Camera Settings


The Photography Starter Kit for Beginners


Lesson Info

Camera Settings

All right, this next section is not my favorite section. It's one of these things, it's a grab bag full of stuff we gotta go through 'cause we have a lot of settings and workflows just to make sure this whole process rolls along nice and smoothly. First up, there's a number of camera settings, and I'll be honest with you, I've just totally stolen some of this information from my Fast Start classes on different cameras, but I've just picked a few of the most important settings. The most important is the file types that you shoot with. Most cameras will have the choice of two options: JPEG and RAW files. And the best analogy is a film analogy. It's basically going back to the days of film. When you shot film, you had your negatives, and you had your prints. Now, did you show your negatives to your friends? Probably not, you showed them prints. And so that's gonna be the difference between RAW and JPEG, negatives and prints. And so JPEGs is a compressed format that starts off with the ori...

ginal information from the sensor. It goes through processing, which means your camera is deciding your color space, your white balance, the sharpening of the photos, the contrast, the whole look of the photographs. The equivalent back in the days of film was you know that there was Ektachrome and Kodachrome, and Velvia, there was all these different types of films that had a particular look in the contrast and color to it. Well your camera is now doing that for you. You can go in and adjust it, but your camera's gonna do it in one way or another. And then it takes and it compresses all that information and kinda throws out the data that it doesn't think that it really needs. And so it might take six pixels of blue and compress that down to three or compress that down to two, and you get a JPEG image. And if you wanna post a photo online, you want a JPEG image. That is a great system for uploading and transmitting and sharing photographs. It's not great for necessarily shooting because the camera is throwing away information that you may want to access later on, 'cause photographers have been known to go back to their photographs and go, hey, you know what? I think I can make some adjustments and have an improved version of this photograph. So the other option is RAW, and this is where we collect original information from the sensor. It does go through a RAW converter, so your camera does have to convert it into a file that it can be recorded, that can be read with other devices. There is white balance that is added, but it is removable. So if you made a mistake with your white balance, you can remove it later on without any ill effect on your photo. And you end up with this RAW file. Now, this RAW file is a real pain in the butt in some cases because Canon is different than Nikon, and that's different than Fuji and different from Olympus and different from Sony, and then when they come out with a brand new camera, your Adobe software or somebody else's software doesn't read it because they don't know about it 'cause it's a brand new thing, and so you gotta have the right software on your computers in order for this to work. But once you have that right software on your computers, aha, now you have access to the original information that your sensor shot. And so with your cameras, right in the box that you got 'em, is gonna be software from Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Sony, whoever. But you can also use Adobe's products or many other manufacturers like Lightrooms and Photoshop to read these RAW files. And the RAW files containing the original information will allow you more exposure latitude to go back and resurrect dark areas or areas that you thought were blown out pixels, you actually have detailed information. I have shot with a number of cameras on RAW just for testing purposes. I would never mistakenly overexpose an image by five stops or underexpose it by four stops, but you can actually make a big exposure mistake and correct it with a RAW image. Your ability for fixing mistakes with JPEGs is this much smaller region. And so what most serious photographers do is they shoot RAW, they convert to JPEG when and where necessary for whatever they're doing, but they always keep the RAWs around because once you have a RAW, you can't make any changes and save it as a RAW. You'll never damage a RAW, so once you open a RAW, you're gonna have to save it as a TIFF or JPEG or some other type of file. And so RAWs are great for photographers because it's the original information as it was shot. And I know myself, I've been shooting digitals since the early days of digital, and I've gone back to my earlier photographic work using new modern-day software, and I have made better photos than I could at that time. And so you wanna keep your RAWs around if you want to keep the most that your cameras can have. Now that isn't to say that JPEG is worthless and not good at all. Every photo on my website where I have my gallery are all JPEGs. It's very, very useful for transferring images, and so if you need to shoot a lotta photos or you need to shoot 'em very quickly for some sporting events, JPEG, if you've got your exposure down, is very fine because they're gonna be smaller file sizes. In your cameras, you'll be able to select whether you shoot RAW or JPEGs somewhere in the menu system. When you choose JPEG, a lotta cameras will give you the option of shooting a small, medium, or large-size JPEG. Now the actual numbers with your camera may vary. It depends on the camera's sensor resolution. But if you are gonna shoot JPEG because you don't have the right software, at least right now, you probably wanna be shooting in the largest, highest quality JPEG option that you have so that you can go back and get the most information when you wanna go back to that photo. So make sure your camera is not on medium or small JPEG unless you specifically want it there for a project. Many cameras will have different sized larges. They're both large, they're both the same number, but they compress the information, they throw more information away on this highly compressed version, which is a lower quality. And so you wanna make sure that you are on the highest quality, lowest compression setting that your camera has. And this is kinda the way it looks with a Canon. If you have a Nikon, they use the words fine, normal, and basic. And their cameras, by default, come set to normal. I would bump that up to fine. If you have a Sony camera, they have extra fine, fine, and standard. Different cameras will have different terminology. In general you just want the highest quality that you can get. If you're gonna shoot with RAW, many cameras now have the option of small, medium, and large RAW, which is a different size resolution, but you're getting the full exposure range. I shoot small RAW in some very special cases where I know the final photo is gonna be really small. Let's say you were gonna shoot for a catalog, and your final photograph was gonna be about a four by six, and you knew there was no chance that you would ever want to make a poster outta that. You could shoot it in small RAW, and