Catherine Heaps | Help with camera settings
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Help with camera settings

April 01, 2014  •  1 Comment

Do you find using your DSLR a little difficult sometimes ?

My path to the camera I use today was quite fast.  I started with a Fuji FInepix 2.4mp camera, I loved it but after a short while I found that there were limitation to the styles of photography I enjoyed looking at. I then bought a Nikon D50, starting to feel like we are getting somewhere as I am able to change lens (more of this below). I moved to more mpx and better quality/faster sensors by purchasing a Nikon D200. I now own a Full sized sensor etc Nikon D200. Liked Nikon because the Optics (Lenses) are better quality. But Canon is great also.

There are some simple rules when it comes to taking photos using your DSLR, so don't worry about all the creative stuff just yet, get the basics cracked.

I won't bore you with the technical jargon, so here it goes -

- DSLRs are great because you can change the lenses on them, which can result in different effects, try to get good quality lenses as the results really are far more superior than the budget lenses. But if you are pretty comfortable staying with 1 lens because you like the range (18-55) (80-200) it gives you then that's fine also.


Wide Angle

ISO100, 10mm (10-20mm lens) 1/200sec shutter speed and aperture of f/10 to get good focus through image. wide angle distort your image, but use wisely as they can stretch people and make the image look false.



ISO400, 155mm (70-200mm lens) 1/1000sec shutter speed and aperture of f/4.8 (to blur background). This image was taken as some considerable distance from the subject. She was just looking round and noticed me taking pics of her.


Prime lens

ISO100, 50mm, Shutter 1/250 and aperture of f/3.5 to allow as much light as possible in to the lens.
The only prime lens I had, it stops barrel distortion on faces etc (models won't look like they have an out of proportion nose) you will need to ensure you have enough available space behind you to move back so you are able to get the whole subject in the shot, unlike telephoto lenses that bring the subject closer or further away from you.


- RAW Format, Use it.  Don't shoot in jpeg alone, seriously if you don't get all the settings input in to the camera correctly before taking the image you will 'waste a lot of film' and you can't do too much about it.   I use lightroom to read RAW files and I've been able to change the white balance. (Orange tint, yellow tint, blue tint etc) to completely transform an image.  This is particularly useful if you are moving in and out of rooms, buildings etc when shooting weddings. You can set to auto white balance but it doesn't always get it right.  Ever took a pic and it has an orange glow ?

- ISO, mine is set to ISO100 90% of the time due to wanting high quality, crisp photos.  I only change this if I am in more 'tricky' situations. Indoors there isn't much light, although our eyes think its a pretty well lit room.  So to mimic that exposure in a camera means you have to change settings -

     4sec - 1/115sec - Speed of the shutter - Only go this low if you have a tripod and want to take images of things that are not moving.

     1/125 - 1/140sec - Pretty good range for someone sat down having a portrait image done. Don't forget though, you can't be jumping around either.

     1/160-1/200sec - This is the kids jumping, people moving around, birds flying and action shots.

- Aperture. The size of the stop is one factor that affects depth of field. Smaller stops (larger f numbers) produce a longer depth of field, allowing objects at a wide range of distances to all be in focus at the same time.  WHAT ?    Imagine you have 3 people in front you, they are all standing further back from the person in front of them.  You want number 1 and number 3 to be out of focus.  Choose a setting of between f/1.8 and f/5.  If you want them all in focus choose a setting of f/8.2 to f/22.  If the are stood in front of an ugly wall, just pull it back in again to around f/11.  ONE IMPORTANT NOTE - Changing the aperture settings will effect the amount of light coming in to the camera so you may need to re adjust your speed to compensate.

- Flash. Camera flashes are pretty naff when you use telephoto lenses in particular.  The spread of light from a built in flash creates a shadow on the bottom of the image because the lens interrupts the flow. So for this reason I use an extra flash.  They sit much higher on the camera and you can angle the light in different directions, it can be used off camera so the light can shine on things from different angles. Its also a lot more powerful and can light up a pretty big room. 

How do you know when you have set the camera up correctly, before committing to taking the picture ?

- Exposure Meter. Get the manual out to find your metering system.  Set to Manual Mode. Point camera at subject. Half press the shutter. Look at the metering readou and adjust the aperture setting or shutter speed setting and set when dial remains centered. The camera will also be taking the ISO settings in to account so don't forget about these.



Thats it for now, hope it helped.

There is so much to learn and I have only given you a snip of information, but just a few little tips here and there will help you understand how to use your DLSR easily and at the same time will also allow you to concentrate more on the subject and its composition. It can seem daunting at first but simple rules will help you learn and adapt quickly, making the experience of being a photographer far more enjoyable which allows you to be more creative.

Have a play with your cameras.  If you would like some training please feel free to give me a shout.




I like living dangerous by shooting JPEGs only. Then again computer at work is really old and can't handle the RAW formats.

Great article, keep up the good work!
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