Monthly Archives: July 2013


In a recent discussion with three other photographers, I commented that I’m constantly changing how my cameras function, depending on my subject matter at any one particular moment.  I was rather surprised when the others responded that they never did this.  All three said the only change their ever made was to the ISO in use.

To be honest, I was rather shocked.  Was I really the odd man out here?

So what changes do I make?  (Some of my answers are specific to my Nikons.)

ISO.  I certainly do change the ISO, especially when I need a faster shutter speed.  At times I turn on Auto-ISO, where the camera sets whatever ISO is needed to maintain my selected shutter speed/aperture combination.

MOTOR DRIVE RATE.  I use the fastest frame rate for critter work, single frame advance for everything else.

MIRROR LOCKUP.  “No” for moving subjects, “yes” for everything else.

METERING PATTERN.  Matrix (evaluative) most of the time, Spot for precise areas.

LCD BRIGHTNESS.  In bright sunlight, viewing the LCD is difficult.  I set the brightness as high as possible in that condition (which makes the LCD much easier to view) and lower the brightness when I’m not in bright sunlight.

THE IN-CAMERA TIME AND DATE.  I rename my files when I download, using YYMMDD at the beginning of the file name, which automatically organizes my files chronologically.  I change date and time as I travel, so that all the files match my itinerary.

EXPOSURE DELAY.  I use a remote release whenever possible, but often use the 3-second delay mode for totally static subjects (where I’m not trying to time lulls in the wind or other movement).

EXPOSURE MODE.  While most of the time I use Aperture Priority, I change to Manual exposure when I want to maintain a given exposure value.  For example, consider a dark bison in winter snow.  If the light is not changing, there is one correct exposure value.  But a fairly wide shot would be mostly white snow, while a tight shot would be mostly dark bison.  Any autoexposure mode would change the exposure depending on how much of the frame was light-toned or dark-toned, but manual exposure would be consistent.

CROP MODE ON MY D800E.  Full frame most of the time; 1.2X crop when I know I will be cropping a bit in post-processing (the smaller file size also gives a slightly faster frame rate, while making the buffer clear a tad quicker).

AF MODE.  I use single point AF for landscapes and static subjects (although generally I’ll also manually tweak focus).  For moving subjects, I almost always use 3D focus tracking, which automatically shifts the primary focus point to follow the movement of the subject.  This is my favorite action AF mode, as I can concentrate on composition and don’t have to keep an AF point centered on the subject.  If I switch from 3D AF, it’s to 21 point AF.  In this mode I have to select the primary AF point, which works best when I know exactly which way the subject will be moving across the frame.  I can’t imagine myself using the same AF mode for all my work.

So what do you do?