What basic camera settings do you need to master to start shooting successfully? There are really only a few of them, you can ignore most of the “sensors” on your camera. However, you must also know these few vital functions blindly.

Many new camera owners will begin to hungrily read the manual with the (completely vain) expectation that it will help them understand how to operate the machine. And then they give it up because “it’s just not possible.” Yes, that’s just not possible – the manual has one single function: to advise if you are looking for something completely specific. In other words, what you know you have to look for.

And you should know the second reason for the mystery of the basic functions of the camera, and that is the marketing of large companies – with each new model it tries to attract your attention with some new function such as “automatic red-cap aiming in the snow”.

So the cameras are overflowing with hundreds of functions and sensors, of which about 90 percent are either explicitly useless, or you will need them once a year or for life.

Without understanding these 10 points, you can never get what you really can get from a your camera – or even a cell phone. And if you’re a little further away, you may be interested in the free continuation of this article. Camera settings in 10 steps.

1. Understand how photos are created in the camera

It doesn’t matter if you have an ordinary compact camera or a SLR camera, you can’t take pictures without a basic understanding of the “origin of the photo”. It’s simple: in order to take a photo, you have to let light through the lens on the chip or film. And the time that the light “draws” the picture is called time. And why is it so important? Because otherwise you will never understand why sometimes photos are blurred and sometimes not. Blurred photos simply mean that you take photos for too long.

What to try: Realize fully what you probably know, at least subconsciously: When there is enough light (for example on a sunny day), the camera clicks quickly, it only takes a short time. In the darkness (but also in the room) it needs more at that time, the click is more hesitant and the object in the photo may be blurred – in that long time it will manage to move (or your hand will move).

2. Handle the camera: time, ISO, aperture

Many new photographers are frightened when someone forces them to understand the insides of their pet – they say to themselves: I bought an expensive camera mainly because I didn’t have to deal with anything. But hey, that’s not how it works. In short: you ALWAYS need to know what’s going on in your camera; otherwise you can’t take pictures, just put up with it.

So learn to take into account the three values ​​that always contribute to how a photo turns out: time, ISO and aperture, and at least roughly know what the values ​​are. (I repeat, it is not possible without it!

What to try: With the exception of the cheapest compacts in the viewfinder or on the screen, you will see the time and aperture values. Time is usually a number (15, 100, 200…), sometimes a fraction (1/15, 1/100, 1/200). Watch how those values ​​change, notice that, for example, at the number 15 (fifteenth of a second) things start to blur.

What to look for in the manual (or on the camera): Look for anything that allows you to be in control of time, usually a wheel that changes. It is useful to try the so-called manual mode at least once in a lifetime (see below). And learn to set the time completely without the help and help of the camera.

3. Understand ISO – you can’t take pictures without it

So: if you don’t know what ISO is, you can’t take pictures. If you do not want to learn how it works, it is useless to buy a more expensive camera than for about 1500 crowns (and beware, even on a mobile phone it is very, very useful to know where to set ISO – details here: Mobile photography: Learn to set ISO!) and especially in the detailed instructions of the iPhone and photography: tips, tricks, reviews.

What to try: Set the ISO to a low value (for examplein P mode – see below) and shoot anything at least a little moving in a not entirely good light. For example, a child on a tricycle. Do you hear how long the camera clicks? Everything will be blurred, just a long time: in that 1/10 second, for example, a child on a tricycle will travel, for example, five centimeters and it will be just a greasy stain. (Plus, your hand is shaking).

Now switch to one of the highest ISO values ​​- for example 1600 – And click again. Do you hear the difference? The click is much faster and the blur disappears (or is significantly smaller). Just be careful – zoom in on the image and you will see that it is simply lower quality (more noise).

What to look for in the manual: How to set the ISO (or for some SLRs: how to turn off the ISO auto).

4. Explore the camera modes

These are the ones – camera modes (here on the Canon 700D)… In real life it makes sense to use only three… Repro: Canon.cz

What to try: Try to take a picture of something moving, for example a dog in the park, in the afternoon light. It will simply not work on full automation, everything will be wiped (the camera does not know that you are photographing something in motion and will not shorten the time enough). Then switch to P mode, raise the ISO (ie: allow the camera to take pictures in a short time, see above). Do you see the difference? The dog is (probably) sharp – because you forced the camera to work with a shorter time.

What to look for in the manual: How to set up the P program (you don’t really have to look for it much, just turn the wheel on the camera, where you almost certainly have a P). Rather, try, as I wrote, at least once in a lifetime, how the manual mode (M) works, ie the mode in which you set the time and aperture yourself. This simple exercise will teach you more about photography than you think.

