How To Use Your Camera’s Automatic Settings

In this lesson we're going to learn about the camera. You'll learn how to use your camera like a professional rather than simply just pointing and clicking. Understanding your camera's manual features will help turn your photography from good to great. it will allow you to alter the finest detail. It will allow you to emphasis points, take emphasis away from irrelevant spots, add texture, increase contrast, decrease brightness, add interesting abstract elements and much more. Once you learn the basics of camera control you will slowly start to understand the complexities of this artistic medium.

Learning the camera's basic control settings shouldn't take too long. However, the practice of learning how to combine different settings can take a lifetime. There are so many variables which can lead to different photographic outcomes. Your cameras settings combined with the colors in your photograph, the humidity in the air and the time of day, to name only a few elements, will all have a role in changing the outcomes of your picture. Your job as a photographer is to predict the shot you're looking for and then arrange your camera in such a way that you get what you came to get. While guesswork does play a small role in photography, as a photographer you should be able to set up your camera in a way that allows you to increase your chances of a predictable picture.

This lesson is aimed at teaching you how to set up your photographs in such a way that allow you achieve your desired goals for a particular photograph. There will be concepts touched upon in this lesson which are important but are brushed over because they will be covered in more detail in upcoming lessons (such as composition and emphasis). Your main concern during this lesson isn't to understand how to compose a picture properly. In fact at this point your pictures don't even need to look good. All you need to focus on in this lesson is understanding the workings of your main tool: your camera.

For this lesson, it doesn't matter if you have a digital or film camera. The camera's technical attributes are pretty much the same for both types of cameras (the images are just recoded differently). For those of you how have very basic cameras or disposable cameras, you too should pay close attention to this lesson. If your current camera lacks basic manual control you still need to understand the implications that these manual controls have so when you upgrade to a more advanced camera you'll understand how to use these features. Likewise, when you take pictures now you'll start to fell limited in your possibilities. When you learn what possibilities present themselves when you have manual control over your camera you'll want to have those features at your control.

Similarly, many of you may have digital cameras where you don't know if you have manual control of certain features or not. On SLR (Single Lens Reflex) Camera's the manual settings are visible because they are located on the exterior of the camera. On digital cameras they could be hidden somewhere in your menu options. Since each digital cameras menu settings are different it's impossible for us to tell you how to find your manual control panel, however we can tell you what to look for. The good news is that almost all digital cameras have some form of manual control.

The two most important manual control settings are:
1: Shutter speed control
2: Aperture

The shutter speed control tells the camera how quickly to open and close the shutter. Aperture is the size of the opening of the camera lens. It controls the amount of light reaching the film. It is measured in f-stops (such as f/8 or f/11). Your Aperture setting also has a large impact on the photographs depth of field (the depth of the focal range of your photograph).

These two features are the backbone of your manual camera control. If you can alter these to settings you are in good position to control almost all elements of your photographs. We are going to start by explaining each one independently of the other one. In the end we'll tie the importance of each one together and show you how both need to work in conjunction with the other to work properly. However, to start out you need first to understand how each system works independently of anything else.