- Exposure Mode
- File Format/Size
- White Balance
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What camera settings for beginners will benefit you to learn? Having basic camera settings explained are helpful beginner photography tips. We’ll discuss 5 today and point you in the right direction.
What are the most important camera settings for beginners to learn? As a starting point, we’ll cover:
In addition to these 5 camera settings, we’ll also discuss finding out how to change camera settings and a basic camera settings cheat sheet.
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Before unboxing your camera, charging up the battery, loading a memory card, and attaching the lens, the very first thing you should do is read the small brochure included with your new camera with instructions on the most basic camera settings explained. You should do this first since there are so many different cameras and models, each with slightly different knobs, dials, or menus.
Once you have your camera all charged up and put together, some of the most camera settings are centered around exposure metering and exposure modes. The simplest of these camera settings for beginners is what I like to call the Green Dot full automatic mode. It may not be a dot, but somehow the camera manufacturer will make it obvious how to set this mode. It could be a green square or a large font label in green saying AUTO.
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What this setting does is take over all of the basic camera settings. In this mode, the camera will choose shutter speed, aperture, and ISO of the exposure triangle, autofocus mode and what AF points get used, and even when to turn on the built-in flash. It’s a great mode for learning camera operation and also lets you concentrate on learning composition and how lens focal lengths work.
Once you’re comfortable with using your camera, you will start changing to other exposure modes such as aperture priority (A or Av) where you choose the lens aperture (also known as f-stop) and the camera picks the shutter speed, shutter priority (S or Tv) where you set shutter speeds and the camera matches the right aperture, or program (programmed or P) auto in which the camera picks both.
Manual settings (M) are a lot of fun to try once you become more comfortable with exposure modes.
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Once out of the green dot full auto mode, you are in more control of exposure settings. Shutter speed controls how long the camera lets in light. Aperture controls how much light goes through the lens during that time. ISO setting controls how sensitive the sensor is to that amount of light.
The higher the number of the ISO, the more sensitive the sensor is, allowing faster shutter speeds and smaller apertures. A higher number lets you shoot in lower light or for capturing faster action or with greater depth of focus, but it also causes more digital noise which degrades the sharpness of the image.
Shutter speed, lens aperture, and ISO are the three corners of what make up the exposure triangle and are among the most important camera settings for both accuracy and creativity in regards to exposure.
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AutoFocusing (AF) is done so quickly in our cameras we hardly even notice it. But it’s an operation that can be controlled even while still in automatic modes. One of the basic camera settings is whether you set AF for single shot or continuous.
In single shot AF, you press on the shutter release and the camera focuses and takes the picture only once it’s in focus. Continuous AF lets you take an image even if the subject is not locked in focus. This second mode is useful for shooting action while single shot is good for all around photography.
Included in AF modes are how many and what AF sensor points are used. You can allow the camera to select what AF points or adjust them yourself. Your instruction book will show you how to change camera settings for autofocus modes and sensor points.
File Format / Size
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The file format JPEG is the easiest to use and share since you can display it on virtually any digital device including most TVs. You’ll want to learn how to use camera RAW pretty soon, but RAW also requires you to use a post processing program in order to be able to view on devices other than computers.
So, one of the most important camera settings for beginners is the JPEG file type. Within the JPEG settings are different size options. If you are only shooting in order to share on smartphones, you don’t need a large file. But if you want to share the highest quality files as a JPEG, you’ll want to use the largest JPEG size.
The larger the file size, the less images will fit on one memory card, so you may try out the medium size if you want to capture a lot of pictures without changing cards.
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White balance is how the captured image represents the color white in the camera processing thus affecting all other colors too. The automatic control of this setting is usually pretty good, especially if shooting under a variety of lighting conditions. But if you’re under one light type, either indoors or outdoors, setting the white balance manually may result in more natural looking images.
When shooting in camera RAW, you can set the white balance in post processing, but it’s better to have the right one to begin with in the first place. However, for these basic camera settings, leaving it on automatic isn’t a bad idea.
Camera Settings Cheat Sheet
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Now that we have these basic camera settings explained, we’re set to start going out to take pictures and experimenting with composition techniques and adjusting these important camera settings for creativity and control.
Here a good cheat sheet for you to use as you get more familiar with your new camera:
Camera Settings Cheat Sheet
Exposure Mode - Full Auto is good to start with but P, A, S, and M allow more user control
ISO - The sensitivity of the image sensor, affect exposure and image quality
AutoFocus - Single shot for most images, continuous for action
File Format - JPEG in S, M, or L can be easily shared without post processing
White Balance - Auto for most situations, or adjust depending on light source