photography basics and how to use your camera from the Alana Lee Photography blog

Photography Basics: My Top 3 Camera Menu Settings

I’m often asked for tips on how to use a camera, how to get the best images using a digital camera and what is the secret to taking great photographs. I’ll be sharing some of my favorite tips and techniques here on my blog, so be sure to follow along if you want to learn some insider tips on how you can take the best photographs using your digital camera!

Let’s kick off this series with my top 3 camera menu settings.

My Top 3 Camera Menu Settings

Whether you use a Canon, Nikon, Sony or other brand of digital camera, there are some basic camera settings that you will want to be familiar with in order to take great photographs. Each brand of camera is a little different, so it is always best to get out that manual that came with your favorite camera and have a look through it to familiarize you with the various settings, where to find them, and how to use them. Sometimes the best moments to capture are over in an instant, so if you can become comfortable with your camera settings you’ll know how to quickly dial in the best settings so that you are ready to create the very best photographs anytime.

1. Back Button Focus:

Most cameras come pre-set with the shutter button to be pressed half way to focus, and then all the way to take a photo. Using back button focus lets you separate out the capture and focus actions by assigning the focus part of taking an image to a different button on the back of your camera. Once enabled, back button focus allows you to use the newly programmed button on the back of the camera to set your focus point and then use the shutter button to take your image. Why would you want to do this? Rather than focusing and recomposing using the traditional method, with back button focus you can lock your focus on your subject and then recompose any way you like without having to constantly focus, recompose and shoot. You can concentrate on your composition, without having to worry or be distracted by where your camera is focusing. The other situation where back button focus is helpful is with constantly moving subjects. When back button focus is enabled you just hold down the button which you programmed and the focus continually adjusts and moves with your subject. You can simultaneously press the shutter button while holding down your back button focus and moving subjects will always be tracked and in focus. This is super helpful when photographing active kids, sporting events where you want to keep one player in focus and also when photographing pets and animals.

2. Never Shoot Without A Memory Card:

Oopsie. Have you every been happily clicking away, only to get home and realize you forgot to put a memory card in your camera? Ok. I’ve only done this once, and luckily it was for personal work and not a client. But it was so frustrating to get home, got to download my images and then realize I had left the SD memory card sitting on my desk. To make sure this never happens you can go into the settings on the menu of your camera and enable a function that will prevent your camera from taking a picture if there is no memory card in place. The setting for this function varies between camera manufacturers so check your manual to see where to find it for your brand.

3. Camera Shooting Mode:

There are a tonne of options on that little dial on the top of your camera. They control the camera shooting mode, but it is often hard to decide what the best shooting mode is for a particular situation. The manual mode gives the photographer the most control over creating images, however understanding and mastering the manual mode can be complicated and overwhelming to most users. If I were to recommend just ONE camera shooting mode it would be Aperture Priority. This is the setting usually indicated with a capital “A” or “AV” and allows the photographer to control the aperture (or amount of image that is in focus) while the camera automatically selects the appropriate shutter speed that will result in a properly exposed picture. Aperture priority mode is great to use in well lit situations (sunny days), portraits, landscapes and when you want to blur out the background behind a subject. The only thing to watch out for when using this camera mode is that the shutter speed doesn’t drop below a manageable level to where you can comfortably hold your camera steady and prevent out of focus, blurry images as a result from camera shake. Avoid using this camera shooting mode in dim light situations.

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