Light and airy camera menu settings

It’s bring your camera to work day and that means I’ve got my camera sitting on top of my work table right next to my chai latte. You know, priorities.

You’ve probably heard people say that your camera takes great photos and realized that it actually has nothing to do with your camera and everything to do with you. I mean, that’s true. Knowing how to use your camera goes a long way. But if you know what you’re doing and you pair that with the right camera? Well, the possibilities are nearly endless.

bright and airy camera settings

Cameras still have a long way to go and computers have an even further way to go since we are only seeing about 70% of the color that our camera has the ability to capture. Isn’t that crazy? We are losing 30% of data when we transfer images to our high tech computers.

Even with that color loss, there are things that you’ve got to set up correctly on your camera or your camera will struggle to keep up with your vision for your photos.

Related Post: How to create double exposure

Light and airy camera settings

I’m going to break this down into basic camera settings — raw, manual, kelvin — and more advanced settings — highlight tone priority, size of RAW file, etc. 

I remember when I unpacked my first (really great) DSLR way back in 2012. I was in college at the time and I knew a thing or two about what kind of image I wanted — okay, I only knew that I wanted the blur. And no, I didn’t know what “bokeh” meant.

I knew to shoot in RAW and shoot in manual, but I didn’t know that white balance could be precise or that you could adjust your tint or that the size of your RAW file make an impact when editing. So here we go!

Basic bright and airy camera settings

Step 1: Shoot in RAW

I’ve talked a lot about this all over the blog, but if you’re not shooting in RAW just yet, switch over! Don’t wait anymore. Don’t let fear hold you back. It’s as easy as a quick google search to find your camera model and learn where you can switch that setting. RAW is going to include so much more detail in your image!

Step 2: Shoot in Manual

Flip that camera dial over to “M” and shoot in manual all day long! When you’re first getting started, you’ll want to practice on your own time. Set up shoots with friends and family and let them know that you’re trying something new. 

If you want to learn to shoot in manual, I’ll teach you how in 30 minutes with this free PDF.

If you want to read a whole blog post on taking brighter photos, this post is for you!

Step 3: Shoot in Kelvin

Kelvin is basically manual white balance. White balance is just how blue or warm your photo is and getting this close in camera will let you see how clean your lighting is or if there are color reflections that will create a problem for you in post.

Step 4: Beep

You know that little beep that sounds off when you take a photo?

If you’re shooting weddings or an event where you need to turn on ninja mode and not let everyone know when you’re taking a photo, turn off the beep.

Well actually you should go ahead and switch that beep off permanently. I’m convinced that’s only a feature that’s enabled so you know that your camera is working when you first pull it out of the box.

Step 5: Image Review

You take the photo and it shows up on the back of your camera and it reminds you that you’re totally nailing your manual game. But it’s also totally distracting if you’re shooting weddings or just need to stay in the moment.

So I just leave “image review” switched off. It helps me to stay focused on the shoot and keeps me present. Learning to become present while shooting was one of my favorite things about shooting film! And yes, it’s true — I don’t shoot film anymore because of the Brittley Preset Suite!

airy photography camera settings

Advanced bright and airy camera settings

Step 1: Release shutter without card

So this isn’t totally necessary, but it’s so helpful to me when I’m shooting! Sometimes I’m trying to get my lighting down while Isaac is getting a new card for me. Life of a photographer, right? Keeping this feature turned “ON” let’s me nail down my lighting while he pulls out a new memory card.

It comes in handy if you’re ever crunched for time. But little tip: just make sure that if you’re taking everyday photos and keeping that camera in your purse that you have an extra memory card in there, too. It’s easy to pop the memory card out, load images onto your computer and forget to put it back in!

Tip 2: Turn on lens aberration correction

That blue, green, purple and pink “aberration” you get around the trees in your photos? You can’t totally eliminate it, but you can minimize it by turning on this feature!

Tip 3: Use picture styles

I am going to do a full tutorial on this, but I like creating my own “User Def” styles under “Picture Style.” This let’s me set the sharpness, contrast, saturation, and color tone in-camera. Keep in mind that “sharpness” isn’t referring to how well your lens and camera are working together. It has to do with what’s being added or taken away from your image when the camera processes the image.

In professional video, you shoot in something called “log.” It looks so ugly right out of camera. It’s boring, has no sharpness or contrast and that actually allows the editor to have full control over the colors and look of the video in post.

The same is true when you’re taking photos. I like to pull the sharpness and contrast all the way down so that I have full control over the image in post.

Related Post: iPhone photography tips for creatives

Tip 4: Turn on highlight tone priority

Yes, you can get a similar result by slightly underexposing your image in-camera, but what about those times when you need to dial in your manual settings fast and you don’t have enough time to get it 100 percent accurate?

Highlight tone priority. This feature will help you out if you overexpose part of your image by reserving some of the details. You can accomplish something very similar by shooting in RAW, but I’ve found that by doing both of these, I can really handle those highlights in-camera and in post!

Tip 5: Know when to use HDR mode

Do not keep this mode turned on! If you enable HDR on your camera (not every camera has this capability), then you’ll want to make sure to switch it off when you’re finished using this technique or you’ll fill up your camera really fast and it will be a pain to filter through all of the images.

If you’re going to shoot HDR, set it to take 3 images and here’s what will happen…

You’ll press the shutter down all the way and hear your camera take 3 images back to back. Your camera will then have 4 images from the 3 it just took. Let’s call your manual settings (ISO, shutter speed, and aperture) your starting point.

So the camera just took your starting point image, an image that was slightly underexposed from your starting point, an image that was slightly overexposed from your starting point, and then it compiled all of those images together to create your HDR image. You just took your first high dynamic range image. 

It’s the thing that DSLRs are still behind on and that’s why so many photographers have switched to film. We’re getting there, the Brittley Preset Suite definitely handles the editing part of this issue, but there’s a lot of work to be done with image processing in general for us to get the HDR we are looking for.

You will probably want to use a tripod or monopod. But this is a great way to take images when you’re shooting an area that is very bright and an area that is very dark — landscapes, out a window, the night sky with a tent in the foreground, etc.

Tip 6: Customize your file name

Dial over to “file name” and customize your filenames. Instead of importing images onto your computer that say “IMG_”, you can customize the name to reflect your brand. This is helpful for a lot of reasons, but I like the personal touch.

I’ve set my filenames to read “JB__” 

On the Canon 5D Mark III, you have to have 4 characters, so I just added an extra “_”

Tip 7: LCD brightness

Have you ever been on a shoot and you just can’t tell if you’re using the right exposure because you can hardly see your camera screen? Been there!

You can actually switch off the auto LCD brightness and handle your screen the same way you would an iPhone (minus the touch screen). You’ll want to keep a mental note of where this setting is and dial it down if you switch from inside to out or outside to in. An overly bright LCD can be really distracting to guests, so keep that in mind when you change this setting! 

light and airy camera settings


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I hope these tips help you take full control over your camera! There’s so much these DSLRs are capable of.

What are your favorite ways to customize your camera? I’d love to hear below in the comment section!