For understanding digital camera settings, users need to know how to use the five most essential components of a camera setting. These components are a part of every modern camera, be it a mobile phone or a high-end DSLRs, and are designed to help users make decisions.
For the most part of this article, we will tell you how to control them and achieve optimal settings. If you are bored with the same old uniform depth of field and exposure and want to move beyond the simplistic camera settings then read along.
In this article, we will discuss how to experiment with different camera settings to attain amazing results. For this, we will first understand the components of the camera settings and how they should be used.
Then we will move onto understanding the impact of these changes on the final image. Here we go, the Five Most Essential Camera Settings:
It is the most vital component in photography that measures the sensitivity of the camera’s digital sensor to light. This means that if ISO is low the sensitivity would also be low and vice versa.
Thus, if you are working in a low light situation, for example, a poorly lit room than an ISO setting of 100 would mean that more light would be required to reach the sensor than would have required if a higher ISO setting of like 800, or 1600 was being used.
Pitfalls of high ISO
Well, then why control ISO if high ISO helps all the time? There are two reasons for altering ISO. The first one is that high ISOs mostly create digital noise on the results and should be used with caution.
Secondly, sometimes users want to force a slow shutter speed, where low sensitivity to light is required thus a low ISO is preferred, for example when trying to capture blurred motion in wind or water or to create sports photography blurs.
Summing it up, ISO is amongst the three essential tools photographers have at their disposal to manipulate exposure.
Shutter speed is basically the length of time the sensor of the camera is exposed to light. Most of the cameras have shutters that are mechanical and snaps open and close, thus allowing light to reach the sensor.
While other cameras make use of digital shutters that simply turns on the sensor for the prescribed period of time and then switching it off. Remember shutter speed can have a huge impact on the final results and that is why setting it up is very necessary.
For example, if a long shutter speed is used it will create blur while capturing moving subjects which is mostly used by landscape photographer to blur water or to capture wind motion. On the other hand, short shutter speeds are used to give the effect of stopping motion.
So if a shutter speed of 1/2000th of a second is used, then the motion of even a cyclist can be stopped dead.
So shutter speed has to be set thoughtfully in order to create an excellent image. Each circumstance will require different speed so think about it. Consider the final image you want to capture and then decide on the speed.
Whether you want blurred components, want to keep it sharp, or want to convey the sense of motion, all will depend on the right speed. So experiment with shutter speed and you will understand camera settings better and will be able to attain better results.
The aperture also called f-stop is one of the most confusing aspects of photography. Many photographers because find it difficult to grasp as it impacts images in unexpected ways. In basic terms, the aperture is the measure of the size of the hole in the lens.
The smaller the hole size the less light it will allow and the larger the size, more light will get through. The numbering system confuses users even more because a smaller number represents larger holes while bigger number act vice versa.
So is f/4 means a larger opening than f/8 and f/11 and lenses that have a wider aperture like f/2 are also referred to as “fast” because they allow more light in. The aperture also directly impacts shutter speed. So if you use a large f-stop then you will have to combine it with a longer shutter speed to gain proper exposure and if you use a lower f-stop, you have to pair it with fast shutter speed.
Aperture is just not about the openness of a lens or the light but is also about how it impacts the whole sharpness. As the aperture is a component of exposure triangle it affects image sharpness. So if you want to have the perfect digital camera settings you need to maintain your aperture as well and keep it balanced with ISO and shutter speed as they are interlinked.
The above three together are the crux of photography and to become a proficient photographer, their understanding is a must. You must know how to harmonize them to create the right exposure.
Next, we will discuss some supplementary elements of digital camera settings which will further enhance your knowledge and will take you one step forward!
Depth of Field
Next comes the Depth of Field which is controlled by aperture. Basically, DoF is the amount of the image that is in focus from close to far. So if a lens is set wide open like at f/2.8, it will have less Depth of Field than if it was set at f/11.
So use your aperture purposefully by having the focus you want in the image, in mind to create the right Depth of Field.
White balance is similar to ISO because it also relates to the sensor, but the difference is that it has to do with the color of the light instead of the light’s brightness. The color tones of light sources differ color which our eyes mostly don’t detect but these differences are caught on the camera and can ruin the image. So if you want to balance these tones you have to alter the white balance.
