5 Rarely Used Camera Settings

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Lets talk about camera settings. The ones that are rarely used and are nestled down, hidden in your camera’s menu. Unless you read your manual from cover to cover or had someone tell you about these functions, then you may not know about them. I actually use these functions quite often, if not all the time. Lets take a closer look at these items.

Back Button Focusing

By default, most DSLR cameras set the focus by pushing the shutter button down half way. Back button focusing (BBF) is simply designating a button on the back of your camera for focus. By doing this, your index finger is the shutter button and your thumb becomes the focus button (see below).

On my Canon, I set the focus to be the AF-ON button. This allows freedom and versatility with focusing. With BBF, you set your focus and it remains the same until you actually change it again. If the focus is designated to the shutter button, the camera resets its focus each time you take a picture.

Camera Settings: Back button Focusing

Camera Settings: Back button Focusing

DOF Preview

This is a fun one that I use a lot for macro photography. There is a little button on the front of your camera that previews your depth of field with your current camera settings. When the button is pressed, the lens stops down to the aperture that you have set. This way you can “see” what the final image will look like through the viewfinder. It works best during daylight hours as it darkens the scene through the viewfinder when the button is depressed.

Camera Settings: DOF Preview

Camera Settings: DOF Preview


Histogram Blinkies

I turned this feature on the moment I purchased my camera. In Canon its the “Highlight Warning” menu item in your settings. This feature is rather helpful in determining if you are clipping your highlights and overexposing parts of your image. After you take an image, the preview on the back of the camera blinks in the areas that are being clipped. In the following photo, the black areas in the clouds and boat are blown out. You may need to make exposure adjustments depending on what is blinking and your camera’s recovery capabilities.

Camera Settings: Blinkies to determine over exposure

Camera Settings: Blinkies to determine over exposure

Two Second Timer

This is a good trick to use if you don’t have a remote shutter release or are just too lazy to get it out of your camera bag. Set your camera to the two second timer; this means that there is a two second delay after you push the shutter button until the exposure is made. This helps eliminate camera shake caused from pushing the button or touching the camera with your hands. You can also use it to photograph yourself such as in the following image. Set the camera’s time to two or ten seconds. Then run into your shot. Obviously, you must use a tripod so make sure it’s secure before you start running back and forth like crazy.

Bulb Mode

Speaking of a cable release, you need one of those to be able to use this feature. Bulb mode is for shutter speeds longer than 30 seconds. This can be used for star trails or if you are using a really dark ND filter. I use bulb mode often with my 6-stop Neutral Density filter during sunset or sunrise. Think of creative ways it can be used with light painting as well. Shooting fireworks, lightning, and light trails also comes to mind. The below image was 1 minute 45 seconds long using the bulb mode to get the streaking clouds.

Do you have any examples of any of these techniques? If so feel free to share them with our viewers in the comments below.

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About Author Lace Andersen

Lace Andersen is a Kauai-based landscape photographer. She grew up in the farm town of Templeton, California and majored in Graphic Communications. She started taking basic photography classes in 2008, and discovered her passion to create and be outdoors. The major turning point in her life was April 2012 during a family vacation to Kauai. She decided to rent her own car and spend the entire week photographing the island from sunrise to sunset. It was a life changing experience. Kauai either accepts you or spits you back out. Lace was lucky to be accepted by the island and relocated immediately. She has built an award winning portfolio over the past four years and has been published numerous times. When she doesn’t have a camera in hand, you can find her hiking with friends, camping, and playing ultimate frisbee.