Your Preferred Camera Settings

Do you have some personal “default” settings for things like exposure mode, white balance, focus mode, exposure compensation, firing rate?

This is probably most applicable to DSLRs and P&S cameras with manual controls, but of course anyone can comment.

For myself, typically:
–Aperture priority.
–2-frames per second shooting.
–Auto white balance, but in mixed light will specify a color temperature.
–I manually set the on-screen focus spot (rather than use follow focus or other automation).

Naturally those settings get changed in response to special circumstances.

I almost always leave the camera (DSLR) in fully automatic mode unless I’m doing something specific. Most of my ‘specific’ things call for aperture priority so that’s what I start with (even got to play with a f/1.4 50mm Prime at a wedding once, that was a blast). Occasionally I’ll go to shutter priority but for what I’m doing I usually find myself stopping up the flash first.
As for WB, that stays in automatic and gets adjusted in photoshop unless something is going really wrong, like the pictures are coming out blue.

For the spot focus. I’m not sure why, but I always have a hard time manually adjusting that. I really should get out the manual and read up on that. I usually just move the camera to get it where I want it then move the camera back.

At the wedding, with the the f/1.4, naturally I pushed it pushed it to 1.4 almost the entire night and wound up with a lot of really cool pictures

A Canon 5D is my main shooter, I keep that in Aperture Priority, f8 (adjusted as necessary). White Balance is set to CLOUDY for everything (a trick I picked up from the Nikon shooters. Try it sometime.). ISO 100, one-shot AF, center spot. Metering is set to Evaluative, but I’ll spot as needed. Single frame advance. RAW+JPeg.

For sports I use a 30D or 20D, Shutter Priority, 1/1000 sec, Cloudy WB, 400-800 ISO, AI focus with the center spot, 5fps. JPEGs only.

Action Shots. Shutter Priority, 1/500. ISO200 Manually set the focus pipper.

…manual 90% of the time: AV or TV in extremely variable lighting only. I normally set the camera to “sunny 16” defaults when I put the camera away (f16, ISO 100, 1/125): but at all other times the camera gets set according to how I want the picture to look. I use my hand as a substitute grey card: I use the meter to measure the exposure on my hand in the light I am photographing, then I add a stop of light. (“Hand plus a stop.”)

Lately, I’ve been shooting Aperture priority, usually set to about F6 but adjusted throughout depending on ambient light. I use auto ISO (if it’s too high, I’ll just run it through a noise filter anyway) and I don’t worry much about the white balance because I shoot in RAW so I usually just choose whatever looks good in post. Most of the time, I leave it on evaluative metering but in high contrast areas, I switch over to spot metering.

Here are a couple of examples of my most recent pictures:

Venice by Night
Prayers in Milan
Saint Peter’s Basilica single shot HDR
Wrigley Field Panorama

Probably 50/50 aperture priority vs. manual.

White balance auto (I disagree about the always-cloudy setting). WB is easily tweaked, if needed, when shooting RAW.

ISO varies depending on the setting.

Focus: spot for portraits (to catch the eyeball), otherwise matrix (or whatever it’s called)

100% RAW only.

You didn’t ask, but processing: Lightroom 90%, Photoshop 10%.

Man, I really need to take a DSLR class.

I usually set my exposure compensation at between -.7 and -.3 on sunny days. I usually shoot Ektar 100 and I find that it looks best when slightly underexposed.

It’s not a DSLR class, it’s a photography class. The lessons apply to everything.

Mostly on full manual. Or aperture priority.
I’ll try that cloudy thing.

Yeah, I took a photography class way back in the 60s in high school. But this camera is pretty complicated when compared to my old Argus C3. :stuck_out_tongue: I need to learn how to quickly manipulate the settings, and a refresher on the basics probably wouldn’t hurt.

It’s off-topic I suppose, but I won’t buy a video camera unless I have manual control of focus, exposure and audio levels. It is the only way to get decent results when shooting a concert.

To those that say, “Aperture or Manual”…What else are you changing? It seems to me if you change your aperture all Manual does is force you to manually change what the camera is willing to do anyway. Are you intentionally under/overexposing? Changing ISO?

If you leave your camera in automatic it’s going to attempt to keep as much as possible in focus, the best exposure all around, as ungrainy as it can get it, as little blur as possible (between both moving and stationary objects). Basically, it’s going to try to keep everyone happy. Most of the time if can do that. It’s when you want your pictures to stand out that you need to play with the settings.

