Game Changing Camera Settings !

Updated: May 23, 2019

While pursuing my photographic hobby over the years, situations have come up that thwarted my efforts. Missed opportunities for great shots, poor results in the shots I got, the failure on my part to apply my camera to the scenes, the list goes on. But through internet research, trial and error, and practice, practice….. I changed my approach to these tricky situations and have improved my photos. Try out these suggestions for yourself and test your results.


1. Use the Continuous Shutter button on moving objects


While living in Sandpoint, Idaho, I decided I wanted to get a picture of a train crossing the railroad bridge that spans Lake Pend Oreille. So I drove to the beach where the bridge met the shoreline and spent 2 evenings, and watched 7 trains go by, as I tried to figure out the settings. I got the exposure close to right; I got the focus worked out, but each single shutter shot had the train in the wrong position, it wasn’t working. It occurred to me to use the Continuous Shutter button. I picked a spot on the bridge and when the nose of the train reached it I held the shutter down and the camera clicked away. The resulting photo, seen below, was the 5th shot.


With this trick tucked away in my head, I went to the Winter Carnival in Sandpoint where I used it again. They had set up a ramp for skiers to slide down; single shots were not working. I changed to Continuous Shutter and fired away and panned as a young skier slid down the ramp. The beauty of this technique is that you can delete from your SD card or computer photo file the ones you don’t like, not like the old days of a film camera.


I pushed the shutter when the nose of the train reached the 3rd bridge support from the left. This was the 5th shot in the string.

Sandpoint Idaho Winter Carnival Ramp Skier

2. Use the 2 second delay Shutter option


I was striving for sharpness in my photos I admired in those of professional shooters. My research led to these suggestions: 1. Use a Tripod 2. Lock up the internal mirror in your camera 3. Use the 2 second delay shutter (or a remote shutter device) 4. Shut off the Image Stabilization if you are on a tripod. Pushing the shutter button down can cause a tiny amount of motion just at the time the shutter is letting in light to the sensor, to make your photo. The 2 second delay eliminates this. I always use the delay while out on a landscape shoot; I push the shutter, remove my hands from the camera, and listen as the shutter goes off. I bought a remote device, but I prefer the shutter delay.


3. Use the Live View as more than just your viewfinder


When I got my first DSLR, I loved the big screen on the back; it meant not having to bend down, crick my neck, and squinting my one eye to see thru the optical viewfinder. It wasn’t until I upgraded to my 2nd DSLR I realized that the Live View had so many more useful functions. By using the 5x or 10x magnifying loupe built into it, you can dramatically improve your focus on distant objects, such as mountain peaks. You can bring up a live histogram to help get the exposure right, or at least close to right. I find the Live View so useful I wrote a separate blog post on it; I call it “Learn To Love Your Live View” and is at https://www.sharetimsphotos.com/blog/learn-to-love-your-live-view


4. Depth of Field Preview


Depth of field is a complex subject onto itself so I will only touch on the basics of it here, then explain the DOF button on your camera. Here is an excellent in-depth article on DOF https://photography.tutsplus.com/articles/understanding-the-factors-that-affect-depth-of-field--photo-6844 that I often refer back to when I have DOF questions. We define depth of field as “the area of acceptable sharpness in a photo “. Adjusting the DOF allows for creative effects in your images.


You can manipulate your camera settings/position to allow your subject to stand out from its surroundings. Photographers do this in bird photos, where the bird is in sharp detail and the background is all blurry. (we call this blurriness “bokeh”) It is also common to adjust the DOF in close-up photos of flowers, and also macro photography of a variety of subjects.


Major factors that affect DOF are 1. the aperture, 2. focal length of your lens, and 3. distance from the camera to the subject you are photographing. What the DOF preview button does when pushed is close your aperture down from the normal wide open position to the more narrow position it will be in when you push the shutter. This position depends upon your aperture setting. You can see this change in the Live View screen.

The DOF button helps you preview and test changes in aperture to see the effect on the area of sharpness in your photo.


You may move your tripod closer to the subject, or back up and adjust your telephoto lens to a longer focal length; when you do, you can use the DOF preview button to re-test the effect of these changes and help you decide on a new aperture setting.


So where is this wonderful DOF preview button? On my Canon T6i they located it on the front of the camera, on the lower left area next to the lens/body junction. You may have to refer to your manual to find it on your camera.


Why do I call it a game changer? Using the DOF button saves you time; when you are in the evening “Golden Hour “and the light is fading, it allows you to take more photos than you might otherwise. I did an evening shoot at Alta Ski Area during their Wildflower Festival. By the time I worked my way up to the acres and acres of flowers in the upper meadows, the light was fading as the sun sank. I was able get quite a few good photos by using the DOF preview button. I recently saw a comment by a reader of a DOF article; he uses the 5x magnifying loupe on Live View along with the DOF preview button to nail the focus and DOF when photographing flowers. I plan to try it this spring.


Aperture was set to F 5.6 I usually have it set at F 11 to F 16

Aperture was F 11

I was reading a Condé Nast travel magazine, and I noticed several photos with a narrow depth of field used to separate subjects from cluttered backgrounds; specifically a table arrangement in a busy cafe and a cowgirl in front of a group of cattle. So another advantage of using the DOF preview button might be speed, helping one to adjust the DOF in a rapidly changing environment.


I encourage you to try some of these tips and see if they help you “step up your game “. Happy Photographing!

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