How I Shoot: A Closer Look at the Camera Settings I Use
The great thing about working with a DSLR camera is that I can always feel confident that some things will remain unchanged from camera to camera. For me, these are the Aperture (A) and Shutter Priority (S) shooting modes. Although I like to think of myself as a generalist in terms of my photography, I do tend to lean heavily on the landscape and urban photography genres. Working in these areas means that I am almost always going to be concerned with my depth of field. Whether it’s isolating my subject with a large aperture or trying to maximize the overall sharpness of a sweeping landscape, I am always keeping an eye on my aperture setting. If I do have a need to control the action, I use Shutter Priority, my fallback mode. It’s not really a fallback; it’s more like the right tool for the right job. If I am trying to create a silky waterfall effect, I can depend on Shutter Priority mode to provide that long shutter speed that will deliver. Maybe I am shooting a motocross jumper—I would definitely need the fast shutter speeds that will freeze the fast-moving action (Figure 4.15).
Figure 4.15. Freezing action like this requires some fast shutter speeds.
While the other camera modes have their place, I think you will find that, like myself and most other working pros, you will use the Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes for 90 percent of your shooting.
The other concern that I have when I am setting up my camera is just how low I can keep my ISO. This is always a priority for me, because a low ISO will always give the cleanest image. I only raise the ISO as a last resort, because each increase in sensitivity is an opportunity for more digital noise to enter my image. To that end, I always have the High ISO Noise Reduction feature turned on.
To make quick changes while I shoot, I often use exposure compensation so that I can make small over- and underexposure changes. This is different than changing the aperture or shutter because it is more like fooling the camera meter into thinking the scene is brighter or darker than it actually is. To get to this function quickly, I simply press the Exposure Compensation button and then dial in the desired amount of compensation. Truth be told, I usually have this set to –1/3 so that there is just a tiny bit of underexposure in my image. This usually leads to better color saturation.
One of the reasons I change my exposure is to make corrections when I see the blinkies in my rear LCD monitor. (“Blinkies” is not the real name for the highlight clipping warning, just the one most photographers use.) Blinkies are the warning signal that part of my image has been overexposed to the point that I no longer have any detail in the highlights. When the Highlight Alert feature is turned on, the display will flash between black and white whenever there is a potential of overexposing in the image. The black and white flashing will only appear in areas of the picture that are in danger of overexposure. To turn on this feature, go to the Playback menu and enable the feature as follows.
- To set up the highlight warning for your camera, press the Menu button and then use the Multi-selector to access the Playback menu (A).
- Use the Multi-selector to choose Playback display options (B), and press OK.
- Move the Multi-selector down to the Highlights option (C), and then press the OK button to add a checkmark.
- Now move back up to the Done heading, and press the OK button again to lock in your change.
Once the highlight warning is turned on, I then use it to check my images on the LCD monitor (if the highlight warning display is not visible, press up on the Multi-selector until it is the selected mode). If I see an area that is blinking, I will usually use the exposure compensation feature to set an underexposed setting like –1/3 or –2/3 stop and take another photo, checking the result on the screen. I repeat this process until the warning is gone (Figure 4.16).
Figure 4.16. Enabling the Highlight Alert, or “blinkies,” feature allows you to see when a part of your image is blown out.
Sometimes the warning will blink no matter how much you adjust the exposure, because there is just no detail in the highlight, such as in an image of the sun. Use your best judgment to determine if the warning is alerting you to an area where you want to retain highlight detail. And remember, sometimes white is supposed to be white.
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 to really understand the features of your camera so that you can leverage the technology in a knowledgeable way. This will ultimately result in better photographs.