When I say I switch over to Aperture priority, I’m almost always stopping the aperture up. I’m typically trying to get a very small depth of field. But since I’m only in Av, the camera takes over the shutter control and makes sure that I don’t over expose.

Unless you’re doing for artistic reasons, you almost never, ever want to overexpose* with digital so you are typically trying to find a balance between the aperture and shutter. With most (all) DSLRs, you can play with Aperture or Shutter and let the camera keep control of the other to maintain a good exposure. You can of course go into full manual and do it all on your own.

*With Digital photography, blown out whites (over exposure) are lost forever. Underexposre can usually be recovered in post processing (photoshop/GiMP) so if you need to go one way or the other, always under expose. From what I understand, film photography is exactly the opposite.

I get what Cyberhwk is saying. What are you doing with your manual settings that you camera doesn’t do for you in Aperture priority? Of course, there’s a difference between aperture priority and all automatic.

Automatic is what I put my camera on when I hand it off to my husband or one my kids. It’s for people who don’t want to think at all. But with Aperture priority I can make the most important choices and let the camera do the rest. I’ve already got the exposure setting adjusted in my camera so it adjusts to my preference automatically, so I leave it in AP the vast majority of the time.

Manual is for when I’m shooting with flash. It just works better with my camera to make the exposure choices myself.

What choices are you making in manual that make it different from AP or SP? I’m not saying anyone who uses manual is a photo snob. I’m genuinely curious about this one. I shot with an all manual Konica for several years and I’ve been so happy to have a modern camera since that time that I can’t imagine using manual when I don’t have to. :wink:

…when your in-camera light meter is used to meter a scene, it will measure all of the tonal values within the range of the meter and average out the values to read mid-grey.

For example, I’ve just gone to a white poster on my wall an pointed my camera at it, measured the exposure in aperture priority (ISO set to 1600, aperture set to 2.8) and the camera gave me a shutter speed of 1/200 of a second.

I then pointed my camera at a black poster just above the white poster. (ISO at 1600, aperture 2.8) and the camera gave me a shutter speed of 1/20 of a second.

Both exposures for the room are incorrect, with the first reading giving an underexposure and the second reading overexposing the image. When I shoot manual, I often use my hand as a substitute grey card. I will put my hand into the same light as I am photographing and get a reading. From there I will add a “stop of light” to bring the exposure to the level of a grey card.

So in this instance, I measured my hand in the scene and got a reading of 1/60th. Adding a “stop of light” to the exposure reading gives me a shutter speed of 1/30th, and IMHO, the correct exposure in this situation. (I did take photos to illustrate the above examples, but unfortunately my computer is not co-operating tonight…GRRRRR)

The advantage of using manual is that as a photographer I can be confident that as long as I am shooting in consistent light the exposure will be correct regardless of what my light meter is reading as long as the initial exposure reading was correct and the light does not change.

So its not really about making different choices when shooting in manual: its about understanding how the light meter works in your camera and using that knowledge to get he shot you want, regardless of what mode you are using be it manual, aperture or shutter priority.

Well, some interesting responses.

The “always cloudy” setting is a new one to me. (I rarely visit photo forums.) What are the pros and cons with that? It would seem that you’d get very warm images on clear days, and exceedingly warm images under incandescent light.

And for some reason, this thread has motivated me to give RAW a try. I’ve spurned that for years just because (by my understanding) it entailed additional steps, produced bigger files, and --in demanding situations-- could slow down shooting.

But I’m shooting some available light interiors today, and the bigger dynamic range of RAW might reduce burn-out on the windows (covered with beige sheers.) Probably I’ll try the dual RAW/JPEG option to cover my ass.

Good luck on your natural light interiors, Baal; containing the windows (without using flash or HDR) is a big challenge. What software will you be using in post?

On another note…

I have never understood the RAW AND JPEG route. When you shoot RAW, you have all the digital data available, and you make your JPEGs from that. Once you get your workflow down, it really is not a big deal, and you have so much more control over how your images come out, it is a no-brainer to me.

Even when shooting informal snapshots (family birthdays, whatever), I still shoot in RAW only.

(and I hate how snobby this post sounds, but it is all true). :slight_smile:

I learned that one pretty quickly when I was traveling. Every time I wanted someone else to take a picture of me, I’d switch to full auto and then hand it over.

I usually shoot RAW + small JPG. For my purposes, it’s just so I have an extra file that I can see in my windows explorer with a visible thumbnail. I use them to decide which pics I want to go through and edit because I tend to over-shoot in certain situations. I usually end up deleting the small jpgs to save space.