If the white balance is set wrong it can lead to the colors going off as they might look too yellowish, bluish, or orange. If it’s correct then the look will be natural and similar to what our eyes detect.
Auto White Balance
A piece of good news for modern camera users is the AUTO white balance setting which has made it easy for photographers today to capture natural photos with perfect brightness. As present-day cameras are getting pretty darn good and can assess color tones, they can automatically decide the appropriate white balance for you if you use the auto option.
You can trust the camera settings to make your image bright in just the right amount. Now coming to the time to use the camera’s white balance settings, the best time is to use it right in the camera when shooting JPEGs because this image format doesn’t allow effective adjustment of white balance later on.
Secondly, if you are stacking images for panoramas or for high contrast scenes, any changes in color tones can make amalgamating them into HDR or panoramas very difficult or even impossible.
So it’s better to use Auto White Balance purposefully there to make all the images look cool or warm. But use the White Balance with care and think of the final image before applying it because its impact can be visible. First, decide and then apply as the auto white balance doesn’t work all the time!
Exposure Compensation is also a tool present in digital cameras that you should know how to adjust and that too without even lowering the camera from the eye. It allows a very quick addition and subtraction of light from an image.
If you find it too dark you can make use of Exposure Compensation to enhance the light immediately. If you find the setting to be very bright, with the help of Exposure Compensation you can on the spot reduce the exposure.
How to set exposure settings depends on your camera but once you get the hang of it you can use it constantly and it will become your go-to method for fine-tuning. It greatly helps in adding perfect exposure in the field. In Canon DSLR it can be adjusted by just a simple twitch of thumb on the camera’s rear wheel.
Most other cameras have Exposure Compensation controls settings up at the front. It is often near the shutter button in the form of a wheel or at the back in the form of a system of buttons. You can find it in the camera guide book.
So, learn how it works so that you can adjust it quickly and efficiently because understanding it is important as this tool means that you don’t miss the chance to get the shot right in the first go especially when you are working in an unpredictable and changing field circumstances.
If you prefer video over reading, here it is a great video by Julia Trotti about camera settings, enjoy:
Combining the Settings
If you are using the manual mode you will have to set all the above settings by yourself except ISO and white balance which you can separately turn to auto mode. So you have to decide the right combination and think about all the other three elements and harmonize them.
Before capturing the photograph make it easy for you to decide on the right settings by prioritizing on one element which is the most important for you. This will fasten the process and lead to less confusion as the other elements would be set in according to the first one.
For example, if you want to ensure a shallow depth of field then make aperture your priority and then set the other elements as per the aperture.
If getting the accurate representation of light is vital for you then prioritize ISO. If you don’t want motion blur and need it to be minimized as possible then concentrate on shutter speed. This way you will know where to begin and all you need to do is adjust the rest of the elements to only necessarily.
Your camera itself will tell you then whether the right amount of light is exposed to the photograph because in manual mode a little meter at the bottom moves to highlight over and under-exposure. If the pointer is at left, it refers to underexposed while if it is at the right, it shows overexposed. The goal should be to get it in the middle.
Exercise these 5 camera settings – especially the first 3 – and you are halfway done. Grasp them tightly and they will take you a long way.
These are the basics and they might sound too much right now but at the end of the day, these are the things that matter. They differentiate an exceptional photograph from an ordinary one.
Indeed, they are the most important things to understand about the camera. Experimenting with them can be quite beneficial as they can affect the final image. So, learn how to change each without fuss and you will begin to see a vast change in your results. You will be able to take charge of photography and could create purposeful images without any hassle.
With today’s cameras, it has become essential to learn how to manage these settings as digital cameras are getting more advanced and you should know the basic settings to grasp them.
As a matter of fact, you could now that takes some crazy sharp pictures and that too with extraordinary colors by just altering a few of these settings.
All you need to do is know which the right buttons to click are and what you want in the final image. Then you can manipulate any scenario to get the results you want.
So what are you waiting for? It’s your turn now to apply the things you have learned and begin the journey towards becoming a top-notch professional photographer!