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

One of the advantages of using a mirrorless camera system is that it operates just like a DSLR but without the size and noise. I’m attracted to the A7/A7R because I can approach it much like I would any larger rig that I use on a day-to-day basis. Personally, I am drawn to shooting in both Aperture Priority (A) and Manual (M) modes. I identify myself as an editorial and advertising photographer, which means I’m shooting anything from news to travel, from wildlife to sports, and from environmental portraits to landscapes. Working in these areas means that I am almost always going to be concerned with my depth of field—hence, my affinity for Aperture Priority mode. Whether it’s isolating my subject with a large aperture or trying to maximize the overall sharpness of a sweeping landscape, I always keep an eye on my aperture setting.

And I always keep an eye on what shutter speed that aperture setting will allow me. If I’m shooting sports or a subject matter that includes a lot of action, I open up my aperture to its maximum to gain as much shutter speed as possible. If I need to shoot faster, only then do I raise my ISO. Raising the ISO is the last part of the exposure formula I want to change, because I want to introduce the least possible amount of digital noise to the image. If I must raise my ISO, I make sure to set the camera’s High ISO NR (noise reduction) to Normal (see Chapter 7).

To make quick changes while I shoot, I often use the exposure compensation feature (Figure 4.13) so that I can make small over- and underexposure changes. This is different from changing the aperture or shutter; it is more like fooling the camera meter into thinking the scene is brighter or darker than it actually is.

Figure 4.13

Figure 4.13 The Exposure Compensation dial, located next to the shutter release on the top right side of the camera, is the perfect way to quickly fine-tune exposure when shooting in all advanced modes except Manual.

I am also aware of the potential for areas in my frame to be over- or underexposed. I use the Histogram display on the A7/A7R to see whether I am indeed blowing out the highlights (overexposure) or “muddying up” the shadows (underexposure) (Figure 4.14). These exposure alerts come in the form of what are informally known as “blinkies”: areas of the image that blink at you on the LCD or EVF. Blinkies are the warning signal that part of my image has been either overexposed or underexposed to the point that there is no longer any detail in the highlights or shadows. Although it is unfortunate that you can only see these alerts using the Histogram display mode, they are very valuable. If you see any area of the thumbnail blinking black, you are probably overexposing that part of the image. If you see any area blinking white, you are risking underexposure.

Figure 4.14

Figure 4.14 The A7/A7R’s highlight alert screen during image playback. One advantage of this display is the histogram, which notes exactly where your exposure values lie. The out-of-place black blobs blink to show you overexposed areas.

For the majority of my shooting, I am in Aperture Priority (A) mode. It is an efficient mode in which to work, and it frees up mental resources for focusing on what I am actually shooting. When I want complete control over the imagery, or when I’m shooting difficult-to-meter subjects, I work in Manual (M). For example, if I am shooting along a row of river rapids and want to create that silky look to the water, I will often switch to Manual, since water is rarely a good value to meter for exposure. While the other camera modes have their place, I think you will find that, like me and many other working pros, you will use the A and M modes for 90 percent of your shooting.

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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