Lesson 4: Knowing Your Equipment
In the previous lesson, we discussed all of the equipment you would need to prepare yourself to take amazing photographs. By now, you should have your equipment ordered or in your hand to continue learning about how to use your equipment. Learning how to use your equipment properly is important to familiarize yourself with it. This will allow you to quickly get yourself prepared to take photograph that fleeting moment.
Unlike a point and shoot, which is always ready to photograph thanks to its automatic functions (the trade-off is a lack of photographic creativity and photo image quality), other cameras have manual functions that allow for some creative shots and added personality to your images. Here, we will explore a few of the different camera settings that are useful when shooting.
Lens Release Button
The zoom ring on your lens (if your lens is able to zoom in and out) allows you to twist to the left to zoom in and twist to the right to zoom out. It is a simple concept that allows you to get the proper shot. Cameras and lenses have a sweet spot to zoom in to avoid vignetting (when the edges of a photo are softened and not as sharp as the center). Generally, you do not want to be fully zoomed out or in on your lens.
Once you are zoomed in on your subject, you need to focus onto it. Most lenses include a manual and auto focus mode. The switch is situated somewhere on your lens. Simply flick the switch to MF for Manual Focus and AF for Auto Focus. When you are starting off, or if you are photographing fast-moving objects that require a quick shot, you will want to use the auto focus. However, it will be useful to practice manually focusing.
Manually focusing is as simple as using the focus ring on your lens to focus onto your subject until it is clear through your viewfinder. The easiest way to get good at manual focus is to practice. If you have the time to frame and focus your shot, take it. If not, then use your auto focus.
Some lenses include an image stabilization switch. You can turn this on or off. Use it if you are taking photos from your hand, but turn it off if you have your camera mounted on a tripod. If your camera is in a stable position, whether mounted on a tripod or on something else to take your photo, the image stabilization will factor into the camera being unstable and often give you a warped image. Only use image stabilization if the camera is in your hands.
Taking off and putting on your lenses to the body of your camera is simple. There is a quick release button on the front of your camera near the lens. Simply hold the button down, twist the lens, and the lens will detach itself from the body. To replace a lens, line up the lens to the body using the coordinating colors on the lens and body of the camera, put the lens into the body of the camera, and twist. You should hear a click. This signifies that your lens is now locked into your camera.
Now that you have the basic knowledge about the functions of your lens, we will teach you the basics of the functions on your camera.
The menu of a camera has numerous options for users to scroll through and set their preferences. It can be overwhelming to search through these settings for the items you want to set. Here we will outline important things to do in the menu of your camera.
RAW vs JPEG
After every shoot, transfer your photos to your computer and back it up to ensure you do not lose any data. When you replace your card into your camera, make sure that you go to the menu and click Format Card. It is important to format your card, but understand that it will delete all of your files on your card.
These are two types of files that your photographs can be captured in. JPEG is a small file that includes a ready to use photo. However, it does not include a lot of information and is not useful for post-processing work. RAW is a much larger file that includes much more information, but they need to be processed afterwards. If you plan to do some post-processing work, then shoot in RAW. You can also choose to capture your photographs in both RAW and JPEG. This can be found in your menu on your camera.
It will be helpful to go through your menu and see what there is to change. However, for now we wont change anything on our cameras. Other things you can do include: changing the beeping sound your camera makes when clicking buttons, red-eye reduction, noise-reduction, changing the language, and changing various settings that are available to you at a touch of a button before taking a photo. We will discuss these settings when necessary as we continue our lessons.
Before we start talking about the settings, we are going to talk about two modes. Whenever I use my camera, I only use these two modes. On most DSLR cameras, you have multiple shooting modes including portrait, sports, landscape, close-up, and many more. However, there are two modes that allow you to become even more creative and not have to worry about switching to any of these modes.
Aperture Priority Mode
One of the modes I use is the Aperture Priority mode which is shown on your camera as Av. Aperture has been briefly discussed, and we will continue to discuss more about it in future lessons. Basically, this mode allows you to change the aperture and ISO settings which then automatically provides you with your shutter speed to then take your photograph. We will discuss aperture, ISO, and shutter speed further in future lessons.
