Now that you’ve been playing a bit, let’s dive into the menus on your camera and change a few settings. Since we have different camera models in use, you may need to hunt around for some of these.
(This order is based roughly on what you’d find in the Canon models.)
- Quality – You want this on the highest JPG quality you can get, which will usually look like smooth piece of pie.
- Beep – The quickest way to find an amateur is to listen for the beeping camera. Turn it off.
- Shoot w/o Card – I love Canon, I really do, but their default is for this to be On. Set it to Off. If you leave it on, you can spend a full day making pictures without a memory card and you won’t have a single pixel to show for your efforts.
- Review Time – Set this to Off. The screen is the biggest power draw on your camera, having an image pop up immediately every time you make one will cut down on your battery life. You can still see your images by hitting the play button.
- Color Space – You want this on Adobe RGB, not sRGB which is a smaller color gamut. Computer screens and mobile devices work with the smaller sRGB color range but you want to capture as much as you can and convert it later.
- Date/Time – Make sure you have the right date and time on your camera. Most of them will have the input in military (or 24 hour) time, so 2:00 p.m. will be 14:00.
Look for the formatting routine in your manual. DO NOT DO THIS NOW as you’ll wipe out your images, but after you’ve downloaded your card you’ll want to do this. You do not want to delete images from the card, either through the camera or your computer, that causes all kinds of problems with the file allocation tables the camera creates to index the card.
On the side of your lens, you should find two switches. One of them is to turn the autofocus mechanism off and on – set that to off (or MF, for manual focus). For the first few assignments, I want you manually setting the focus on your camera. Later on, we’ll talk about using autofocus properly.
The second switch is for image stabilization, I’ll recommend you turn that off for now, as well. (If you have a Nikon, it may be tabled as vibration reduction.) We can do a deep dive on what image stabilization is, how it works and when it’s useful. As a general rule of thumb, it’s not super useful for journalism – it’s designed to help cope with camera movement at low shutter speeds but has no effect on subject movement. And since we tend to photograph people who move, it’s not going to help and will put a drain on your battery.