5. Forget about scene modes

I don’t want to bother you, but I repeat once again that each photo is always created only by a combination of three values: ISO, time, aperture. Nothing more, nevertheless, many people think with gusto as follows: it’s kind of blurry, but let’s see, here is a mode of “night photography” or “portrait”, etc. etc. etc. I don’t want to be mean or categorical, but also whether it is true: if possible, don’t use them. Why? Because again, you let the camera decide for you (which he will almost always do wrong and the result will be worse) – and it doesn’t matter at all the price you paid for the camera. In short: modes don’t help, they don’t have how.

What to look for in the manual: How to avoid scene modes. Alternatively, if you wish, delve into their more detailed description and believe me, they are really useless – that you MUST solve what they do yourself, perhaps just by setting the ISO and watching if the time is not too long in the given situation ( ie photos are blurred).

6. Find the AEL (AE-L) or asterisk (*)

These two buttons (AEL, AE-L, Auto Exposure Lock) for Nikons and other brands and the “asterisk” for Canon are, without exaggeration, just as important as the on / off sensor. Without their knowledge, it is almost impossible to take photographs. Still, 90 percent of camera owners have no idea about them. Let’s try to see how they work right away.

What to try: Try photographing, for example, someone’s figure against a white wall (or someone against the sky / window). You probably already know how it will turn out – it will be just a black silhouette. It is important to realize why. Simply because the camera “looks” at the scene and says to himself, “Um, there’s a lot of light, so I’ll make the photo dark.” There are several ways to solve this (shooting in manual mode, exposure compensation or flash – see below), if we have little time, it is good to be able to “fool” the camera with lightning s

1. We will take pictures of that character and the sky behind her. Tilt the lens slightly so that the sky disappears from the shot ”- and press the shutter button halfway. Thus, the so-called lock of the exhibition. In short: the camera is fooled by less light. And if then (with your finger still on uspressed) we raise the lens again and press the shutter button fully, glory, the figure is no longer just a dark outline. However, there is one catch: by pressing it we will focus at the same time – that is why this exercise must be performed in such a way that when we press it we “ride” a person and focus at about the same distance at which we really take the photo.

2. Variant: but what if we take a picture of that character (for example a black groom) by the white wall of the castle, which there is nowhere to hide? Or will we take pictures of someone dressed in the dark, and that quick “delusion” will not work?

Then comes the time when you need to discover the AEL (AE-L) buttons – for example for Nikons, or the asterisk (*) – for Canon. You will find them on the back of the camera. When you press them, they lock the exposure just as you press the shutter button halfway from variant 1. We can quickly “drive” the lens into the grass and “pick up” the exposure there. Then lift the camera with the exposure locked, select the shot, and then sharpen.

What to find in the manual: In the event of an emergency, look there for advice on how to achieve a state where you “gain” exposure with those buttons, and you can still focus independently. For Canon, everything usually works right away; for Nikons, you usually need to look for a function in the camera in which you only assign the AE-L function to the AE-L / AF-L button. (Without this step, pressing the button will also lock the focus).

7. Learn to turn off the flash in the dark

For new photographers, this is often the most incredible rule – they say: but flash does give light, so why turn it off when the light is low? And why turn it on a sunny day? Let’s try it instead.

What to try: Wait for the early evening, for example – when it’s dark in your home. Then take a photo with the flash. Well, yes, it’s flat, boring, if there’s a character on it, it looks overexposed, everything else is in the dark or dark. And now click the flash, set the ISO to a high value and click. Do you see the difference? Do you see how suddenly the photo looks interesting, colorful? (Just pay attention to the exposure time we already know – if the lights are really low, for example, a running child may be blurred. Otherwise, the photo will be really much better than with a flash).

And now the second try: you’re out on a beautiful day. The sun roasts and creates beautiful shadows everywhere. But they don’t look so beautiful in the photo. Persuade the child or spouse once more to pose with a cap on your head, for example, and press the trigger. It doesn’t always turn out perfectly, but very often the result is simply better than a picture without a flash full of shadows (including a face under the peak).

What to look for in the manual: How to turn the flash on and off – but it’s so simple you don’t even look for it and discover it on the camera right away.

8. Pay attention to “exposure compensation” and “white balance”

No, I’m not kidding or exaggerating. You need to know these two buttons (or functions) at the very beginning mainly so that you do not “touch them”. From a sample of many hundreds of people in my courses, I think that about 5% of cameras have them out. And then the photos can’t be worth anything.

A. Exposure compensation

The upper “scale” with values ​​from minus 7 to plus 7 gives you the opportunity to tell the camera: take it lighter or darker than you want. Source: Canon

As we already know, for example, in P mode, the camera decides for itself which time and aperture values ​​to set. But sometimes it’s definitely wrong – and the picture, or part of it, is darker or lighter than we’d like. The exposure compensation function allows us to tell the camera: the camera is lighter (darker) than you think.

