default DSLR camera settings

Photography Tip - go through all your DSLR menus and recheck settings

To start out the year, the first photography tip of 2014 is to go through each and everyone of your DSLR's menus and confirm that all the settings are what you want and to refresh your memory about where less often used settings are.  Deep in the menus are things that basically only ever need to be set once (like number of auto-focus points beyond a single point), but gremlins do exist and even though you may never remember changing any of these lesser used settings, they might have on their own somehow!  

Going through all the menus will also help you remember where things are that do occassionally need to be changed.  It's better to refresh you memory home at your desk than when out in the field already shooting.  

If you find something in your menus you are not sure of what to set at, or even what it does, leave a question in the comments and I will try and answer it for you.

Good luck shooting in 2014!

Photography Tip - set DSLR Drive Mode to its fastest for action shots

One big differentiator between DSLR models is how many frames per second it can shoot.  10 FPS is fast, 3 FPS is not.  6 FPS is a minimum for being able to produce pretty good action and sports photography shots.  The faster the FPS of your DSLR, the better the odds are for you to capture the best moment in an action sequence.  Knowledge of the action type definitely helps, but ultimately a lot of it comes down to just being lucky enough to have had your DSLR capture that particular frame that looks the best, the coolest, the most dynamic.  

By default most DSLR will be set to take only a single shot no matter how long one holds the shutter down for.  For me, I always leave my Nikon in its faster FPS setting.  In the menus this is usually called the Drive Mode and its symbol looks like a stack of cards (see photo above).  Many DSLRs will have a button for changing this setting on the camera body.  My thinking for leaving it set to the fastest is you never know when something cool will happen and I much rather have 6 chances in a second of capturing it than one.  Of course I do not always hold the shutter down and take 6 FPS.  I have trained my finger to only actuate one shot each time I press the shutter if I only want to make one shot.  I have seen though that many newer model DSLRs have a very sensitive shutter button making this very hard to do.  Maybe those will eventually wear in and not be so sensitive.

If you find you are taking too many shots at once due to a sensitive shutter or other reasons, there is usually a second, less fast FPS setting you can use, without having to go to just a single shot setting.  When photographing the St. Anthony's Triathlon that was the drive mode I was recommended to use in order not to end up with too many shots of each triathlete.   

In the above dog photos these were made withing a split second of each other.  If I was trying to specifically get an ears up or ears down shot, I would never rely on having perfect timing to do it with one shot!  For sure I would use the fastest burst mode available.  This is definitely a case where you lock onto your subject and just hold the shutter down and hope the final frozen action of the subject looks good.  You use your skills to set exposure and focus, and to position yourself well relative the moving subject.  This minimizes how much you need to be lucky to capture good action shots.  Get your settings right, put yourself in good position, then hold the shutter down and hope you got just the right moment!  The faster your FPS, the better your chances.

Photography Tip - Change all your DSLR settings in under 10 seconds

Photograph opportunities often are not available for an infinite amount of time.  In fact, most are very, very finite and there are many times you have just one shot at making a photograph.  How can you insure you will always give yourself the best chance at making a great photograph even if you have just one shot at it?  By being able to change the settings on your DSLR very quickly.  

How quick?  

It depends on your particular DSLR and what dedicated buttons you have available.  No matter what DSLR you have, even if you have an entry level one, you should be able to change all five necessary settings for making a well exposed and sharp shot in ten seconds or less.  If you have a fully functional DSLR, i.e. two dials for changing settings, a top LCD display and dedicated buttons for all five things, then your goal should be five seconds or less.  Very rarely are all five things needed to be changed, but you should practice changing all five at home so that when you are out shooting you will be prepared.

Of course you have to know within fractions of seconds what to change your aperture to, or your shutter speed to, etc.  That knowledge combined with knowing your DSLR camera body with your eyes closed (seriously, if you have dedicated buttons you should be able to operate them eyes closed) results in giving yourself the best chance every time a sudden photograph opportunity comes up.

I offer 1-on-1 DSLR Photography Lessons that can help you learn both how to use your camera quickly and what to change the necessary settings to.  Reserve a lesson today!

Default Indoor DSLR Camera Settings with external flash f/5.6 ISO 800 1/60th

Continuing my default DSLR camera settings series, in the above shot you can see the settings that I set my Nikon to as soon as I step indoors anywhere.  I am often asked by people, what settings should I use for such and such a situation, and it is always hard to tell them because slight variations in light, subject, etc. can have a big effect.  However, in my experience I pretty much always use these settings along with my external flash on my DSLR in any indoor shooting environment:

aperture:  f/5.6

shutter speed:  1/60th

ISO:  800

For the settings on your hotshoe mounted external flash, most of the time I find a manual power setting of 1/4th is good for lighting the intended subject and allowing the speedlight to recycle fast enough for successive shots.

As you can see the first shot was in a dark ballroom, and this shot is in a fairly well lit office, yet I used the same settings.  These default indoor settings with an external flash will not light up a large room, but will still expose the subject well (the dancers) and if the room does have good lighting and is not too large, the default indoor settings can light up both the subjects and the background.

So the next time you are shooting indoors, give these settings a try and you should be very happy with the results!

Default Sunny Day DSLR Camera Settings f/11 1/320th lowest ISO

My DSLR photography students often ask me what settings should I use?  Well, that is a very hard question to answer as there are any number of factors that would determine how one would set the five settings necessary to produce a well exposed and sharp shot.  So for this photography tip I offer my default sunny day settings.  If it is a sunny day, before I leave the house I would set my DSLR to the following in general:

aperture:  f/11

shutter speed:  1/320th

ISO:  (lowest for your camera)

Of course there are factors like what lens you are using, what type of subject, etc., etc., but if you are looking to make a shot like the one above on a nice sunny, Florida day, try starting with the default settings above.