Camera Settings Cheat Sheet

Our class uses the following two cameras: Canon PowerShot A2500 and Canon Powershot ELPH135. They are almost identical models, so you will be able to adjust the key features the same way on each camera. This page shows how to adjust the settings you will use most frequently in this class. It also contains links to the actual camera manuals.

Deactivating Features that will lower the quality of your photographs

Deactivating the Flash

Flash is a great tool for professional photographers. Unfortunately, the built-in flash that comes with our point-and-shoot cameras is not very good, and tends to create too much contrast. For best results, turn off the flash and look for situations with great natural light.


Deactivating Digital Zoom

Our cameras feature both an optical zoom and a digital zoom. The optical zoom is a “true zoom,” and allows us to get closer to our subject. The digital zoom merely crops the photo, which is something you can do better in Photoshop. Turn off the digital zoom so you don’t accidentally confuse the two while shooting.


One Step Beyond: Manually choosing settings to gain more control

Setting ISO

ISO is the level of sensitivity of your camera to available light. The lower the ISO number, the less sensitive it is to the light, while a higher ISO number increases the sensitivity of your camera. Lower ISO numbers (100-200) work better in bright lighting, and higher ISO numbers (800) work better in dim lighting. When there is plenty of light, you should always use the lowest ISO. Lower ISO numbers retain the most detail and to have the highest image quality. More sensitivity comes at the cost though, as the ISO increases, so does the grain/noise in the images. Examples of ISO: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600.


Adjusting Exposure

Shutter speed, also known as “exposure time”, stands for the length of time a camera shutter is open to expose light into the camera sensor.  Shutter speeds are typically measured in fractions of a second. Slow shutter speeds allow more light into the camera sensor and are used for low-light and night photography.  Slow shutter speeds create an effect called “motion blur”, where moving objects appear blurred along the direction of the motion. Fast shutter speeds help to freeze action completely. Examples of shutter speeds: 1/15 (1/15th of a second), 1/30, 1/60, 1/125.


Selecting Shooting Mode (in an attempt to control depth of field)

One of the greatest advantages of a DSLR over a point-and-shoot is the ability to manually control depth of field with aperture. Depth of field is the portion of a scene that appears to be sharp.

Aperture is a hole within a lens, through which light travels into the camera body. The larger the hole, the more light passes to the camera sensor. Aperture also controls the depth of field, which is the portion of a scene that appears to be sharp. If the aperture is very small, the depth of field is large, while if the aperture is large, the depth of field is small. aperture either adds a dimension to a photograph by blurring the background, or magically brings everything in focus. In photography, aperture is typically expressed in “f” numbers (also known as “focal ratio”, since the f-number is the ratio of the diameter of the lens aperture to the length of the lens). Examples of f-numbers are: f/1.4, f/2.0, f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.6, f/8.0.

While we can’t set specifics f-stops on these cameras, we can select the appropriate shooting mode to create our intended depth of field. To create a shallow depth of field (in focus subject and a blurry background), set your camera to portrait mode. The camera will choose wide open apertures to render the background blurred and make the subject stand out. To create a large depth of field (you would like the entire scene from foreground to background to be in focus), set your camera to landscape mode. The camera will choose narrow apertures to render the complete scene in focus.



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