Basic Camera Controls You Should Know: Update


This is an update of a blog I posted in November 2016.  As I continue to teach the Introduction to Digital Photography, students questions got me to realize that I hadn’t included a few camera settings that are useful to know.

Shooting Modes
Automatic (Auto) – Camera sets speed and aperture to what it determines to be the optimum exposure for the selected ISO.

Program (P) – Camera sets speed/aperture, but you can change the combination of aperture and shutter speed while still at the optimum exposure for the selected ISO.

Aperture (A) – You set the aperture and the camera determines speed for the selected ISO.

Speed (S/Tv) – You set the shutter speed and the camera determines aperture for the selected ISO.

aperatureDepth of field (DoF) – Remember a larger aperture, lower f stop (f/3.5), gives a shallow DoF. Smaller aperture, higher f stop (f/16), gives a wider DoF.  The closer you move to the subject, the DoF gets shallower. As you move further away the DoF get wider.

ISO – Controls the camera’s light sensitivity. The higher the ISO number used, the greater the sensitivity, the better the camera’s ability to shoot in low light conditions. However, higher values may give the photo a grainy appearance.

Metering Modes:

matrixEvaluative/Matrix/ESP– Determines exposure based of the entire image.

c-weightCenter-Weighted – Determines exposure based on the subject and background lighting with a bias to the subject.

spotSpot – Determines exposure based on the small area in the center. Best if used on strongly back-lighted subjects.

AF Target Selection – Camera’s today provide sophisticated focusing capabilities with as many as 11 to 153 individual points determining the image focus. To gain more control use a single point centered in the viewfinder.


Focusing Modes:
One-Shot AF/AF-S, is Single-Focus capability. In this mode, when you depress the shutter release halfway, the camera focuses on the subject only once.

AI Servo AF/AF-C is Continuous Focus. In this mode, when you depress the shutter release halfway the camera keeps adjusting the focus to keep the subject in focus. This mode is most useful for keeping moving objects in focus as you track the object within the viewfinder.

Auto Focus Mode, AI Focus AF/AF-A, is total automatic focus. In this mode the camera makes the selection as to whether to use AF-S or AF-C. I don’t recommend using this mode.  I included it as you should understand how it relates to AF-S and AF-C.

Shooting Modes:
 singleIn Single shooting mode, you take one photo each time you fully depress the shutter button.


MultiIn Continuous shooting mode, you take multiple photos as long as you fully depress the shutter button. This is very useful when photographing moving objects.


 plus-neg Exposure Compensation – In some situations you could get better results if you manually compensate the exposure automatically set by the camera. In bright sun on snow objects will seem darker than their natural color. Adjusting toward + will make the subject brighter and closer to their real shade.

 flash Flash Compensation – Adjusts the intensity of the flash. This may be required when shooting a close-up or distance objects.

For a PDF copy of the Updated Basic Camera Controls Sheet follow this Basic Controls-Update.


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