Though it may seem daunting setting up a new camera, it only takes a few moments. Our Head of Testing, Angela Nicholson, shares her best camera tips and explains which camera settings to use so you can start taking great photos.
Once you’ve unpacked a new camera, charged and installed the battery and popped in a memory card you’re likely to feel a mixture of excitement and trepidation. You can’t wait to start shooting, but could do with some guidance on the correct camera settings to use to get started.
Well look no further, this helpful guide will explain what you need to do to get started whether you’re using your new camera, whether it’s a DSLR, compact system camera (CSC) or high-end compact camera.
Most of the control features we have listed can be found in your new camera’s menu, be it the main menu or a function menu, but you may also find that there are dedicated buttons labelled ISO, WB and the like to give you direct access to the camera settings you want.
1. Format the card
When you insert a memory card into your new camera it’s a good idea to format it as this prepares it for use and deletes any existing data on it to maximise space.
We repeat – this deletes any existing data, so if you have any images on the card that you want to keep, download them to your computer before formatting the card.
It’s a simple process to format a card in-camera, just press the menu button and locate the format option – it’s often in the set-up or playback area, but it varies from brand to brand. Once you’ve found it, select it and hit OK then follow any on-screen instructions.
2. Image Quality: Extra Fine or Highest Quality JPEG
All digital cameras allow you to save images as JPEG files, but some also allow you to save them as raw files and raw and JPEG files at the same time.
Raw format files capture the maximum amount of data and they are the best option to use if you want to do lots of editing of images on the computer, but they require specialist software to process them because they are not a universally recognised format.
Fortunately, raw file conversion software, which allows some editing of raw files and their conversion to more widely recognised TIFF and JPEG files is usually provided with your camera.
Don’t forget, if you email a friend a raw image they are unlikely to be able to open it. They should be able to see JPEG files, however.
The JPEG format is also required if you want to upload images to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, or to online labs to make prints.
If you want the best of both worlds, set your camera to record raw and JPEG files, but bear in mind that the memory card will fill up much more quickly.
3. Image Size: Large
Most camera menus provide the option to shoot images at a range of sizes, or pixel counts. Smaller images take up less space on your memory card and are quicker to upload to Facebook etc, but to get the maximum benefit from your camera’s sensor you should select to shoot the largest images possible.
4. Exposure mode: Auto
Compact system cameras, DSLRs and high-end compacts offer a range of exposure modes – the method by which the correct exposure is set.
If you choose the Automatic option your camera will make the decisions for you so you can get shooting. If you would like to take a bit more control, however, try using one of the Scene mode options (Portrait, Landscape etc) that tailors the camera’s exposure and colour settings to suit the subject.
When you gain a bit more experience and confidence you may like to try using more advanced options like aperture priority and shutter priority.
In aperture priority mode you set the size of the aperture depending upon how big you want the area of the image that is in focus to be and the camera sets the shutter speed.
In shutter priority mode you set the shutter speed to freeze or blur, movement and the camera sets the aperture.