Tip of the Week: Get to Know Your Camera

We tend to walk the easy road, a familiar one. It's not wrong to walk a road you know, yet at times good adventures await where you haven't thought it would. It might be a strenuous climb but with a spectacular view from the top ... so enough poetry now and how about relating those words to the camera you have.

Any camera you buy these days has an auto mode with its different naming that depends on the brand. It may happen that you've upgraded your camera to another and still use that auto mode while expecting a change in the overall quality of images. Framing your composition will improve over time with experience and with different focal lengths yet the general look may not change much.

It is not arbitrary or a random coincidence that there are many in-camera options and complementary accessories out there. Although some exist just to rob your pockets, many basic tools can make photography experience more rich and varied.

Handing, Traveler. Using camera for take photo with happily.

Let us start with in-camera options:

Next to Auto Mode:

Aperture Priority, allows you to control the aperture while the camera adjusts the shutter automatically to compensate for the loss or gain in light exposure.

The wider the aperture the shallower depth of field becomes if you wish to isolate the subject while keeping a blurry background and foreground when applicable.

Shutter Priority allows the control of the shutter speed while the camera adjusts the aperture to maintain correct light exposure. Uses vary depending on the result you wish to have. If children are running and you wish to exaggerate their motion in a still then you may want to set to a slower shutter speed just to gain that bit of motion blur to reflect action. You may want to freeze the scene by adjusting to faster shutter speed. Scenarios may vary while you have the pleasure of instantly seeing the result in this contemporary digital era.

Camera mode dial

A bit further from Auto Mode:

Exposure compensation:

I use it most of the time especially in dark areas where the camera tries adjusting and fails at giving the right amount of light exposure.

Although there are metering options, different methods of camera reading light, such as matrix, center-weighted, spot, etc ... yet that exposure dial in some cameras helps at directly revealing the end result of the image. In mirrorless cameras, you can see a live result of stops you're removing or adding, while in DSLRs you may see through the LCD or when the shot is taken. Bracketing is used to give more than one end result by taking several shots with third, half, or a stop difference each. (Brand Dependant).

Retro SLR camera in hands of photographer

Film Simulations:

Those who are familiar with Film would appreciate that nostalgic flashback. Those who like presets would find it fun using alternative output. The camera sensor produces an output that has a vast potential of change without killing the overall quality of the original output. That doesn't necessarily mean that one would have to choose a rich saturated color profile for nature. I would appreciate a desaturated one most of the time when shooting in nature, but that is me and its how I wish to have the result. No film simulation/preset is exclusive to any situation, it's what you make of it rather.

There are bells and whistles that are brand dependant. For me though, I always use the essentials that I can knowingly control.

Outside the Camera Box:

A Tripod/Monopod ... something that can keep the camera fixed (without shake).

Now that we get to have hight ISO when needed, the tendency to forget about this gadget becomes frequent rather than rare. With a higher ISO you get to shoot with a shake-free shutter speed; but what are the downsides? It renders your output of less detail (Brand Dependant) and therefore makes digital photoprocessing cumbersome.

Using a Tripod or what is relevant to its function would allow a shake-free result even with a low/normal ISO profile. With that said, it is always dependant on the situation at hand. There are many factors that go against and many others that go with it. You may still require that even if you have a lens with image stabilization; you wouldn't want to have a long exposure of a minute or so handheld ... there are always limitations to the extent of reach.

There are many camera stabilizers that can be handheld for overall practicality and it is essential to have either of the options around.

Cameras on a tripod.

Artificial Lighting:

Now that leadlight is efficient, many options do come in a smaller form that can be practical and render your images with needed fill light, even exposure, etc ...

Studio assistant fix professional video light on adjustable light stand. Led lamp on tripod in photo studio. Photo and video lamp

All that being said may make your experience a bit harder but you'll soon appreciate the end result(s) out of better planning.

I hope those words make sense.


Photo credits: Olga Nosova, Tung Cheung, Ryzhov Sergey, , Setthaphat Dodchai.

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June 30, 2020


Nice article - and good advise all around, especially if you have the time to do it 'now'.  Thanks!

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