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Camera Settings

Lesson 11 from: The Photography Starter Kit for Beginners

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

11. Camera Settings

Summary (Generated from Transcript)

The lesson covers camera settings and workflow for beginners in photography. It discusses the different file types (JPEG and RAW), the pros and cons of each, and how to choose the appropriate file type for different situations. It also explains the importance of formatting memory cards, setting the correct white balance, and customizing camera functions. The lesson concludes with information on firmware updates and the benefits of keeping the camera software up to date.


  1. What are the two most common file types in photography?

    The two most common file types in photography are JPEG and RAW.

  2. What is the difference between JPEG and RAW?

    JPEG files are processed by the camera and have a smaller file size, while RAW files are the original data captured by the camera sensor and require special software to process.

  3. Why do most serious photographers prefer to work with RAW?

    RAW files retain all the original information from the sensor, allowing for greater control and flexibility in post-processing.

  4. Why is it important to format memory cards regularly?

    Formatting memory cards removes all files and folders, ensuring a clean slate for new images and preventing complications with the camera's communication with the memory card.

  5. What is white balance and why is it important?

    White balance determines the color temperature in photographs and ensures accurate color representation. It is important to set the correct white balance based on the lighting conditions to avoid color casts in images.

  6. What are the advantages of customizing camera functions?

    Customizing camera functions allows the photographer to tailor the camera's settings to their personal preferences, making it more efficient and comfortable to use.

  7. How can photographers keep their cameras up to date?

    Photographers can keep their cameras up to date by regularly checking for firmware updates on the manufacturer's website and following the instructions to install the latest software onto their cameras.

Next Lesson: Workflow

Lesson Info

Camera Settings

All right, we've been talking about technical stuff, and we have a bit more to cover just to tidy up some loose ends, you might say. And so this is on settings and workflow. And this is kinda the assorted section. There's gonna be a lot of different little things that you need to be aware of, you need to get right, so let's go through these. First up are some camera settings. Cameras obviously have a lot of different controls. And we're gonna start with arguably one of the most important, which is the file type that you are recording. One of the most common types of images these days are the JPEG file type images. And this starts with the original information from the sensor, and then it goes through processing. And this is where your camera determines the exact flavor of your particular image. And it does this by adjusting the white balance and the sharpening and other features that gives you a particular look. Back in the days of film, we had Fuji film and Kodak film and these differ...

