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How I Shoot: A Closer Look at the Camera Settings I Use

I shoot mostly travel photography, landscapes and wildlife. For travel and landscape work, the depth of field is usually my first consideration, so I use Aperture Priority mode for the majority of my shooting. I use the aperture value along with my lens selection to get the effects I’m looking for. A narrow aperture (high f-stop number) and a wide-angle lens give me maximum depth of field. A telephoto lens and a wide aperture (low f-stop number) make it easy to defocus the background and isolate my subject.

I try to keep the shutter speed above 1/60 if I am handholding the camera so I get sharp images with no camera shake. The GX7 has in-body image stabilization that allows me to handhold the camera at slower shutter speeds if I need to, and many Lumix lenses have an Optical Image Stabilizer.

I like to keep the ISO as low as possible, but I’m not afraid to raise the ISO to get a shutter speed I can work with. The GX7 and GM1 have such great performance at higher ISOs that I regularly shoot up to ISO 1600 or even 3200 when I need to.

When I’m shooting on a tripod, I set the ISO as low as possible, set my desired aperture value, and let the shutter speed fall where it may. I don’t worry if the shutter speed gets too slow, because the tripod will keep the shot steady. It is also a good idea to use a remote or timer when using a tripod so you don’t introduce camera shake when you press the shutter release.

When the camera and I don’t see eye to eye about what the “correct” exposure is, I use exposure compensation to make the image brighter or darker. I get a live exposure preview on the LCD and EVF so I can see the effect of my adjustments before I take the shot. In Manual mode, you adjust all of the settings yourself based on the camera’s meter, so you don’t need exposure compensation. You can get a live exposure preview in Manual mode if you turn on Constant Preview in the Custom menu.

Normally I shoot in Manual exposure mode if I’m shooting wildlife. I’m shooting multiple images at a time in Burst mode, and want my exposure to be consistent from shot to shot. For wildlife, you need a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion of fast-moving animals. I like to use a lens with a fast maximum aperture, and I shoot with the lens wide open (at its lowest f-stop). Then I set the shutter speed and adjust the ISO to get a good exposure. A fast shutter speed helps reduce camera shake when you are using longer telephoto lenses. As a rule, you want the shutter speed to be equal to or greater than your focal length. For example, if you are shooting with a 200mm lens, you want your shutter speed to be at least 1/200 of a second.

When reviewing my images on the GX7 or GM1, I use the DISP button to cycle through the different review screens (Figure 4.12). Most important to me are the “blinkies” and the histogram. The blinkies show areas of overexposure in the image as blinking black and white. The histogram shows the tones in the image as a graph, with the shadows on the left and the highlights on the right. These tools let me know when I need to adjust my exposure so I’m not losing information in the highlights or shadows.

Figure 4.12

Figure 4.12 The GX7 and GM1 have several options for reviewing your images. This view shows an RGB histogram, as well as a blinking warning on the image (shown here in black) where highlights are overexposed, or “clipping.”

As you work your way through the coming chapters, you will see other tips and tricks I use in my daily photography, but the most important tip I can give is that you take the time to understand the features of your camera so you can leverage the technology in a knowledgeable way. This will result in better photographs.

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