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7 Camera Settings Every Beginner Should Know

by Vanessa Waithera
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top view photo of laptop near camera

If you’re trying to take better photos then you should read about the camera settings you should know.

Many beginner photographers often wonder what camera settings they should use to get the best possible results with their current camera gear. While there is no set rule for camera settings that work well in every shooting environment, I noticed that there are some settings that I personally set on every camera I use, which are universal across all brands of cameras on the market.

Let’s go through these common camera settings in more detail!

1.Shooting mode

While some photographers argue that it is best to always shoot in Manual Mode to have full control over your camera, I would strongly disagree with that. Considering how amazing modern cameras have gotten when it comes to properly metering a scene and exposing a subject, there is very little reason to actually shoot in Manual Mode, so why not use of the semi-automated cameras instead?

2.Autofocus mode

You should always make sure that you are shooting in the best autofocus mode depending on what you are photographing. For example, if you photograph a still subject, you might want to use Single Area Focus Mode (also known as “Single Area AF”, “One Shot AF” or simply “AF-S”), whereas if the subject you are photographing is continuously moving, you would want to switch to Continuous / AI Servo Focus Mode, since you would probably want your camera to actively track your subject.

3.Metering mode

While your camera might have a number of different Metering Modes such as Spot Metering, Center-Weighted Metering and Matrix / Evaluative Metering, for most situations it is best to default to Matrix / Evaluative Metering, because it takes the whole scene into account and typically does a better job at exposing your subjects.

4.Lens aperture

Lens aperture not only affects how your subject is isolated from the foreground and background, but also impacts how much light actually goes through your lens, so you have to be careful about what aperture you pick in a given situation. In addition, aperture can impact things like image sharpness and depth of field, so it is all about choosing the best aperture for your subject and your shooting environment. If you are taking pictures in low light and you want to avoid introducing camera shake to your images when shooting hand-held, it is best to take pictures with the widest possible aperture your lens can provide, so that your camera can receive as much light as possible.

5.Shutter speed

Just like aperture, the choice of the best shutter speed will highly depend on what you are trying to capture. For example, if your goal is to capture a dreamy photograph of a waterfall, you will need to use a slow shutter speed that might last several seconds to make the running water appear blurry:

6.ISO setting

When it comes to camera ISO, you are always better off shooting with the lowest ISO, because it produces the least amount of noise / grain in your images. The last thing you want is every image looking too noisy because you set your ISO too high. While using noise reduction techniques might help, it is better to avoid noise in the first place.

7.Image stabilization

Lastly, don’t forget to take advantage of image stabilization (also known as SteadyShot, Vibration Reduction or Vibration Compensation) that is offered either by your camera (in-body image stabilization) or your lens. Don’t forget to turn it on when shooting hand-held and turn it off when shooting from a stable tripod. Also, it is always a good idea to half-press the shutter release for a few seconds and let your camera or lens stabilize first, before taking a picture. This will reduce the potential for having blurry images.

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