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Five Camera Settings You Should Know

Digital cameras have become really advanced and come equipped with a ton of built in features and settings. Attempting to learn all of them at once is almost impossible. It is best to learn a few at a time then move onto a few more. Otherwise, you will overload your brain with too much information and have a harder time retaining it.

Here are five settings that you need to know the meaning of when learning your way around your photography camera. Of course these aren’t the ONLY settings you will need to familiarize yourself with, but it’s a great start.

1) Priority Modes

Priority Mode means just what it says. What specific setting do you want to take priority when taking a shot?

Auto: this means you are giving your camera control of all settings. This is a good place for beginners to start when they are learning the basics, such as composition (properly framing your subject in your screen)

Aperture Priority: this means that you are setting the specific Aperture (f/stop) setting and letting your camera adjust other settings as needed. This gives you partial control of your images. This is great for learning how Aperture affects other settings.

Shutter Speed Priority: this means, just like Aperture Priority, you are controlling one of the settings (in this case shutter speed), but allowing your camera to control the other settings.

Manual: Unlike the other priority modes where you control only part of the settings, Manual allows you to take full control of your images. You will be in control of ISO, Shutter Speed, and Aperture. Which means you are controlling exposure, depth of field, and every aspect of your image.

2) Metering

Metering options can be found in your settings. Metering allows you to control which part of your image the camera is adjusting it’s exposure to.

Spot metering means you are selecting a specific area of your image to meter your exposure to.

Center weighted metering means that the camera will use the area in the center of your image to meter the exposure to.

Matrix (or EV) metering means the camera is using the entire scene to meter exposure.

Three Manual Mode Settings

The three main settings that you need to know when shooting in manual are ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed. While all three of these do work together when it comes to your overall exposure, they each have their own individual responsibilities as well.

3) ISO

This setting controls one thing in your images. It controls how much light you want your sensor to capture when taking a shot. Lower ISO’s pick up less light, higher ISO’s pick up more light. Note that higher ISO’s can cause noise/grain in your images, so you need to find the happy medium based on your camera’s capabilities. The ISO you choose should be based on the lighting situation you are in. If little light is available, you may need to bump it up. If ample light is available, you can get away with keeping it low.

4) Aperture

This setting affects two things, depth of field and exposure.

Shooting at wide or low f/stops, such as 2.8, will give you a small depth of field, or plane of focus. Focal length and distance between subject and camera play a part in this also, but Aperture plays a huge role. Just as shooting at low f/stop settings give you a small area of focus, higher numbers give you a larger depth of field or area of focus.

Aperture also affects the amount of light that hits your sensor. Changing your f/stop numbers adjusts the size of the opening at the end of your lens. So the wider the opening or smaller the number, the more light you let in. This sounds backwards, but once you become more familiar with Aperture you will have a better understanding.

Basically smaller numbers means a larger opening. Likewise, higher f/stop numbers cause the opening to be smaller, resulting in less light getting in.

5) Shutter Speed

This also controls two things in your images.

Just like Aperture and ISO, shutter speed also plays a part a part in how much light you are allowing in your images. Why is this? Because shutter speed settings determine the amount of time (or rate of speed) that your shutter stays open when taking a shot. It is usually measured in fractions of a second when it comes to every day shooting. The longer it stays open, the more light you are letting in.

Shutter speed also affects the way you capture motion. Slower shutter speeds will pick up on more movement in your images because the shutter is open longer. Faster shutter speeds will freeze motion because the shutter isn’t staying open long enough to capture movement. So if you are shooting sports or active people or moving objects and you want to “freeze” them, you need a faster shutter speed.

If you want to purposely capture movement for creative purposes you can slow it down. Just remember the slower your shutter speed, the more you risk camera shake. This is different than intentional movement blur. Camera shake is when your camera picks up on YOUR movements, not your subjects. So a little shake of the hands could result in a completely blurry image when shooting at slow speeds. Consider using a tripod when starting to shoot at slow speeds to avoid this.

As you can clearly see, those last three settings go hand in hand when it comes to overall exposure. So you need to take that into account when adjusting each one. Because adjusting one will affect the way you need to adjust the others. Becoming familiar with the exposure triangle is crucial when going into manual mode.

There are many other settings in your camera that you should get to know. In fact, you should know them all eventually. But these five are a great place to start when learning your way around your gear. Take advantage of your manual when learning where to find your settings and how to operate them.

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