Travel Photography: Camera Settings

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Use Aperture Priority Mode

When photographing landscapes, you want to achieve a maximum depth of field so the scene is sharp from foreground to background – so its best to use Aperture Priority mode.

You can choose the f/stop required and the shutter speed will be set automatically. Just be aware that, if you can’t use a tripod and want to use a narrow aperture, the shutter speed might be too slow to handhold. Many tourist attractions don’t allow tripods, so try setting the camera on a wall or similar.

Conversely, if you want to shoot a portrait of one of the locals during your travels, isolate your subject by using a large aperture, such as f/5.6, and selective focus, to blur a distracting background.

Shoot in RAW

DSLR Raw setting

Why shoot in RAW? Because if you don’t, it is like driving a Ferrari only in the first gear; you’re not getting the full potential from the car – or in this case the image file. RAW is like having a master negative that contains much more data, whereas JPEG is like only having the print.

RAW enables you to go back at any time and process the image in a different way. With RAW software and technology improving all the time, it is good to have the original RAW file to convert again and again.

Know your Metering Modes

Understanding the difference between metering modes will help improve your travel photography. Best for most situations is Evaluative Metering. This averages readings from all four corners and the centre of the viewfinder.

Partial Metering takes a reading about 14% of the centre of the viewfinder; this is useful when doing a portrait of a person who is backlit.

Spot metering takes in about a 3% area and is useful for metering smaller subjects in the frame, which would otherwise be over-exposed.

Finally, centre-weighted metering concentrates on 60-80% of the central part of the viewfinder.

Get the White Balance right

white balance seting DSLR

White balance settings will adjust the colour temperature for any given lighting situation to correctly render elements that are supposed to be white – instead of grey or some other colour.

Remember that, if you are shooting in RAW, the image on the display is for viewing purposes only and can be changed post-processing; however, if you are shooting JPEG, the white balance setting will effect the file at the point of capture. The cloudy white balance setting is great for just warming up a scene a bit.

Read your Histograms

Histogram

When reviewing images on your LCD, press the Info button to bring up your histogram. The left side of the graph indicates the shadow information and the right side the highlight information of the scene. The idea is to make an exposure that puts the graph as far over to the right of the rectangle without going over the end – if it does, it means your highlights are blown out.

When you are in very bright, sunny conditions it’s impossible to see the image on the LCD, so use the histogram to check if your exposure is correct.

Additionally, you can also use filters to enhance your pictures.

If you only had the choice of using one filter, it would have to be a Circular Polarizer. It is useful because it not only reduces unwanted reflections and glare from surfaces such as glass or water, but increases saturation in blue skies.

To get maximum polarisation, place your subject at 90 degrees to the sun. You may also want to try using Graduated Neutral Density Filters. They are great not only for contrast control, but to add drama and atmosphere to skies, by balancing the exposure of the sky so it is in-line with the foreground.

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