This is the second of the two modes I regularly use. This mode allows you to choose how long you will keep the shutter open for. This is especially useful in low light situations, if you want to keep the shutter open for a long period of time to capture the stars or other long exposure shots. We will discuss long exposure photography briefly later. It is important to understand that Manual mode allows you to set aperture, ISO, and shutter speed times, whereas Aperture Priority mode allows you to choose aperture and ISO, but the camera calculates the shutter speed for you.
There are a set of several buttons on the back and top of your camera. Each one serves a purpose to change settings before you shoot your image or browse your images after you shoot.
AF Point Selection
Live Preview Mode / Video Record Button
This button allows you to choose the correct exposure for your photograph. When holding the button, you can use the wheel on the tope of the camera to scroll to the + or – side of the spectrum. The – side makes a darker image, while the + side makes a lighter image.
This button allows you to choose the image quality. Refer to our previous choice of RAW and JPEG photos.
Drive mode allows users to choose how they want to shoot an image after pressing the shutter button. This includes single shooting (one shot when you click the shutter button), continuous shooting (continues to shoot images if you hold down the shutter button), and self-timer, as well as self-timer with a remote.
The White Balance button allows you to choose the balance of color within your photos. Once you press this button, you are provided with options including Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten light, White fluorescent light, Flash, and Custom. Choosing the White Balance allows you to make an image warmer or cooler depending on the light source you are working with.
This Auto Focus Operation button allows you to choose the auto focus function. You can choose between One Shot, AI Focus, and AI Servo.
The One Shot selection focuses on the subject after you press the shutter button half way during one photograph. If you move the camera or the subject moves, you need to take your finger off the shutter and refocus. This is good for still photography.
The AI Servo selection will track your subject based on your focus point. Once you focus on your subject and you have your finger holding the shutter button half way down, whatever your camera is focused on will continue to stay focused on no matter how much it moves within the frame. This is excellent for moving subjects.
The AI Focus selection allows you to begin in One Shot, but if the subject moves, then the camera will automatically switch to AI Servo to track the subject and keep it in focus. This is the best of both worlds. However, many photographers have stressed that AI Focus does not do well with switching to AI Servo. Therefore, your best options are with choosing either One Shot if your subject is still and AI Servo if your subject is moving.
Picture Style allows you to choose the styling of your photo based on Sharpness, Contrast, Saturation, and Color Tone. You can choose an automatic setting or various styles including monochrome, landscape, portrait, and custom options. However, these options are available and easier to use in post-processing on your computer.
The preview button simply allows you to see the images you have taken. You can go left and right on your camera, and use the delete button to remove photos from your camera.
This button allows you to choose your focus points as we earlier discussed. When you click the button, you can see the AF points on your screen or through your viewfinder. You can then choose which focus point you want to select using your arrow buttons and clicking the SET button to return to allow the camera to return to auto selecting the focus point.
If you prefer to frame your photo using the screen rather than the viewfinder, you can click this button. What you see through the viewfinder is then shown on your screen where you can then zoom in and out of the picture on certain subjects within the shot. This can come in hand when manually focusing your camera. The secondary use of this button is for recording video. It will also start and stop your video recording.
Click this button on the top of the camera to choose the ISO (which will be discussed in a future lesson). You will have a choice beginning with Auto up until the maximum number available on your camera. Click the SET button to continue.
The wheel allows you to scroll through various settings quickly. If you are in Av mode, you can scroll through the Aperture number for your photo by scrolling left and right. In other settings, the screen will show using arrows what the wheel is changing when you scroll left and right.
The shutter release is the button you press to take your photo. When in Auto Focus mode, click half way down to focus and fully down to take the photo.
The viewfinder of the camera holds valuable information and allows you to frame your subject before clicking the shutter button. The viewfinder will provide the white balance spectrum, ISO number, aperture, and, when you hold down the shutter button halfway, the shutter speed.
Lesson 1: Why Digital Photography?
Lesson 1: Choosing the Right Camera
Lesson 2: Lenses for Your Camera
Lesson 3: Accessories and Gear
Lesson 4: Knowing Your Equipment
Lesson 1: Exposure
Lesson 2: Rules of Composition
Lesson 3: Composition Continued
Lesson 1: Website and Blog
Lesson 2: Social Media
Lesson 3: Promote and Sell Your Work
Lesson 1: Continuing with Your Photography