Before Shooting

One-off settings • Some camera settings only need to be made at irregular intervals or even just once per shoot. These include:

► Image quality (JPEG or RAW). If you shoot in JPEG format, you should set the highest possible resolution and the lowest possible compression rate in order to minimize compression artifacts.

Some RAW-capable cameras also offer different resolution settings, but you will always get the best image quality by using the highest available resolution. Most cameras allow you to simultaneously save a JPEG and a RAW version of each image. You can then use the JPEG version for your initial sorting or for sending out to interested parties while you optimize the RAW version for presentation later.

► Color Space. Most cameras offer the choice of either sRGB or Adobe RGB (1998). The latter is only relevant if you are shooting in JPEG format. The Adobe RGB color space is larger, and most current cameras are capable of capturing a greater range of colors that is sampled down to sRGB or Adobe RGB quality in the finished JPEG image.* We recommend that you use Adobe RGB unless you just want to post your unprocessed images on the Web. If this is the case, sRGB is just as good.

► Image numbering. This is where you decide whether to allow the camera to number your images sequentially, even if you change the memory card. This setting helps avoid duplicate image numbers, making it easier to keep an overview of your images before you rename them during (or after) downloading.

► Author tag. Some cameras allow you to set the photographer's name as part of an EXIF or IPTC metadata field. The method for doing this varies from camera to camera. Some Canon cameras have a software based IPTC function in the EOS Utility software delivered with the camera, which is accessible if you attach the camera to your computer via USB. We recommend you use this setting if it is available in your camera.

► Exposure mode. As well as the usual preset scene modes (Sports, Portrait, Landscape etc.), you can usually choose between:

P (Programmed Auto). The camera selects the aperture, the shutter speed, and sometimes even the ISO sensitivity automatically. Here, you can only influence the exposure settings by setting exposure compensation values.

> This setting varies from camera to camera and manufacturer to manufacturer. Check your camera manual for details.

Av (Aperture-priority mode). You select the aperture value, and the camera automatically selects an appropriate shutter speed.

> Some manufacturers use an "A" label instead of "Av" and "T" instead of "Tv".

> You can change the white balance setting for a RAW image without losing image quality.

> We shoot as often as possible in RAW mode and shoot a gray reference frame in critical situations. We can then use an eyedropper tool to insert the reference in an appropriate position in the image. There is a detailed description of this method on page 160.

Figure 2-3: The white balance presets offered by a Canon 40D DSLR.

* Check your camera manual for information on the available focus modes and how to select a different focus area.

Tv (Shutter-priority mode). You select the shutter speed, and the camera automatically selects the appropriate aperture setting.

M (Manual). Aperture and shutter speed are selected by the photographer.

► White balance. Selecting the correct white balance setting is especially important if you are shooting JPEG images. Correcting white balance later always results in a loss of image quality that is especially obvious in 8-bit JPEG images.

White balance can be set manually or automatically. Auto often leads to incorrect results for JPEG images. For RAW image files, white balance values are stored with the image but are not embedded in the actual image data. These values are then used as the default by RAW editors, but they can be changed at any time without losing image quality.

You can also set white balance manually in the camera, either by entering a Kelvin (K) value or by selecting an appropriate menu item, such as flash, cloudy, sunny, etc. (figure 2-3). The quality of the final image will depend on the decision you make (or the camera makes).

► ISO values. Higher ISO values allow you to use shorter shutter speeds or a larger aperture, but tend to produce more image noise. However, a slightly noisy image is always better than a blurred image. We always use the lowest possible ISO value that each individual situation allows. You will develop a feeling for which ISO values produce noise in which kind of situation for your particular camera. Make test shots to see how your camera's noise behavior actually looks.

► Highlight-priority. Some newer DSLRs include a highlight-priority mode that exposes to optimize highlight detail. This can reduce the risk of producing washed-out highlights, but it reduces the camera's available dynamic range by approximately 1 to 1.5 EV.

► Focusing mode. Most DSLRs allow you to choose between manual focus and autofocus modes. A good autofocus system is a great help in many situations, but we often use the more controllable manual focus when we are shooting static subjects such as landscapes. Manual focus is usually essential for shooting macro photos. If you use autofocus, make sure that you are using the right focus mode for the situation at hand, and that you have activated an appropriate focus area (not always in the center of the frame).*

In addition to the settings described above, there are also a number of other settings that you can make that depend on the situation at hand, such as the camera's metering mode (spot, center-weighted, or matrix).

Some cameras also have Auto ISO functionality that adjusts the ISO value within a certain range and according to a number of different criteria. This can be useful for some types of action shots, but it can produce inconsistent results in others. Avoid Auto ISO if you are shooting material for use with multishot techniques.*

The playback review delay and the additional information the camera displays for each image also need to be set up according to your needs. We usually set our cameras to display a slightly reduced size preview image and the histogram. We will go into more details on histograms later.

See the descriptions in section 9.1.

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