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5 Things to check/set before you take a photo

canon camera

So you have arrived at an interesting location or found an object that fits the viewfinder and want to take your camera out. Before taking that first shot there are few things that you should be aware of and set your camera up.

Set White Balance according to the lighting conditions

Your pictures will appear blue-ish or red-ish if you don’t set your white balance correctly. Fortunately, you don’ have to rely on automatic mode. Almost all cameras with manual mode will have a white balance setting. So just look at the sky and your surroundings. Is it sunny or are there heavy clouds above? Are you in the shade or in the room with artificial lights? The white balance presets would in most cases give quite accurate colours to your pictures. So go try these settings first. Another way is to

Make sure you shoot in RAW format

There’s no more disappointment when you get home, upload images to your computer and find out that parts of your images are overexposed but you cannot get that detail of the sky back as you had your camera set to shoot in compressed format – JPEG. Although this would save you some space on your card and disk, you will loose quite a bit of the information. Make it your habit and shoot in RAW format no matter what! Always check you are set to shoot in RAW.

Set ISO for the best image quality or grainy effect

Is there enough light to have your images exposed and sharp without your hands shaking?

How light or dark is it? If you area aiming to get your images sharp with correct exposure, set your ISO – the sensitivity of the chip or film. ISO 100 will get you the best quality image where there’s enough light to use. The less light you have available, the higher the ISO needs to be set. So when it is cloudy for example, set your ISO to 200 or 400 and see whether you can get optimal exposure.

Another setting that directly affects your exposure is aperture.

Set Aperture to control Depth of Field

Aperture is the size of the opening inside your lens that controls how much light passes through the lens and reaches the optical chip or film. Every lens will have different min and max apertures and these will be referred to as the F numbers. Generally, the widest aperture available is F1.2* and it means that the lens is open to the maximum – letting the max amount of light to enter the optical chip or film – great for shooting in low light or for very narrow depth of field. Lenses that offer this opening will usually be fairly expensive but of great quality. Standard lenses will start somewhere around F3.5 – F4 but every major brand will also have an affordable F1.8 lens, usually 50mm prime. (*There are lenses with even wider apertures – F1.0 and below, but these are extremely rare and very expensive)

The opposite of wide aperture is a narrow aperture. Generally starting at about F5.6 up to F22. Setting your lens to these apertures will limit the amount of light passing through the lens and is used where there is too much light (e.g. bright sunny day, use of flash) or when you wan to achieve wide depth of field – have most of the image in focus.

A separate guide on Aperture will be available soon.

Shutter Speed can Freeze the Moment or add blur to show Motion

While the aperture controls how much light passes through the lens, the shutter speed controls the time of the exposure. Bright sunny day can be good enough for 1/1000th of a second while a night shot might need exposure of few seconds. Shutter speed can also affect your images if you for example want to freeze the moment or add blur to show motion. The range of shutter speed is great and together with aperture and ISO are the main components of exposure of any camera – whether digital or film – referred to as the Exposure Triangle. Changing one of these three will change the overall exposure of the image.

A separate guide on Shutter Speed will be available soon.

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