Hidden tricks on your camera

Once you’ve worked out how to change your aperture, it can be tempting to work with what you know and never really dig deeper into what your camera can do. I asked current AYWMC students what hidden feature of their camera they were most glad they had found, and these are some of the responses.

 
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To find out if your camera has any of these features, either have a look through the manual or (much quicker) just Google your make and model.

 

Wifi to transfer photos

Get rid of your cables and transfer your images via wifi. Most recent cameras will have this option, but you will need to download an app and then work out how to pair your camera with the app.

Phone as remote control

While you are looking at the app, check to see whether it also operates as a remote control. Many will let you preview your shot on your phone, and then use your phone as a remote shutter release.

Built-in intervalometer

 

An intervalometer is something you attach to your shutter and then program to take a series of photos at set intervals, eg. one photo every minute or day. They are used to make timelapses, or for star trails. Some cameras have an intervalometer built in - my Canon 5DIV did, and I had no idea until someone told me.

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Live view to check focus

Look on the back of your camera. Do you have a button with a magnifiying glass on it, with a plus sign inside? This is the easiest way to know if you can zoom-in in live view. (Other models have different buttons, so do check your manual, or trusty Google.) This is the best way to check whether you have focussed correctly before you press the shutter.

Pre-shot histogram

If you scroll through your live view options you may find one of them includes the histogram. If you opt for this view you can see the histogram change in real time as you reframe and change your exposure.

Touch-screen options

Coming from a much older Canon, I didn’t realise I could tap the LCD screen to focus and fire the shutter until I did it by accident. Your camera might have other options as well - you may be able to swipe to change settings like aperture which is useful in the cold, or if you find the dials fiddly.

Dioptre adjustment

Your camera may let you calibrate the viewfinder to suit your eyesight strength. I find this invaluable to save me having to reach for my reading glasses as I continually switch from looking at the scene to looking at the camera.

In-camera multiple exposures

 

Activate this and your camera will overlay successive images until you have finished your sequence. Image Rene Bohmer with permission.

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Automatic bracketing

You may already know about setting the camera to bracket exposures (if not, look up “exposure bracketing”). The standard setting means that you take three shots, and the camera underexposes one, overexposes the next and has the median exposure for the third. But did you know that if you set the self timer as well as the bracketing, the camera will fire off the three shots for you in very quick succession with just one press of the shutter? This is useful if you don’t have a tripod and plan to do an HDR merge.

Back-button focus

This is the Marmite option for photographers. I hate it, but many people love it. It’s where you separate metering and focus to two different buttons. The standard option is that the shutter release button does both, but if you enable back-button focus, you reserve metering to the shutter button and allow focus from the back-button. It takes a lot of getting used to, but is technically a more logical way to take photos.

Auto ISO

Common in more recent models, auto ISO allows the camera to pick the lowest ISO for the conditions. It saves you having to keep upping the ISO as you run out of aperture or shutter speed options. Even better, you can usually set a top limit - you can tell the camera, “pick the lowest ISO and never go over ISO400”.

Depth of field preview button

Lurking on the front of your camera there may be an anonymous looking button with no apparent purpose. The depth of field preview button does what it says: press it, and it opens the aperture to the one you have selected, and allows you to preview the exact depth of field in real time before you take the photo.

Can’t turn the pop up flash off?

Many cameras won’t let you disable the auto flash pop-up in fully Auto mode - you need to switch to Program mode.

Firmware updates

It’s always worth checking on your camera manufacturer’s website whether there is an updated firmware available to download. If there is you transfer it via the memory card, and your camera will run more smoothly afterwards.

Black and white mode

Your camera may have some shooting modes hidden in a menu somewhere, including black and white mode. Check the details, but the better version of this still takes a full colour file but lets you preview how it looks through the viewfinder in black and white. When you download you’ll get both the colour and black and white versions.

Built-in focus stacking

This is a potential game-changer. The camera takes a series of photos focussing at different points in the image, and then merges them all together for you to create one final shot with front-to-back focus. Previously this technique would need painstaking editing in Photoshop with many layers and plenty of spare time. Now if you have some Olympus or Lumix models, the camera does it all for you. (But I believe you get one final JPEG file at the time of writing, with no options to influence sharpening or other post processing edits.)


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