ent types of films that gave us a different look. We can now control that with our JPEG images. One of the issues to be concerned about is the compression aspect of JPEGs where it compresses color tones into fewer color tones so as to save space. And so obviously taking up space on memory cards and (clears throat) on your hard drive is a very important issue, it's nice to have small file sizes, but you don't want to be throwing away information that you want or might need at some later point in time. So JPEGs are something that all photographers work with on a regular basis. It doesn't mean they shoot in JPEG, but they do work with JPEGs, okay? Most serious photographers prefer to work with the RAW setting, which is the original information off the sensor. It does not go through a processing system. It does go through a convertor so it can be stored on a memory card. White balance is applied, but is removable. You can correct for it later. And you end up with a RAW image. Now the beauty of the RAW is that it's as you shot it. You go back, and you get to keep all the original information. And I love throwing out really unusual analogies from time to time, and this one is one of the more obvious ones, it's like film. The RAW image is like the original film that you shot, and JPEGs are more like the prints that you make that you would hand out. And so generally speaking, you should be shooting in RAW, have the original information. And maybe somebody wants something different. Hey, could I have that image more vivid? Or could I have a more flat look? And you could go back to the RAW image, and you could make it to any flavor that you want that your client, your customer, or whoever you're using the photo for might prefer. Now the downside to RAW is that you need to use special software in order to see it or to even work on it in most cases. Your camera comes supplied with software from the manufacturer to work on it. I'm not real happy with the type of software. The camera manufacturers tend to be great at making cameras and so-so at making software. And so there's other products from companies like Adobe with Lightroom, Photoshop, and many, many other programs that will work with RAW images. And so the idea is that you shoot in RAW, adjust, make a copy into JPEG, and maybe that's what get posted on your website or gets sent to somebody for whatever reason. And so that's a good system. Now there are still reasons why shooting JPEG is fine, 'cause it does use less file size, but you can't go back and get that original information to make those changes. And so if something is really important, especially when it comes to exposure, you probably want to be shooting in RAW. It takes up a little bit more space on the memory card, but I think it's a relatively minor issue with the cost of cards and memory at this point in time. In your camera's menu system, it may look quite different than this, there's gonna be an option for setting either JPEGs or RAW as your file type. A lot of times there'll be different size options in JPEGs, and that is because cameras are designed for a lot of different users, and some people may own a camera, but they may not have access to a computer. And so they want to shoot a very small image, 'cause they want to send it across a slow internet connection, for instance. If you are shooting JPEGs, you would probably want to shoot in the largest, highest-quality system you can. With RAW images, you can sometimes choose different sizes or different compressions of the RAW. And generally speaking, you want the highest one that you can get, the highest quality that you can get unless you've tested it yourself and you know that something different still fits your needs. Every manufacturer will have their own RAW file type, which means the pictures end with a dot-three-letter-code that's gonna be a little bit different from one to the other. And so this is one of the reasons why it's nice to have a more generic software product like something from Adobe that can work with Canon and Nikon and Fuji. That way if you based your whole software world on Fuji software, but then you decided to switch to Nikon cameras, you gotta switch all your software with it. And so it's good to work in a system that accepts a lot of different things out there. Now your file choice might look like this. This is a Nikon example where they call theirs NEF. It's a Nikon electronic format. They have JPEG; they have different compressions. So if you are choosing JPEG, you want the highest quality. Or if you're shooting RAW, you can select that. Now you can also select RAW plus JPEG, so you get two photos every time you press the shutter release one time down. I'm generally not a big fan of that, unless there's a very specific application that you are doing it for. So unless you need two files right away, you should probably just be shooting with one file type. Because if you have a RAW image, you can make a JPEG, but it does take time. And so it's whether you have that time or not. Obviously, you'll be storing images on memory cards. The compact or the SD memory card is the most popular one right now. When you store images on a memory card, it usually goes on a folder within another folder. And then when you delete all those images, and you go out and shoot again, you get more pictures. And then you delete those images, and you go out, and you start taking more images. And what happens is you end up with all of these ghost folders and file directories on your memory card, and it can clutter and complicate the communication between the memory card and the camera. So the safest thing that you should do is format the memory card on a regular basis. This is something I do before I go out on any new shoot that is important, and I want to have a fresh, clean memory card. And so this is where it cleans everything off of the memory card, and you start fresh from that point. And so the memory card is not a good place for storing images. If you have Christmas photos at the wrong time of year on your card, you haven't downloaded enough. And so you generally want to shoot, download to your computer so you can back it up quickly, clear up the memory card, and go out and shoot some more. The drive mode controls what happens when you press down on the shutter release. Normally we are fine taking one photo at a time. Some cameras will have a quiet mode. Some cameras will have a remote option where you can get a wireless remote to trigger the camera. If you're shooting action, the advantage to shooting in the continuous, whether it's the low or the high speed, is so that you can capture a large number of pictures in a short period of time, because when somebody's running down the field, it's hard to say which exact moment in time is gonna be best. And that's where you want to shoot a series of photos, collect those, look at 'em, and then pick out the single best one in many cases. There are usually many different self-timer modes. The 10-second is good, obviously, if you want to run around and get in the image yourself. The two-second is perfect when you're on a tripod and you don't want any vibrations with the camera when you press the shutter release. It gives you a two-second delay in that case. Some cameras have a delay plus continuous shooting. This is ideal for taking group shots. So let's say you're gonna take a group shot of you and your workmates or your friends. Well, you know if you take one shot, someone's gonna blink on that first image, right? And then somebody's gonna be looking off to the side on the second one. So I usually take at least four shots with a couple-second delay, so