How to try it / what to look for in the manual: Exposure compensation is almost always marked with a +/- symbol (usually on a separate button). When you press it, “scale, scale” simply appears in the viewfinder with something zero in the middle. Usually, turning the wheel will deflect the scale – and the image will be darker or lighter.

What is it for? For all situations where simply automatic measurement does not work as it should. When the figure is darker against a lighter sky or wall. Or maybe on the beach or in the snow.

And now the main thing: always be careful to reset the thing! Indeed, at least 5 of the hundreds of cameras in the world have been spoiled since the owner once played with the settings. And then he never came back, and for example the camera thinks for a few years: “the owner still wants me to take pictures much lighter / darker than I think.” So the truth is that thanks to this, I can then “dare” in photo courses – “just a touch” to repair those cameras.

B. White Balance (WB)

White balance options for Nikon D3300. Source: Nikon

Different environments and different times of the day have different color temperatures – but we don’t care at this stage, you can live without it. It is important to just pay attention to the function called White Balance (WB). Sometimes you can play with it and try to set the “Incandescent light” in artificial lighting, maybe the photos will not be so yellow.

But now the important thing: you need to make sure that the setting doesn’t stay there for another half a year and the photos aren’t – for example – scary blue. In other words, sometimes a discountscroll to whether you have set Auto White Balance (AWB). Well, you ask, but it’s said many times above that automatic stuff needs to be disabled. Yes, but this is perhaps the only automation that works more or less well. So stick with her.

How to try it / what to look for in the manual: Just track how the quantity is set and try a few photos with different settings, ideally outside, and then under artificial lighting inside. You will like something, so don’t be afraid to experiment. But most of the time, you’ll find that – yes – the automation really handles it well.

9. Learn to focus properly

Well, you probably can sharpen. How do you know? Simply put – when you take pictures of two characters next to each other, you suspect that you must first aim at the center, press halfway, the focus will lock (ie the lens will remember what it focused on), then you move the camera back. A click. (If you didn’t, the middle focus point would probably “run” between the two characters and focus somewhere backwards).

One step higher is to understand that we have a lot of focus points in the lens, but let’s not talk too much at the beginning and believe me the simple truth: at the beginning it’s simply ideal to have everything set so that you can see one focus point and it “locked” “The moment you press the shutter button halfway. Then you can fine-tune the exposure and press fully.

It’s simple, but sometimes the lenses just act weird.

1st oddity: you press the shutter button halfway, but the point does not and does not lock, it still focuses. What does it mean? It is almost certain that you have set the so-called continuous focus. Just turn it off. On the contrary, it can be useful at the moment when you want to photograph an object, such as a cyclist, who is approaching you and it is therefore completely impossible to sharpen it well. Continuous focus will “follow” him, well, continuously.

Weirdness 2: Focusing doesn’t work for me at all: this thing often scares a lot. The lens twitches strangely and the shutter does not respond and does not allow us to take a picture at all. This often happens when we shoot in the dark and we have nothing to “catch” with the autofocus beam, or when we try to focus on a white wall, for example – the beam will be confused again. What with this? Either with a little patience we can force the lens, or discover the AF / MF switch on the lens. The MF means “manual focus”, we turn off the automatic focus and sharpen it with our hands (which we often do not avoid, for example, when shooting at night.)

What to try and what to look for in the manual: If you have time, understand the different “focus modes” of your camera. This is what the manual will really be (quite exceptionally) suitable for – all the different modes are named for different brands and I work a little differently (and of course there are more than we mentioned). So go through them and understand how they work, including the various tricks you use to move the focus points up, down, etc.… But believe me, the most important mode we mention for normal photography is by far: half-press, lock, select a shot, press and click.

10. Understand how to recognize a good photo

With this rule, I always start my photography courses, but today I didn’t want to stress you out with too much “academics”. But the question “how do I know it’s a good photo?” Is not academic at all. On the contrary, it is the basis of everything.

Today, when we talk about the various settings and camera shots, the “secret of a good photo” is summarized in a few “technical points.”

– A real (ie good) photo will never be created just by pressing the shutter button.

– For a photo, it usually doesn’t matter what we take (ie the content), but HOW we take it and what emotions we can preserve in the photo.

– Whether we take good or bad photos usually depends very little on how expensive our camera is.

– Take what you want (really!), But know that a good photo is usually one that has a story, an emotion, a capture of the atmosphere. So watch out for various cheap effects (these will get you “licks” on Facebook, but they won’t help you really learn to take pictures).