you would save some file space on your memory cards and on your hard drives of your camera. But for the most part, you're gonna wanna be in the largest quality setting that you can have, which would be the full RAW setting for your particular camera. Now you can also shoot in RAW plus JPEG where when you press down on the shutter release, you get a RAW image and a JPEG. In general, I don't like this because you end up with two files, and if you have a RAW, you can make a JPEG anytime you want. Unless of course you need a JPEG right now. So if you're shooting at an event where you need immediate results to go online right away without any sort of computer interference, you're gonna go straight from the camera and uploading it, that's where you might wanna shoot a JPEG right there. But a lotta cameras these days now have a built-in processor where you can take a single RAW and you can turn it into a JPEG right in your camera. And I just don't like this 'cause it kinda clutters up your hard drive with duplicate files, and if you have the RAW, you can create a JPEG. So your memory cards, they store everything in a folder on your memory cards in another folder, and when you delete your photographs, it creates another folder and puts the images in that one. And then when you're done with that, it creates another folder, and so what happens after a period of time is that your cameras have all these empty folders and ghost directories about where things have gone. And what you wanna do is you wanna clean all this junk up by formatting your card on a regular basis. I format my card every time I go out on a new shoot. I wanna make sure that it's perfectly empty. There isn't any residual data left on that card from anything prior that I was doing. And it's healthy for your cards, and it's gonna make 'em last longer in life span, more recordings on 'em. Drive mode controls what happens when you press down on the shutter release of the camera. And so most of the time my camera's in the single-shot mode. And then when you shoot sports, you might wanna put it into one of the motor drive modes. Sometimes there'll be a low or a high setting, depending on the modes of the camera. And then we'll also have the self-timer modes. We have a ten-second self timer. That's, of course, for you to run around and get in the photo yourself. The two-second self timer is a great friend of mine. I love the two-second self timer. When I'm working on a tripod and I don't have my cable release with me, I can press down on the shutter release, and when you press down on your camera, there's a little bit of vibration. But two seconds lets that enough time for the vibrations to settle out so there's nothing moving when the camera's mounted on a tripod or a device. And then some cameras will have little remotes that you can get so that you can trigger the camera anytime you want to fire the camera. The white balance setting is on your cameras because your camera is very different than your own eyes. Our human eyes will adjust for the different types of lights in the world that we have and lighting at different time of the day. But your camera doesn't understand this, and so there are different white balance settings for adjusting the recording on the sensor according to the colors that are out in the world. And it runs on this Kelvin scale from red to blue. The one that is the most different is the Tungsten setting, and this is what we have in a lot of our houses where we had these Tungsten bulbs, which are very orange in color. I have a lotta photographs of myself as a small child with very orange skin, and that's because (laughs) my dad was shooting with daylight balanced film but with Tungsten lights. And so you can correct for this in-camera. We have a couple of other modes that we'll also have. We have a manual color temperature mode where you can dial it in yourself, which is great if you know exactly where it should be. And then there's the auto white balance, and you may have gotten the feel during this class that I'm not a big fan of auto. This is kind of an exception. I like auto white balance because, in general, most of the cameras do a pretty good job at getting the white balance correct. The second reason why I don't mind shooting there is because I mostly shoot in RAW, and if you shoot in RAW, you can correct for any little errors that the camera makes in getting you the right wite balance. And so as an example, this is a great blue heron. This is a little too much blue in that great blue. And if you got funky colors like this shooting RAW, in Lightroom, they have a slider for the temperature. You can go over to that slider and drag it over to the yellow setting and go, okay, wait, that's a little too much yellow and then bring it back to where you think it looks appropriate without any damage to the original file if you have shot in RAW. And so I think this is one of the great parts about shooting RAW is I just don't have to worry about light balance. If you are shooting JPEG, you are gonna have to be a little bit more up on your game to making sure that your white balance is set appropriately for the situation you're in, and so you'll have to look at the lights that you're shooting under and the results that you're getting back in the camera. The formatting that I mentioned earlier with the memory cards can be found somewhere in the menu system so keep track of that 'cause that is one thing that you'll be going back to into the menu and formatting on a regular basis. Also in your menu system is the date and time. I highly recommend trying to get this set correctly. This is important because it's gonna be on the metadata of the actual photographs, and it's gonna help in reconstructing when you shot things and the order of photographs, and it's just gonna be good to stay organized as a photographer. Also in the menu system is the firmware. Firmware is the software that runs the operations on your camera. And like computers and phones that have updated software, your camera has updated firmware. Unfortunately, you're gonna have to go to the camera manufacturer's website and look up your camera's information to see if there is new firmware adjustments. I've had a number of cameras where they have added new features that I didn't have the day that I bought the camera, and they've done this for free. You don't have to pay for these firmware updates. Usually they're fixing small little bugs in the system. So you go to your manufacturer's website, and then the process is a little bit different depending on what camera you have. With Olympus's and Sony's, you'll often be downloading it directly from your computer, so you plug your computer in with a USB connection, and it updates when your camera's connected to your computer. Most other cameras you'll load the software onto a memory card and then you'll put it in your camera and then go to where it says firmware in your camera and update the firmware on your camera. It's free, it takes about five minutes, and why not have the latest, greatest software on your camera? So, it's something that you should check on every once in a while. The higher end cameras will have updates once every six to 12 months depending on how current the camera is.

