Let me ask you a question. Have you ever picked up your camera after not using it for a while and started taking photos with it? After you took those photos (or in the middle of taking them), did you smack your head in the realization that a few of your settings were off? Not “off” like off – not working, but off as in the ISO was set at 100 and it was supposed to be set somewhere in the range of 800. Or your white balance was set to tungsten and it was supposed to be set to auto. I’ll admit that I’ve done this more times than I can to discuss and that’s why I’m writing this post. As a gentle reminder and as an offer of a few tips that might just help you out in the future to avoid this type of scenario.
In today’s very brief post, I’d like to give you a suggestion that might help out some beginner photographers avoid the pitfall I described above. I’ll also give you a list of areas you’ll need to look at on your camera after a night of shooting or a day of shooting or whatever. Basically, after you’ve used your camera for a while, there’s going to be some places you’ll need to look at to set things properly.
Here’s the Scenario
What I’m going to write below can totally happen. Actually, this is what happened to me. I did exactly this, so I know what I’m talking about here. You’re going to love this.
A few years ago, a friend of mine and I went down to the corner of an intersection in our town for some night photography. It was around nine o’clock, so it was completely dark. My goal was to take some photos of the cars that were passing by and maybe even get some light trails. Since I didn’t really know what I would encounter, I was ready for anything that popped up. Anyway, to make a long story short, I pretty much changed any and every setting my camera had to offer. Shutter speed was huge, that that was all over the place. I took a lot of long exposure shots. I adjusted the white balance to change the overall look of the scene and for some shots where I wasn’t going for the trails, I used a shutter delay to avoid any camera shake. During the night, I also played with some bracketing and exposure compensation. What I’m trying to say here is that if I handed my camera to someone else to use after shooting that night, they’d have no idea what to do with it. It was all over the place. I got some great shots though, that’s for sure.
The reason I mention that I made all of these settings changes at night is because that’s when settings change a lot. During the day, sure, I change some stuff around, but not nearly as much as I do at night. So this post is really targeted towards someone who just took a whole heck of a lot of night shots.
Common Settings That Need to be Zeroed Out
My tip, or suggestion, for today is that you sit down after using your camera for an extensive photo shoot and zero out all of your settings. This is especially helpful if you’re using full Manual mode or one of the priority modes, but it’s also true for Auto mode. Lots of things can change while using your camera and it’s important to get these things back to their starting positions. Think about waking up the next morning, after spending hours outside with your camera the night before, grabbing your camera and trying to take a quick photo of something that was taking place at that very moment. Something that couldn’t and shouldn’t be missed. Do you think having a shutter delay of two seconds would help in that situation? Probably not. Do you think bracketing would help? It’s not the worst thing in the world, but probably not. My point here is, you never know what’s going to be happening the next time you really need your camera, so it better be ready for anything. If you take care of resetting it to its defaults or zeroing out the settings you made previously, your experience the next time you use your camera can be quite enjoyable. And you might not miss the best shot of your life. Hey, you never know.
So, what are some common settings that you’ll need to check on to reset? I’ve made a list below.
Bracketing: Make sure this setting is turned off.
Exposure Compensation: Make sure this setting is set back to zero.
ISO: The best place for this to be is Auto, especially when you don’t know what’s coming next.
White Balance: Again, the best place for this is Auto.
RAW vs. JPEG: Consider this setting. If it’s what you want, keep it there.
Aperture: If you generally prefer a specific aperture size, make sure it’s set.
Shutter Speed: Same as aperture. I’d set this to something I’m comfortable with.
User Specific Settings: Does your camera support different customized user settings? Can you easily zero out your settings using this feature? It’s worth taking a look.
Long Exposure Noise Reduction (LENR): If this is on, turn it off.
Shutter Delay: Again, if this is on, turn it off.
My advice to you is to make a list of your most commonly used settings that you might change during any given shoot. Keep the list in your camera bag and take a look at it every time you put your camera back inside of it. Sometimes I sit here and mess with my camera before writing these posts. Believe me, I’ve made a lot of changes to my camera’s settings. Sometimes, I’ve forgotten to change them back and I screwed up many a shot because of it. It’s worth it to pay attention to these things.
I hope I offered something of value in this post today. If you have any questions regarding what I shared, please let me know in the comment section down below or in the camera forums on the discussion board. Thanks for reading!