Setting Up Your Camera

Posted by on Apr 1, 2012 in Articles | 2 Comments

It is workshop season once again for me and I am starting to notice some commonalities amongst my students. In every workshop I have done lately I have found that at least half of the cameras I get my hands on are set up less than optimally. By ‘set up’ I mean that the options selected in the menu are not the best. And no what I am about to mention are not ideas open to debate. These are the right ways for you to set up your camera. If you don’t agree with all this then either you are misinformed, just being stubborn or have some very individual photography needs. These ways are the ways that all the pros I know have their cameras set.

1. Adobe 98 color space. sRGB seems to be the default on most cameras but it is limiting the colors you get. Adobe 98 gives you the most colors. Who would want less colors? Use Adobe 98.

2. Go to Display in your menu and activate both histogram and highlights. Histogram will show you all the tonalities in your image. Be sure to check it after every different shot. HIghlights will activate the ‘blinkies’ on your LCD display showing you where any blown out whites are in your image. The histogram will show you that you have blown out whites, the highlights will show you where they are. Refer to them both frequently.

3. Auto color temperature. I haven’t used a more specific color temperature (cloudy, incandescent, etc) ever. That’s right, ever. You spend good money on a very sophisticated camera. Trust it to do its job. Select Auto color temperature.

4. RAW. shoot in RAW always. There is no good or legitimate reason to shoot JPEGs. Here’s why: Every time you open a JPEG you lose data. Every time. With RAW you can open and play with it all you want and you won’t lose a thing. Plus there is much more data in a RAW file than in a JPEG. Digital photography is all about data. The more the merrier. You will limit yourself if you shoot only JPEGS. And please, please, please don’t shoot RAW + JPEG. That just makes things worse. You will never need to capture both. Never. If you need a JPEG just export as you need from the RAW file.

5. And finally, I shoot Aperture Priority, Matrix (Evaluative in Canon-speak), usually minus .7 auto-compensation ( to catch sneaky blown out highlights), C  for continuous autofocus, 11 autofocus points (not 51 or more- too distracting) and a ISO of 800 when I am handholding my camera and 400 when it is on the tripod. I will gladly go up to go up to ISO 2500 or even ISO 3200 for low light situations. These last are all are more personal to choices. The first 4 are the right ways to do things.

There you have it. Now goo to your menu and check your settings. You’ll be glad you did.

2 Comments

  1. Stan Tetrault
    April 4, 2012

    David,
    Good article on camera setup and one that I am learning from. I have been using a Canon EOS Rebel XSi and have not mastered all its complexities yet. In step 5, can you please explain ’11 autofocus points ..’ a bit more?

    Reply
    • David
      April 10, 2012

      Hi Stan,
      Most DSLR cameras give you the option to pick how many auto focus sensors (cross hairs) you want. Nikon gives you the option of 11, 21 or 55 auto focus points. I think Canon has something similar. I like fewer points. On your Rebel you may not have these choices. I don’t know that camera that well. Check out your menu under autofucus and see if you can select the number of autofocus points you will see in your viewfinder.

      d

      Reply

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