About the Camera

Before we continue, I’d like to mention some things about the camera. These are given generally, and you may need to consult the camera manual to learn how to make these changes on your particular camera:

  1. Use a tripod.
  2. Flash: Turn it off because you won’t need it. It’s usually controlled by a button with a lightning bolt on it. The screen will display a “no” symbol (as in “no smoking”) with a lightning bolt inside it.
  3. ISO: Set your camera’s ISO (film speed) to the lowest possible setting. This is usually 50, 100, or 200. Avoid using the AUTO setting. Different cameras have different ways of doing this, refer to “ISO” in the manual.
  4. Aperture-priority mode: Put the camera in Aperture-priority mode. For SLRs and advanced point-and-shoots, this is usually accomplished by turning a dial on the top or back of the camera, and is denoted by an “A” or “Av”. For starters, set your aperture to 4.5. Once you get a feeling for how changing the aperture affects the picture, you can change it to suit your tastes. The aperture affects what is called “depth-of-field”, which is the area from nearest to farthest that is in focus. For most picture taking with point-and-shoots, this isn’t much of a concern. However, when you are shooting close-up you need give it some thought. The higher it is (the greater the depth of field) the more of the image will be in focus. For things that are very close up (less than 12 inches), you should set it to maximum. If you still can’t get everything into focus, try moving the camera back a bit and then cropping later in an editing program.
  5. Image quality: Set your camera to the largest image size available, and with the lowest compression setting (i.e. the largest file size) — this is usually called “fine” or “superfine”. If your camera supports RAW output, you can use that. RAW images store the full output of the camera sensor and are more suited to later editing. For the purposes of this tutorial, I’m going to be working with JPGs from the camera. There are plenty of resources available regarding RAW image workflow if you are interested in that.
  6. White balance: Set it to incandescent (aka “tungsten”). This is usually indicated by a little light bulb icon. This sets the color balance of the camera to a color temperature of 3200K, which is the color temp of the light’s we’ll be using. I won’t go in to what color temperature is or how it’s calculated, because it’s a bit involved. Suffice it to say it’s based on one of those ideal theoretical constructs physicists are so fond of.
  7. Focusing mode: For most stuff you can use the camera’s autofocus mode. Manually focusing a point-and-shoot is often more trouble than it is worth. It’s quite easy to do on an SLR, but most modern AF systems work so well that it’s doubtful you’ll be able to improve upon things. That said, there are some things to keep in mind when using Autofocus. AF systems require contrast to focus properly, so pointing the focusing window at a broad expanse of solid color will cause problems. Try moving the object or camera a little to give the camera something “busy” to look at. Flashing LEDs can also seriously throw off an autofocus system. If you see the camera oscillating in and out of focus, and you have flashing LEDs, try moving things around as above, or change the LEDs to a steady pattern. If that doesn’t work, you may have to manually focus the camera.
  8. Macro mode: Many cameras have a “macro” mode, which is engaged by a little button with a flower icon. Macro mode allows the camera to focus on subjects very close up. This mode usually works best when the lens is zoomed all the way out (wide angle), and zooming in past a certain point may actually turn the mode off. If you find that macro mode keeps turning off, this is probably why. However, you might find you prefer moving the camera back and zooming in as opposed to getting in real close. This tends to “flatten” the field of view a bit, whereas getting up close with a wide angle can result in an exaggerated perspective. The other nice thing about zooming in from further back is that you constrain the field of view to an area where you have full control of the light, resulting in a more even lighting in the photo.
  9. Self-timer or Remote: Most cameras have an adjustable self-timer, and some have remote trigger as well. These are both very handy features to have, and you should use them if you have them. The reason is because when you are holding the camera and pressing the button, you introduce some vibration through your arm which can cause the photos to be blurry. By either delaying the shutter until your hand is away, or firing the camera remotely, you can eliminate this problem. On a related note, be sure that the floor isn’t vibrating when you take the picture (i.e. don’t walk around near the tripod), as this can also cause blurry photos.
  10. Use a tripod. This tip is similar to tip #1, except I really mean it this time.
This guide was first published on Apr 28, 2013. It was last updated on Apr 28, 2013. This page (About the Camera) was last updated on May 06, 2019.