Weekend photographer: set a camera baseline

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August 6, 2010 at 3:13 pm  •  Posted in News & Events by  •  0 Comments

If you don’t use your camera every day — shooting primarily on weekends, for example — you might notice you’re habitually blowing the first few shots because the camera settings are wonky (wonky is the technical term for not what you expected).
A common reason is that you changed some settings on your last outing, and simply forgot you did that. One way to avoid this is to treat your preferred settings as your camera baseline, and then reset to that baseline either at the beginning or at the end of your session. Here are some examples.

  • Auto or custom white balance: if you only use auto white balance, this setting won’t trip you up (but remember that auto WB is like so many other general-purpose things — serviceable but not optimal). If want to set your white balance for more accurate or consistent colour, pick a setting to match where you’re headed (indoors, outdoors etc.) or better yet, get in the habit of making a custom white balance before you start shooting.
  • Autofocus on or off: I suspect that most of us shoot with autofocus on. There are many good reasons to choose manual focus, but remember to turn autofocus back on if that’s what you’re used to. Otherwise you might start blazing away at that perfect photo op, only to discover that every shot is out of focus.
  • Image stabilization on or off: IS is the all-wheel drive of the photo world. Most would agree that it’s a good thing, but there is a lot of confusion about when it helps and when it doesn’t. Whether you want it on or off by default will depend on the type of photography you usually do. If you shoot mostly handheld, you’ll probably want IS on by default. If you habitually use a tripod, you’ll want it off by default.
  • ISO: As ISO sensitivity increases, so too does digital noise or “grain.” Even though today’s cameras are much better at noise reduction, the relationship still holds. Many cameras now allow you to set an upper limit when you use Auto ISO. This means you can still benefit from allowing the camera to jack up the ISO if necessary, but you also get to say how much digital noise you’ll tolerate.

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