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Default Camera Settings for Photography

Default Camera Settings

There is no "one size fits all" combination of camera settings that is right for all equipment and/or circumstances on safari, and it's important to make adjustments based on lighting, subject matter, etc. whenever you are at a new sighting. But it helps to start with default settings that are at least quite close, and that will just need some minor tweaks to cover most situations. Below are the default "Quick Control" settings that Pierre used as a starting point on his most recent safari (using a Canon 7D).


Shooting Mode AV (Aperture Priority) Allows me to control depth of field, and is quick and intuitive to work with. Most Africa-based professionals that I have met over the years use Av
Shutter Speed Automatic Is set automatically based on one's chosen aperture and ISO speed. Try to keep it 1/focal length of lens (e.g., for 300mm lens, shutter speed should be 1/300 or faster)
Aperture 5.0 (5.6 if this is the largest aperture available) Choose a value based on subject, available light, and desired depth of field. I find that 5.0 to 5.6 works well for most wildlife close-ups in decent light
ISO Speed 200 Works well in most conditions of decent light, but I will not hesitate to go as high as 800 to keep shutter speed fast enough
Exposure Compensation Rarely Used In most instances, Center-Weighted Average metering produces good exposure results; if histogram readings show mild under or over exposure problems, Exposure Compensation can be used to correct them
Flash Exposure Compensation N/A I didn't take a flash on this safari
AF Area Selection Single Point AF Provides pin-point control over which portions of the image are in focus
Picture Style Neutral Minimizes in-camera image enhancement which is desirable because I edit manually in Lightroom. If you will not be using software for editing, consider the Landscape setting, which enhances sharpness
White Balance Automatic (AWB) Previously, I would manually set WB for each new situation, but one can end up with badly skewed results if you don't remember to change this setting at each new sighting. The automatic setting does a good job in most circumstances, and I can make minor corrections in post editing
Metering Mode Center - Weighted Average Works very well for most wildlife applications. Consult the hsitogram periodically, and use Exposure Compensation if necessary
Image Recording Quality Raw Provides maximum flexibility for image editing software. If you don't plan to do such editing, go with Large JPEG
AF Mode AI Servo This is not the recommended setting for most photographers because it is needlessly complicated for most safari photography (see article in previous edition). Recommended setting is One Shot
Drive Mode High Speed Continuous Having several versions of the same shot maximizes the odds of having one that "captures" the subject and is perfectly in focus


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