Camera setting workflow question


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Apr 22, 2013
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When you're setting up for a shoot, or even just trying to nail a single shot, aside from shutter speed, aperture, iso, what else do you check and/or set? Is it common to change metering mode? What about white balance? Do you mostly leave white balance on auto?
White balance is a good one if you want to save yourself the work in post.
I don't like worrying about white balance in the moment, which is one reason I like to shoot RAW currently (makes it irrelevant whether the camera guesses somewhat wrong on auto or not). However, as mentioned above, this takes time in post to correct for. On the flip side, though, it also takes time in the field to set your white balance carefully.

I do consider metering mode. Spot metering (and using your brain on top of it) is good for highly contrasty or difficult metering situations, evaluative (and not worrying so much) for normal situations. In terms of exposure, you might also consider whether you want to bracket it or not, either for safety or for HDR.

I sometimes consider changing my shutter silence mode, which is an option on my camera. The silent mode is vastly more silent, which is good for performance halls or candids. Loud mode has faster bursts.

Occasionally manual focus vs. auto is a consideration. When taking candid street photos, for instance, I set my lens to manual and calculate in my head a rough zone focus DOF to have things automatically sharp regardless of aim within a certain range.

Also, camera mode sometimes changes. Tv vs. Av vs. full manual etc. are most appropriate for different situations. Usually I'd use Av for standard walking-around artsy scenic shots, Tv for action shots, and full manual for controlled studio shots or many shots of a single scene / difficult sunset type situations / etc.

I do also actively change my LCD brightness for day/night, to not blind myself... =P
I always zoom in to check focus. I also check composition and the histogram.

WB is either on auto for varying or unknown color temps (AWB is so good these days anyway) or a Preset when I'm working with a known, consistent lighting.

Shutter speed, aperture & ISO are always considered (both for exposure and for the ultimate intent of the image).
I always zoom in to check focus. I also check composition and the histogram.
Are you talking about zooming in in live view? Or optically?

Live view zoom doesn't affect focus, and can allow higher accuracy.

Optical zooming, however, can and will change your point of focus, if you are using a lens that is not parfocal. In fact, the vast majority of lenses for sale are NOT parfocal, and if you don't focus at the focal l ength that you will take the photo at, you may miss focus (if DOF is narrow enough and the difference in zoom is large enough, etc.)
I always zoom in to check focus. I also check composition and the histogram.
Are you talking about zooming in in live view? Or optically?.....

If I'm shooting in LV, yes. If not, I zoom in on the results.
When you're setting up for a shoot, or even just trying to nail a single shot, aside from shutter speed, aperture, iso, what else do you check and/or set? Is it common to change metering mode? What about white balance? Do you mostly leave white balance on auto?

As for metering mode, I use the one most appropriate to what I am shooting. Introduction to Metering Modes on your DSLR >>

I rarely just accept the auto white balance on my bodies. If the lighting conditions are constant I will either set a white balance or at least shoot a gray card in the lighting conditions. It takes a couple of seconds to do either or both and is worth it later to me. I don't want to guess at the color rendition I will end up with and shooting a gray target (12%-18%) will give you an excellent rendition of the colors captured. From there you can tweak it if you like.

If you are shooting JPG in constant lighting then a custom white balance can be a great help later on. When I am shooting sports, especially indoor sports I am generally shooting JPG. I always get to the venue early, go out on the court and set a custom white balance under the lights on the court I will be shooting. I will also generally check that WB right before game time. Some venue lights can be slow to come to temperature and that color temp will change as they warm up.

I do the same thing for a field game unless it is being played during the golden hour when lighting is changing. If it is an early afternoon or night game under the lights I then I will set a WB. I also will check my WB during halftime just to make sure.

When shooting RAW I will always shoot a gray card to adjust from.

Also, besides the basic camera settings, keep in mind your composition, background/foreground, posing of subjects, not just the overall pose, but the small details like hands and feet. It is the little detail that can either make or break a shot.
Well, I'm still an amateur and shoot a lot in Jpeg. So I really try to get things like White Balance as close as I can in camera. This means adjusting the in camera settings, example my White Balance is set to Auto +3 or A3 and I shoot a lot in Vivid and Fine. I have shot some stuff in Raw but I'm still working to learn my post process software and basic digital shooting skills.
I also just worry about WB in post.. though I'd really like to start incorporating that into my shooting because its my biggest time waste in post for sure.
It pays to have every possible setting exactly where you want it. I make sure every setting in the camera is exactly how I want it. This includes exposure delay mode on when on tripod, RAW always, WB to match the main light, focus area type, focus or shooting priority, focus servo mode, manual metering when possible, display off time, image review on, focus confirmation beep. Most of the settings don't change but the ones that do are exposure delay, focus area type, servo mode (usually single). For action I might switch to shooting priority vs. focus. I don't use the beep for weddings and I use exposure delay only for landscape. I don't worry about image quality settings other than RAW because they don't affect RAW. Most of the image settings apply only to JPEG. Sometimes for weddings I switch to matrix metering but for landscape I'm on manual 99% of the time and for weddings probably 75% of the time.
I like to "shoot to a known white balance" on many occasions. The Nikons I prefer have a very simple, dedicated WB button on the lower back area; press the button, and then spin the front command wheel, and white balance can be cycled through the various pre-sets, as well as dialed effortlessly in to different Kelvin temps.

Metering modes are used, as appropriate. For panning (and helicopters!), I often use Shutter speed priority, because panning subjects are usually moving, and the EXACT speed is the most-critical variable when panning. F/stop is usually not hardly relevant at all, but if you want a helicopter's rotors blurred, you need to have the speed be "slowish". If you want bicyclists blurred, the range is from 1/3 second to about 1/60 second, depending, so Shutter speed priority auto, what Canon calls Tv, is my usual choice if the subjects are going to be coming up offhandedly, unpredictably, or moving through a wide range of lighting conditions. Same with horse racing at the State Fair's track, where the horses come from brilliant, full sun, into deep shade for the last 100 yards, where the grandstand shadow cuts the light about five f/stops, and you have like 1.2 seconds to change from full sun to deep shade exposure...AUTO exposure is the easiest way to go.

I use Aperture priority auto quite a bit. I'm used to it. It works well, and I can see the speed the meter suggests in the finder and on top. If I know it'll be wonky, I dip the metering circle up or down, to a brighter or darker area to bias it, then hold the AE-L button to hold the meter where I think it needs to be. Nikon has a scribed, 12mm diameter circle on the viewfinder screens, and that's 60% of the meter weight, 40% on the remainder in default mode; the degree of metering emphasis given to the center circle is user-adjustable on my cameras.

But to answer the question of metering mode; I seldom need to change that very often. If I am shooting FLASH, 99.9% of the time I am in manual mode. Flash shot in P,S,or A modes is to me, just a yo-yos like a SOB...I can't stand shooting flash in any mode but manual, and that .1% out of the 99.9% I am just putting in there as fudge factor when I need to shoot beer bottles swirling around in floodwaters at dark, during a monsoon in Thailand...

Hirejn has some good tips; I too use exposure delay on slow-speed, tripod work. I never use that stupid beep sound. Set as many parameters as **you** need, for your own shooting. For example, if you shoot Aperture priority auto with a fully color-aware, distance aware Nikon, then set the metering pattern to MATRIX. If you shoot Manual exposure mode, then set the camera to CENTER-weighted metering, or Spot. The three metering patterns are not created equal.

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