the actual numerical differences between the colors captured with each color space. However, unless your friends are the kind to be impressed by that type of thing, it’s a waste of valuable brain space. On the other hand, knowing that CMOS stands for Complementary metal-oxide semiconductor is sure to impress everyone…right? Yeah….
I always set my camera to Adobe RGB. Even though I know the output will be SRGB. Why? For one thing, I can always convert to SRGB after capture but, if captured in SRGB, I can’t convert it to Adobe RGB; the colors just aren’t there. The other reason is that for product photography I sometimes have very subtle tonal gradients and also demand the ultimate in color accuracy. For that reason, 16-bit and ProPhoto RGB is preferable. This method and workflow suits me, but it’s not for everyone. Here’s a great video from our very own Trevor Dayley, giving his completely opposite, but nonetheless entirely valid, viewpoint. It’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself I’m afraid.
Simple Photography Tips 2 | Adjusting your lenses
This one seems to always be ignored. On Canon, it’s called Micro Focus Adjustment and on Nikon, it’s AF Fine Tune. Hunt through your respective menus and you’ll find the option, and its purpose is to adjust our lenses focusing accuracy. Our lenses are rarely perfect in terms of focus, they shift, and even a brand new lens rarely comes to us perfectly aligned and over time, the focus alignment will shift. Rather than sending our lenses off for servicing all the time, camera manufacturers included this setting in modern DSLRs. With the help of software, physical calibrators, or both, we can ensure that when we focus on a specific point, we really have focused on that point.
Ever wondered why when shooting with a shallow depth of field you always seem to miss your target? Not having adjusted this setting could be a reason why. You’ll need to do this for every lens you own and then save the appropriate adjustment to your camera.
Take a look at this article by Trevor Dayley which will guide you through the process of calibrating your lenses. Once you’re done with that have a read of this article (by me) which will give you a few tips for getting sharp focus with a shallow depth of field. Yes, that’s right, while it may be the case that your lenses need adjustment, there are other reasons for missing focus all the time.
Simple Photography Tips 3 | Back Button Focus
When I found this setting, I fell in love – If one can fall in love with a camera setting that is (and you definitely can). Before utilizing this feature, I was content in my caveman esque state, manually changing my focusing mode between single shot and AI-servo (Canon) AF-C (Nikon). Find the area in your cameras menu which allows you to assign certain functions to buttons; it’s slightly different for every brand.
Once you’ve found the relevant section, I want you to assign an easy to reach button to activate focus and exposure metering. In other words, we’re moving that function from the shutter release to this button. As mentioned, this will be different with each camera brand and model, hence will require a little legwork on your part. Sorry.
The benefit of this alteration is having a continuous focus mode and single shot focus mode accessible in one button. If your subject is stationary, push the button and let go once the camera grabs focus. If, all of a sudden, your subject begins to move, hold the button down and boom, continuous focus is engaged. It will take some getting used to, but I assure you, it’ll be worth it.
Simple Photography Tips 4 | Shutter Speed Vs. Frames Per Second
It’s fantastic that DSLRs can now shoot video. It’s brought a level of quality which was previously out of reach to the general public, into the hands of anyone for a very reasonable price. However, coming from a background in the film industry, I often see mistakes when it comes to DSLR video. One of the biggest is with Frames Per Second (FPS) and Shutter Speed.
I don’t shoot video anymore, but on my search for a brief refresher on this subject, I came across an amazing video from Ray Tsang, which covered every single topic I wanted to mention. Check it out above, and by the end, you’ll have a complete grasp on what to use, when, and why.
As someone who watches a lot of cinema, I find that anything which drifts away from the norm to be jarring, and thus detracts from my experience. I don’t like 3D, I don’t tend to like films which mess with FPS (The Hobbit, 48 FPS), or the shutter angle. The motion blur associated with 24 FPS, to me at least, just feels right. If I were to advise anyone on this subject, it would be to stick with the norm in terms of FPS and shutter angles (shutter speed on DSLRs), until such time as you are an experienced filmmaker and know when to break the rules, or bend them.
Simple Photography Tips 5 | Image Review
I’ll keep this one short and sweet. If you have a capable camera (modern Nikons and Canons have the feature), make sure you take advantage of the custom setting which allows a one-click 100% zoom. It is immeasurably useful for quickly checking focus.
This feature was highlighted to me by Mathew Saville when I switched to Nikon, and it’s wonderful. On my Nikon d750 not only will it zoom to 100% with a single click of the OK button but it will also allow me to cycle through faces by scrolling the back wheel. That is amazing for portrait work!
Another quick image review tip is to use highlight warnings. With this option enabled the blown out highlights within your image will flash. We all know that, in the digital era, it’s easier to recover shadows than highlights. Therefore, we always want to be protecting our highlights when we shoot. If I’m working quickly, I always use this as a way to glance at the back of my camera and check the exposure and I can immediately see if any critical areas are losing detail.
Simple Photography Tips | Raw Vs.JPEG
As part of the Photography 101 course, which I cannot recommend enough by the way, Pye spends some time taking us through the pros and cons of RAW files Vs. JPEGs. If you are at all confused by this subject, check out this article – it should be required reading/viewing.
This video is a perfect explanation and requires no additional info from me (Thanks Pye!). If you are interested, I shoot exclusively in RAW. The type of work I do means that I never have need for JPEG. I always want the additional quality and leeway that RAW files provide.
On a separate note, SLR Lounge leads the pack when it comes to this type of education: taking you from amateur to knowledgeable and actionable pro. Believe it or not, I started my photographic journey on SLR Lounge and have been very impressed with the improvements they have made to their educational content. I have no hesitation in recommending Photography 101, Lighting 101 and Lighting 201 to anyone wishing to gain a better understanding of key photographic and lighting concepts. Find them all in the SLR Lounge Store, click here.
Simple Photography Tips | Summary
Our cameras can be daunting, but they don’t have to be. Dare I say it, reading the manual can sometimes be an eye opening experience, but it can also be an eye closing experience, if you get my drift.
My advice, aside from the tips I have already given here, would be to go through every setting on your camera. Ensure you understand what they’re for and whether they’re relevant to you. Yes, a lot of what you see will be surplus to your requirements, but it will make you more confident with your camera, and, who knows, maybe you’ll find a new useful feature.
If you’ve got any advice of your own or any questions, be sure to comment below.