that way one of them is likely to come out looking pretty good. The white balance deals with the color of light that we are working under. And there are some kinda obvious different daylight scenarios where the color temperature's a little bit different. On a cloudy day you have this gigantic blue reflector up there that is making everything a little bit more blue. The one that's maybe the most different that we deal with regularly is the tungsten light. This is what a lot of people have in their homes is tungsten lights. It's very orange light. If you were to photograph a white piece of paper, it's gonna look orange, unless the camera knows that you have tungsten lights. And so ideally you would figure out what type of lights you're shooting under, what color they are, and you would set that appropriately in this white balance setting. Now there are some other options in here. One is there is a Kelvin setting where you can manually go in and select the number yourself. Most of us don't really have it dialed in that good. But if you are trying to shoot with, say, two different cameras, and you want 'em to be exactly the same, that would be one way of doing it. You can calibrate using a white surface. And so what you could do is you could take a white sheet of paper like this. You would photograph it, and then you would tell the camera's menu system that this is white, and it should base it on white. If we have tungsten lights, this will appear orange, and the camera will go, oh, it's a tungsten light, so I'm gonna flip it over to this color temperature. So that's a way to fix it onsite. And then finally, we have auto white balance, where the camera will choose according to the highlights and the information that it sees. And as much as I love manual, I actually use auto white balance a great majority of the time here, and for a couple reasons. Number one is it's pretty accurate most of the time. Secondly, going back a step, I shoot RAW, and RAW has a removable adjustable white balance with no negative aspect to your image. So you can fix RAW later on. So for instance, if I go out and I shoot a photo, and the color balance is clearly not right, I will open up the software program that I'm using, and I will adjust the temperature slider until I go, nope, that's too far the other direction, and then I will try to bring it back to where I think it looks best for that particular image. And if you shoot RAW, you can do this, and it does no damage to your final image. It does take a little bit of time, so I do try to get the white balance set whenever I have the opportunity. If I'm going out, in fact, just yesterday I was out photographing, and it was a cloudy day. Surprise, surprise, we're in Seattle. It was a cloudy day, so I set my white balance on cloudy so that it would be consistent and same throughout everything that I shot out there at that time. And the next time I enter a new environment I would set it to something else different. I mentioned formatting the card. You will find this usually in the tools section in your menu somewhere kind of towards the back. And don't do this unless you want to get rid of all your images, because this is gonna delete all your photographs, reset the card back to its original position, someplace that I go on a regular basis. It might not seem like it's the most important thing in the world getting the time and date set on your camera, but it is gonna be something that is added to the metadata of all your photographs. And I know at some points in time I've gone back, going like, when I was I shooting this? And then when we went to lunch, and then when did we make it here? And you're trying to reconstruct events based on the timestamp on these images, and it's certainly nice when it's accurate. It's, well, I forget to set it. It's back on Seattle time, and I'm back in New York City, and now I've gotta go adjust it, which you can do in software. You can fix it by three hours or any particular amount. But it's something that it's more convenient to have right than it is to have wrong. So take that little bit of time to go in there and get that set right. Every camera has a number of custom functions. And these are ways that you get the camera tailored to the exact way that you want it to look and act. And this is one of my favorite parts of getting a new camera. Generally speaking, I don't like new cameras. I like just systems in place. I love new lenses, don't get me wrong. It's new cameras, it's like, there's a lot of stuff to get set up the way I want it to. And going through the custom functions, let's see, do I want this, or do I want it set like this? These are not things that you come back to on an everyday type basis, but they're the way that you like things to work. And so it's nice to be able to customize something so that it really fits your hand like a well-fitting glove. And that's what you can do with the custom functions. The firmware is the software that operates the menus and the performance out of the camera in some cases. There are minor, there are medium, and sometimes there are large changes that they make to the firmware of a camera, and these in most every case I've seen are free. And so they may make a mistake, a bug, and they will post an update to the firmware that is on your camera. In some cases they will actually add features. I've had notable performance jumps by getting the new software. And so it's something that you can get free. All you have to do is look up your camera manufacturer, find the firmware for your camera online, and download it to your computer. There are two different systems. Some cameras like Sony and Olympus will have you connect the camera directly to the computer to load it in. Other cameras will load it onto a memory card, and then you put that in your camera. Go to the firmware setting in your menu, and then it will give you instructions on how to load that new firmware out. And so it keeps your camera up to date, gives you the best performance possible, and it's free, so it seems to make sense that everyone should try to keep their cameras up to date. Now the more money you spend, generally the more updates they're likely to do, and there are some manufacturers that put out updates much more than others. And so on one hand it's nice that they're improving cameras. On the other hand, maybe they should've figured that out before the camera came out. But in any case, it is nice to be able to have that latest software, so realize that that's out there.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Photography Starter Kit Outline

Ratings and Reviews

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!


I'm not sure my first review posted. But I LOVE this class! John Greengo is a great, engaging teacher who is really adept at representing the concepts visually and excellent at explaining them verbally. I love how he goes through examples with photographs he has taken. Even though I only have a Nikon Coolpix digital camera, it does have Manual, Shutter priority, and Aperture priority modes. Through his class I've gotten a really good sense of how to balance ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. It's a great overview for me especially since I am new to photography, I can play around with some of these settings, and I have a greater understanding of what I might need in a higher level camera in the future. Money well spend! (For $29, this is an absolute steal). John Greengo is an awesome teacher and I hope to take more of his classes in the future!

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!

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