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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 Priority (A) and Shutter Priority (S) shooting modes. Regardless of the subject I am shooting—from landscape to portrait to macro—I am almost always going to be concerned with my depth of field. Whether it’s isolating my subject with a large aperture (Figure 4.15) or trying to maximize the overall sharpness of a sweeping landscape, I always keep an eye on my aperture setting. If I do need to control the action, I use Shutter Priority. If I am trying to create a silky waterfall effect, I can depend on Shutter Priority mode to provide the long shutter speed that gets the desired result. Or perhaps I am shooting a baseball game—I definitely need fast shutter speeds that will freeze the fast-moving action.

Figure 4.15

Figure 4.15 I wanted to blur the background as much as possible to reduce the clutter in the scene.

ISO 200 • 1/640 sec. • f/2 • 50mm lens

While the other camera modes have their place, I think you will find that, like me and most other working pros, you will use the Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes for 90 percent of your shooting.

The other concern 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 deliver the cleanest image. I raise the ISO only 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 Noise Reduction feature turned on (see Chapter 7).

To make quick changes while I shoot, I often use the Exposure Compensation feature (covered in Chapter 7) so 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. To get to this function quickly, I simply press the Exposure Compensation/Aperture button and dial in the desired amount of compensation. Truth be told, I usually have this set to –1/3 so there is just a tiny bit of underexposure in my image. This usually leads to better color saturation. (Note: When shooting in Manual mode, the Exposure Compensation feature must be set by using the i button.)

One of the reasons I change my exposure is to make corrections when I see the “blinkies” in my rear LCD. 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 wherever the potential exists for overexposure. The black-and-white flashing will appear only in areas of your picture that are in danger of overexposure and that might suffer from a loss of detail.

Setting up the Highlight Alert feature

  1. Press the Menu button, and then use the Multi-selector to access the Playback Menu.
  2. Once in the Playback Menu, move the Multi-selector to the Playback display options and press OK (A).

  3. Select Additional photo info, and press the Multi-selector to the right (B).

  4. Move the Multi-selector down to select the Highlights option, and then press the Multi-selector to the right to place a checkmark next to the word “Highlights” (C).

  5. Repeat the process to include any of the other display options, and then press OK to lock in the changes and exit.

Once the highlight warning is turned on, I use it to check my images on the rear LCD after taking a shot. If I see an area that is blinking (Figure 4.16), I will usually set the Exposure Compensation feature to an underexposed setting like –1/3 or –2/3 stops 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 The blinking black areas in the highlights are a warning that part of the image is overexposed with the current camera settings.

Sometimes, such as when shooting into the sun, the warning will blink no matter how much you adjust the exposure, because there is just no detail in the highlights. Use your best judgment to determine if the warning is alerting you to an area where you want to retain highlight detail.

To see the highlight, or “blinkie,” warning, you will need to change your display mode. To do this, press the Image Review button on the back of the camera, and then press up or down on the Multi-selector until you see the word “Highlights” at the bottom of the display screen. This will now be your default display mode unless you change it or turn off the highlight warning.

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 should 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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