Class Description

“This is a great starter class. I thought I understood how shutter speed and aperture worked together, but this class made it come together in a matter of minutes. I'm already taking better pictures and this is just the beginning!” -Jennifer Manley, CreativeLive Student

Learn how to take the kind of photograph you’ll want to print and pass on to the next generation. John Greengo is back to teach this updated photography for beginners class. You’ll learn the principles of good beginner and intermediate photography and get the skills necessary to create amazing photos. 

Advanced cameras are available at modest price points, but learning how to use them takes an investment.

  • Learn the the most essential functions of your camera 
  • Gain confidence in putting new functions into action 
  • Get the swing of basic photographic terminology 
  • Feel prepared to move on to more advanced classes 
  • Gain a solid understanding of must-know lighting and composition techniques 
  • Lean to position yourself and your subject to capture the best photo possible with the camera you have – no additional gear needed 
If you want to take more memorable and inspiring photographs of your travels, your friends and family, or the great outdoors then this photography for beginners class is for you. Learn how to make average pictures amazing photographs and gain the ground necessary to continue your photography education.  

“This is a super introduction to photography for anyone who really wants to learn how to understand and begin to use the camera to its full extent. John is an excellent teacher, very easy to follow, with great graphics and examples.”  -Sarah, CreativeLive Student  


Kanoelani Patenaude

I am a pro photographer in my dreams, where I know the in's and out's of my camera; however, reality proved differently, as real life would tell you, I was a deer caught in headlights just looking at my new 7D Mark II. I am a photographer enthusiast without the skills, but a lot of love for the moments one, or the profession/hobby of it can capture. I mostly shoot my husband, friends, and community surfers in the lineup, and of course, my children, who rarely sit still. Thus, I switched from Nikon to Canon, venturing on the 7D Mark II for the grand reviews of how stellar of camera it is for action shots (surfing, and kids, this was a no brainer). That said, and overwhelmed with the way beyond my skill set, but noted desire and aspiration to grow, I made the purchase, and sought help rather quickly as I wanted to feel confident with what I was utilizing to capture the best memories possible. I came into this John's courses knowing the "on/off" button, and "auto" shoot mode. I came out of the course feeling like the pro in my dreams, and ready to shoot manual. John's teaching style is on point, and his detailed visuals are a huge plus. My first shots post this photography kit course, I thought were great for my first educated shoot, and shockingly, I even received and email from one of the sponsors of the surfers I captured, asking if they could use my image for their sites and publications. Not bad for a newbie. Though, my intent was never a business purpose, I did not know if I should charge a small fee, or give it for free. I don't mind free as it's not my business, yet I don't want to ruin it for any professional photographers in town doing the same thing that are charging. Perhaps another course to help me with that. I highly recommend courses by John Greengo! Thank you so much, John!

Megan Wagner

John is extremely articulate and is a great teacher with lots of visual aids and metaphors to help understand photography. I have been doing photography for a few years now and this class was a tremendous help in boosting my knowledge and refreshing my memory in multiple aspects of photography. The graphics that John uses are helpful and he even goes through images and asks which settings would be best to use and will go through the why. He makes things easy to understand and is very clear about the information he provides. I am so glad I took this course and I would highly recommend it even to an experienced photographer. Thank you John Greengo!