10 Settings to Change on Your Camera Right Now

10) Shoot Without Card

Perhaps no worse feeling than shooting dozens of stunning images only to find they don't actually exist. This embarrassing issue is not isolated to film users. In fact, it's even more problematic with digital cameras as there's no indication to clue you in after 36 frames. To avoid this, you'll want to dig into your camera functions and locate the shooting menu. Simply disable the option to shoot without the card and proceed without worry.

9) Highlight Alert

You may have heard photographers discussing "the blinkies" and wondered what it was. In order to find it in your menu, look for "highlight alert". When enabled, the LCD screen blinks in black and white to warn you of overexposure.  With this immediate feedback, you can adjust your settings in real time. The ability to get the shot right in the camera can greatly reduce your post production time at home.

8) RAW

RAW files are like your digital negative. No matter how many copies and edits you make, it's always possible to go back to this original file and start over. The file is uncompressed, meaning it contains all of the beautiful resolution your camera is capable of. In-camera adjustments like sharpening and saturation are not added. As such, the files can appear somewhat flat straight out of the camera. To get the most out of this file type, you'll need to first edit the image with special RAW software. While the workflow is more time consuming, the image quality is unsurpassed by even the highest quality JPEG.  

7) Color Space

If the colors of your print look very dull or just plain inaccurate, you may have used the wrong color space. Check your camera menu right now. Does it say Adobe RGB? If so, you have just found the cause of the problem. Simply change it to sRGB in your camera menu and don't look back. The reason is simple; it gives the most consistent results. Not only does it work well for printing, but also for images shared on the web. Now there will be some experts who proclaim Adobe RGB to be superior as it technically captures more colors. While this is true in theory, it does not translate well in practice as most printers are set to sRGB. If you're not sure, ask the lab what color space they recommend.

6) Flash Compensation

The pop-up flash gets a bad rap, and this is unfortunate as it's actually a very useful tool when set properly. Out of the box, it simply provides too much light, resulting in a bright washed out appearance. The trick is to adjust the flash exposure compensation to a reduced output. As a starting point, bring it down to negative two. This creates a soft quality of fill flash that's immediately more pleasing. Should you need even less light, you can further reduce the flash to negative three. While it's rarely necessary, you could even add intensity to the flash by raising it towards the positive. Just remember, effective use of flash is meant to soften, not eliminate shadows.

5) White Balance

Auto White Balance does an adequate job outdoors. Yet, an overcast day is not required to benefit from the "cloudy" white balance option. Similar to a painter adding more yellow to their brush, this setting introduces a golden quality of light to a scene. It also makes objects in the shade appear less blue. Greens become more vibrant, making the cloudy preset an ideal choice from sunrise through sunset. This is perhaps my favorite white balance setting as it retains an accurate representation of the color temperature while adding brilliance to the photo.

4) Autofocus Point

Allowing the camera to automatically choose your focus point is one of the biggest causes of blurry photos today. Don't get me wrong, you can still use autofocus, but it works best when you manually set the autofocus point. Otherwise, the camera will choose incorrectly on occasion, leaving the fence post sharp and your subject out of focus. While some cameras offer clusters of focus points, a simpler approach will often work to your advantage. By placing a single active AF point on what you want sharpest, you eliminate the guess work, and your percentage of keepers soars.

3) Autofocus Beep

If you've spent any time pursuing wildlife photography, you know how challenging it is to get close to a creature before it flees. Once your subject is located, the last thing you want to do is scare it away with the autofocus beep. You may not realize just how loud it is in your home with other ambient noise to drown it out. On a silent morning in the woods however, it seems to echo through the forest for all to hear. By turning it off, the animals won't mind your presence, nor will your fellow photographers.

2) Spot Meter

Perhaps the single most important part of your camera is the internal light meter. To get started, select the  “Spot Metering” option. To take a meter reading, zoom in, or get close to your subject. Place the middle portion of the viewfinder area over the part you want to meter. The camera will then read the amount of light being reflected back into it, and place the meter accordingly. This is where you take control of the camera.  By adjusting your aperture, shutter speed, and/or ISO, you will determine your subject’s exposure.

1) Manual Mode

Many photographers shy away from the manual "M" mode on their camera, thinking it's reserved for those with years of experience. The truth is, the automatic settings are typically at the root of most issues plaguing image-makers. From inconsistent exposures to blurry photographs, these supposed beginner modes are anything but user-friendly. If you're ready to take control of your camera, 2016 is the time to leave the A, S, P, AV, TV modes behind. Once you realize the unlimited creative control of the manual setting, you'll wonder why you didn't switch sooner.