Getting to Know Your Camera
Cameras can be amazing artistic tools with a number of controls designed to help you make creative decisions. Placement of these controls can vary widely. Just as all automobiles function in pretty much the same way, auto designers find a myriad of ways in which to place controls. So it is with cameras. How they function remains a mostly constant. Where the essential controls are placed is not. To get the most out of time spent on an instructional tour, workshop or class, this prep worksheet will help you locate the most essential controls on your particular camera model beforehand. The illustrations shown are approximations and may not look exactly like they are displayed on your camera, so also refer to your instruction manual as well. If you are using a point-and-shoot or smartphone camera, look in the camera menu settings to see if there are options that mimic the controls listed below. Once you’ve located the controls and learned how to adjust them, write reference notes and bring this with you when we meet. Don’t worry about how to use them. We’ll show you that.
Aperture is a diaphragm device inside the camera lens. It can be opened or closed to let more or less light fall on the camera sensor. Aperture sizes are measured in f-stops. Where is the aperture control on your camera?
ISO refers to how sensitive the camera sensor is to light. The sensor records the scene being photographed. It is located behind the shutter and can be made to be more or less reactive. A high ISO means the sensor is highly reactive and needs less light for less amount of time to achieve proper exposure. How do you adjust ISO?
The shutter is a curtain like device between the aperture and sensor. It can be controlled to open faster or slower, letting light fall on the sensor for more or less time. Where is your camera’s shutter control?
4. Shooting Mode
This is the control where you will find auto, scene, and manual modes. The symbols and names of these modes vary from camera to camera. On Canon cameras, the aperture and shutter priority modes are called [TV] and [AV]. On most other cameras, they are called [S] and [A] respectively. Locate the shooting mode control on your camera.
The EV control allows for camera exposure overrides when shooting in aperture priority, shutter priority or program modes. It can be used to easily increase or decrease exposure, without having to shoot in manual mode to do so. Locate the EV. Note: there may be two on your camera. Built in flashes usually have their own EV to control flash output.
The camera light meter measures overall light in a scene and calculates exposure based on the reading. By default, the meter is set to matrix mode. This means it is using information from throughout the scene. There are other options to control how the meter mode behaves, including zone, center, spot and partial. Read your manual to see what is available on your camera model and locate it.
Focus mode can be adjusted to optimizing focus on certain subjects. AF-S [One-shot on Canon] locks focus on a stationary subject. AF-C [Al-servo on Canon] locks focus on a moving subject and tracks it through the frame until the shutter is deployed.
Drive mode controls the number of frames shot with one shutter click. You may choose from single shot, continues low [multiple shots at a slow rate], or continuous high [multiple shots at a high rate]. Drive mode is also where the timer is usually found.
This controls the point where the scene will be sharpest. There are many different types of focus point selectors. Consult your manual.
The meter is a tool to help determine proper exposure. It displays in manual mode. A good exposure is calculated to be at 0. Overexposure occurs on the + side, and under exposure on the -. The meter also displays in aperture and shutter priority modes when the EV button is activated.
Histograms are another useful tool to help you calculate good exposure. Metering systems can be fooled in certain light conditions, and it’s sometimes hard to judge exposure just from viewing a photo on the playback screen. You can choose to have the histogram appear in the photo review mode by going into your camera playback settings and making the selection to display. Consult your camera manual to locate this option.
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