Today we will begin Part 2 of our series Understanding DSLR Cameras. There is so much to learn and cameras are interesting and oh so much fun to play with.
It is my goal to encourage you to get out those cameras and take pictures that you can be proud of.
In Part 1 of this series, we studied the 4 Main things you need to know when taking pictures with your DSLR camera. Let me remind you what they were.
- Shooting Modes
- Focus Modes
- Metering Modes
- White Balance
Then we basically spent the remainder of Part 1 studying the Shooting Modes.
So, put on your thinking hats and enjoy the ride. We are about to take an adventure into the world of cameras.
There are 4 Focus Modes in most cameras. The names used in these modes differ from camera to camera. The names I will be using for this article will be for the Nikon camera. They may have different names, but each mode function is the same in all cameras Your focus modes will be found on the back screen of your camera. You will push the little i button. The i button is for information. You will then scroll down until you get to the focus modes section. You will click on that and then on the screen, you will see the 4 different focus modes.
- Auto Servo or AF-A
The AF-A means Auto Focus. This lets the camera decide between the AF-S mode and the AF-C mode. In this function, the camera can become confused about whether the object is moving or not. It will not get every picture right every single time. But it does have its uses. It’s good for general photography when you’re not exactly sure if your subject will be moving or stationary.
- Single Servo or AF-S
This is the Stationary Focus for subjects that have no movement. You will half-press the shutter button and the camera will lock focus and stay focused until you take the picture. This function is great for portrait photography or macro photography. It is a good focus for any object that is stationary.
- Continuous-Servo or AF-C
Continuous-Servo or AF-C is perfect for moving subjects. Your camera will lock focus when you half-press the shutter button and then continue to focus as the subject is moving as long as the shutter is half-pressed and until you take the picture. I’m thinking of examples such as a football game, swimmer, race car, etc… It doesn’t have to be high action, though. It also is great for things that are slowly moving, such as a plant in a hanger softly swaying in the wind.
- Manual Focus or MF
You will probably never have to use this function if the lens on your camera has a button for Auto / Manual. If your lens has that button, that is what you will want to use. If it doesn’t, then you can try using the MF function. It is pretty self-explanatory. Manual focus means that you will be in control of manually putting your hands on the lens to adjust for focus.
OK. That was Step 2 to Understanding DSLR Cameras. Now we are off to learn Step 3.
This can be very complicated or very easy to explain. So, I am going for the easy to explain way. 🙂 Every camera has a meter built into it. Some cameras, like the DSLR camera, has the option to allow us to change our metering modes. This allows us to change how the meter evaluates the scene that we are taking a picture of.
The camera is always trying to achieve an average brightness in any given image of 50%, no matter which mode you choose. What does change, when we switch metering modes, is HOW the camera calculates the scene to achieve that 50% brightness.
The metering modes are also found on the screen on the back of your DSLR camera. Once again, press the information button and scroll until you find the metering modes. Click on that and you will find on the screen the 3 or 4 metering modes, depending upon which camera you have. I’m still using the Nikon camera, so that will be my model.
- Matrix Mode
This is Nikon’s default mode. In my opinion, this is the most hit-and-miss mode to meter with. It is also the most complicated to explain and understand. In this mode, the meter takes several zones in the scene into consideration in determining the brightness. If your pictures consistently are either overexposed or underexposed, there a huge possibility that this is your problem.
- Center Weighted
Center weighted metering is very simple, in my opinion. It simply focuses the metering on The center of the scene. It is a great choice if you are shooting a picture where your subject is the center of your photo. It is designed for basic all around shooting.
- Spot Metering
Spot metering only meters about 1 to 5% of your image. It is great for portraiture because it gives a very good skin tone. In spot metering that 1 to 5% goes with the focal point on your camera. So your model doesn’t have to be directly in the center of the photo. Remember, in spot metering, the focus point is where the camera will evaluate for brightness.
- Partial Metering
I should have mentioned that all cameras do not have spot metering and all cameras do not have partial metering. But most cameras will have one or the other, or both.
Partial metering is very similar to spot metering except that it meters about 10 – 15% of the image. It also meters at the focal point of your camera.
And now for the 4th Step, we will learn about white balance.
White balance is how your camera sees the color white in the environment that you are in. When we see the color white, our brain makes all color corrections. In other words, if we are in a room with a multi-color light spinning in the room, and we see someone in a white shirt, our brain tells us it is a white shirt. Not a shirt with all these different lights hitting it. We just know it’s a white shirt. Thank your brain for that. LOL. So our cameras do not have brains and we have to explain the environment to the camera to help him decipher the color white. Then the camera makes the correct adjustments so our colors in our photo all look like they should. Does that make sense? I hope I’m explaining it clearly to you. I will enclose a video about white balance to hopefully explain a little better.
There are two ways to find the white balance on your camera. On the back screen by pressing the information button, and in the menu. Just go to the icon that shows the type of environment you are in, select and you are set. Just remember that if your lighting changes, you will need to adjust your white balance again, unless you are set on Auto.
Here is a list of the icons to choose from.
- Direct Sunlight
These settings are pretty self-explanatory. The main thing is that you get out there and experiment with each of these settings and learn how much light your camera can take and still give you a white white. Not a blue white or an orange white. Just a nice clean white…every single time. And hey, if you mess up…just delete it quickly and nobody will ever know. That’s the beauty of the DSLR. I love the delete button. That way, no one ever knows if we choose the wrong setting. 🙂
I hope these two posts about understanding DSLR cameras have been helpful. Really guys, just get out there and take pictures. Have a wonderful time while you are doing it. Then, print out those gorgeous pictures and share them with your family and friends, and even hang them on the wall to show off your handiwork. Those kiddos are your pride and joy. Take those pictures. Make each one of them a Masterpiece.
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comment section below. I am thinking about setting up a page to show off your pictures on my website. We could share settings on our cameras, ideas for photo shoots and props. What do y’all think? Does this sound like something you would be interested in? Let me know below. 🙂
All the best,