- A Beginner's Step-by-Step Guide to Understanding Metering Modes
- Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO: The Exposure Triangle Explained
- White Balance Explained for Beginner Photographers
- 5 Beginner Photography Mistakes (and How to Solve Them)
When you're a beginner photographer, all those buttons, dials, and settings on your camera can be quite intimidating.
So it's no surprise that many beginners get basic camera settings all wrong...
In this guide, I offer up a few basic photography tips that will help you identify what camera settings you should and shouldn't use to get the most out of your camera.
Granted, there is no magical formula here and no specific digital camera settings that will be ideal for every single situation.
However, you can at least get a feel for settings that are more helpful, more often.
Basic Photography Settings: Shooting Mode
When you're a brand-spanking new photographer, there's nothing wrong with shooting in full auto mode.
Doing so lets you concentrate on things like composition while your camera handles the heavy lifting of exposure, white balance, and so forth.
But as you gain experience, it's important for you to take more control over your camera.
That doesn't mean you have to shoot in manual mode, either.
Instead, aperture priority mode will suit you just fine in the vast majority of situations.
In aperture priority, you determine the aperture and the ISO while the camera determines a shutter speed to match.
And since the ISO won't change much when shooting in typical lighting conditions, you can really just make changes to the aperture and be in good shape in many situations.
Get a detailed look at aperture priority mode in the video above by Michromatic.
Editor's Tip: If you like to shoot a lot of action shots, give shutter priority mode a try.
Best Camera Settings: Metering Mode
By shooting in aperture priority mode or shutter priority mode, you get more input regarding how the images you take are exposed.
You can provide your camera with even more input regarding exposure by taking control over its metering modes as well.
The process of metering involves the camera collecting information about the lighting in the scene, and then using that information to help determine what the exposure should look like.
Most cameras default to a multi-zone mode (which is called any number of names like matrix metering or evaluative metering).
In this mode, the camera takes light information from zones all across the scene to get the best exposure for the shot, as shown above. This setting works best in most situations.
But to never venture beyond matrix metering is a mistake.
For example, if you want to create a silhouette portrait in which the subject is deep in shadow but the background is perfectly exposed, matrix metering won't help.
In that situation, spot metering would serve you much better because it allows you to take pinpoint light readings (in this case, of the background) and base the image's exposure on that tiny area of the scene.
Likewise, center-weighted metering takes a reading only from a small area around the center autofocus point. This type of metering is ideal for situations in which the subject is in the middle of the frame.
In other words, don't just rely on multi-zone metering all the time. You can get better photos by using spot metering or center-weighted metering when the situation calls for it.
Best Camera Settings: Autofocus Mode
When it comes to autofocus, most of the time, you'll likely be photographing a subject that's still - a landscape or a portrait, for example.
In those situations, single-shot autofocus works just fine because you can determine which autofocus point the camera uses to focus to get tack-sharp images of your subject.
However, single-point autofocus isn't always the best, and keeping your camera in single-shot mode is a mistake that a lot of beginners make.
Sometimes, your subject is on the move, like your dog running around in the backyard, which means your camera needs to be able to make rapid adjustments to its autofocus.
Continuous autofocus is what should be used in these situations because it predicts where the subject will be based upon where it's been. That enables you to track a moving subject and make a sharply focused image more likely.
Get a detailed overview of autofocus modes in the video above by Spyros Heniadis.
DSLR Photography Tip: White Balance
I'll be the first to say that the default white balance setting - auto - does a decent job in many situations.
It's not perfect, but for beginner shooters, it'll do just fine. That's especially true given that you can easily manipulate white balance in post-processing.
However, to never try other white balance presets on your camera is another mistake you should avoid.
With white balance settings for just about any situation, you can use these presets to get colors that are more accurate whether you're shooting outdoors in sunny conditions, indoor under tungsten lighting, or somewhere in between.
The whole point of these white balance presets is to help your camera understand the color casts in the scene and make adjustments such that whites in the shot actually look white, not blue, orange, or some other incorrect color.
So, do yourself a favor and check out the different white balance presets and use them under the applicable conditions. See the possibilities in action in the video above by Professional Photography Tips.
You might find that your photos have correct colors right out of the camera, which will save you some time in post-processing later on.
That's it for this list of DSLR photography tips. Try using the advice outlined above, and you'll be able to make more informed choices about the camera settings you use.