March 28, 2010

How Well Do You Really Know Your Camera ?

These days Digital Cameras are sophisticated pieces of technology. With all those buttons, menus, options, and features comes a steep learning curve and it takes a good investment of your time to master the equipment. So today, rather than give out advice on how to operate your camera, I’m asking a list of questions to get your gears turning.

I’m not really asking you to answer the questions directly – it’s just kind of a way to test your own camera knowledge. If you read through these questions and you either don’t understand what it’s asking or you don’t know the answer, you may not know your camera as well as you thought you did. It’s always a good idea to carry your camera manual in your camera bag, just in case.

These questions are really aimed at the digital SLR users, so if you’re a compact camera user some of these questions don’t apply. Even so, a good chunk of them apply to almost any digital camera made today. These days video is making the scene on digital SLR’s and that opens up another can of worms, I won’t delve into that today, maybe another post?


Exposure Mode
What exposure modes are available on your camera? Manual, aperture priority, shutter priority, program, auto, presets? Do you know how to use them or why you would want to?
Drive Mode
What drive modes are available on your camera? Single frame, continuous, bracketing, self-timers? What uses do these have in different situations?
Focus Mode
What options do you have for focus control? Single shot, automatic, continuous, manual? Why would you use one over the other?
Metering Mode
Which metering modes does your camera offer? Evaluative, Partial, Spot, Center Weighed, or Nikon’s Matrix mode? Do you know how each of these responds to different lighting conditions? All of these are very important when you’re trying to balance the light in your shots.
Flash Mode
What are you telling your flash to do when you release the shutter? Auto, fill flash, red-eye removal, slow-sync, high speed sync, wireless? Hopefully these will make you think more about you’re flash techniques.
Flash Control
How are you controlling your flash? Through the lens (TTL), manual, auto, or some other type of control? Do you use off camera flash? If so, do you know how to use its controls? I could get into using gels etc. but that’s definitely another post.
Flash Compensation
Do you know how to control flash intensity separately from your exposure? Do you know how to increase or decrease you exposure or why or when you would want to do this?
Camera Sensitivity

What ISO ranges can you use? How sensitive are your auto settings? At what point does the noise become too noisey? These days some cameras go over 100,000 ISO, but what kind of quality do you want. There are some nice noiseware products out there that really help with noise levels. My camera can easily shoot at 1600 ISO with nice clean images. If I shoot higher ISO’s I can clean them up nicely with my noiseware program.
White Balance
What are your options for setting white balance? Auto, presets, or custom? Do you know how to set your white balance to the location you’re shooting? Do you know how to create a custom white balance. If your new to this an Expo disk could help you out.
Exposure Compensation & Exposure Lock

Do you know how to compensate for exposure when your using auto or semi-auto exposure modes? Do you ever use your histograms? Can you lock your exposure? Can you do it without locking the focus? Can you lock it across multiple shots?


Image Quality
What resolutions and qualities are available? Can you shoot JPEG, RAW, or both? Can you change the size of them? I shoot only in full size RAW mode because I want the best images my camera can possibly get unless I know I’ll only email them or if I’m shooting in studio conditions where I control all the light.
Color Mode
Which color modes are available? Why would your change this? Pro-Photo RG B, Adobe RGB, sRGB or maybe some others? Do you color manage your workflow? This is extremely useful if you do your own printing.
JPEG Processing
What processing adjustments are available for JPEG’s? Can you control sharpness, saturation, contrast, hue, etc.? Do you know how to change these to give you better results?
Bracketing Order
Are you doing any HDR work or exposure blending? If you are then this is very useful. It’s comes in handy when your shooting quick and want to make sure your exposure is in the ballpark.


Diopter Adjustment
Can you adjust the diopter on your viewfinder? Do you know the correct way to do this? This is useful for people might wear glasses or are slightly far-sighted. Have you adjusted yours?
DOF Preview
Do you know if you have this feature and if so, how to use it? Do you know how to interpret the results? This is especially nice if you shoot landscape photos.
Mirror Lock
Why would you use this? All great landscape shooters know this feature and it’s a big plus for getting those tack-sharp images from your camera. This is where a cable release comes in very handy also.
Sensor Cleaning

Do you know how to enter the sensor-cleaning mode on your camera? Nowadays quite a few cameras have automatic sensor cleaning when you turn it on, but its nice to know how to operate this. Some people send theirs out to have the sensor cleaned properly, but it’s not that difficult to do on your own if you decide to do it yourself. You can find places on the web to learn how to do this, but keep in mind if you mess up you could void your cameras warranty.

So do yourself a favor, especially if you’re new to SLR photography, read your manual and learn how to utilize the all the wonderful features your camera offers. Make it a habit to carry your manual in your camera bag and you’ll find the more photos you take, the less you need to refer to it. Feel free to print these out as a little quiz and see how you do. Remember, keep shooting and have some fun!
© D. Gould Photography