Modern cameras offer a wide variety of settings to modify behavior and customize to your own preferences. There are also a lot of basic settings that you choose once and forget. Did you know that there are settings you can completely ignore? I found eight.
Modern camera menu systems can be very complex. Many parameters are possible and it can be difficult to navigate. Even manufacturers can struggle to order them logically. Sony is well known for the complexity of its menus, while Canon has a more logical layout. Nikon and Fujifilm are somewhere in between.
Even if you’re used to these menus, it can be difficult to find this setting, no matter what brand of camera you’re using. Luckily, you can forget some settings, because those won’t make any difference.
For the raw photographer only
There are two types of photographers. The former shoots in JPEG file format, the latter in raw file format. The eight tweaks I listed in this article don’t matter to this one. But you must realize that if you are a JPEG photographer, these settings are very important.
You might think this article is for the raw photographer only. But I think the JPEG photographer can also benefit from this article. Just read it and find out for yourself.
1. White Balance
The color temperature setting is responsible for the correct white balance. Often there are six different presets, alongside custom setting and auto white balance.
For the raw photographer, it doesn’t matter which setting you use. White balance can be adjusted to your liking during post without degrading image quality. Even so, it can be useful to choose the best possible white balance when shooting. You may find it helpful to check the preview image on the LCD screen. If you have the wrong setting, it can be corrected.
2. Picture style
Almost all cameras offer a selection of Picture Styles or Film Simulations. These presets will give a certain look to the final image, which is basically an in-camera post-processing step. The result will always be a JPEG image. If you are using raw, the image profile or film simulation is not added to the image, but you will see it in the preview.
On some occasions, you may want to add a similar image profile to the raw file during your own post-processing. It may not be exactly the same as the profile offered by the camera manufacturer, but it can be a good starting point for your personal finishing touches.
3. Lens Correction
The perfect lens does not exist. Every lens has imperfections. It can be vignetting, aberration errors or image distortions. Cameras offer settings to correct these errors using built-in lens profiles. If the lens is recognized, some lens corrections are applied to the final image.
If you’re shooting in raw file format, these corrections are often not applied at all. You will need to enable lens correction yourself in post. Despite this, some camera manufacturers add lens corrections in the raw file itself, which cannot be disabled at all. In other words, sometimes you don’t have a choice.
4. Noise Reduction
There are two types of noise reduction. First, there’s long exposure noise reduction, which uses a dark frame to remove hot pixels and other unwanted pixel errors. The second is high ISO noise reduction.
The latter is not added to the raw file. You must use the noise reduction of your photo editing software. Whatever high ISO noise reduction you set will not affect the raw file.
5. Highlight Tone Priority
Active D-lighting, Highlight Priority, Dynamic Range Optimization. These are all names for the same thing, the dynamic range expansion visible in the image.
Using the highlight priority setting, the camera will underexpose the image to protect highlights. Before the JPEG image is output, it will brighten the darker tones, widening the dynamic range a bit.
This setting only applies to the JPEG image, not the raw image. Indeed, if you are a Nikon photographer and you use active D-lighting, the raw image will be underexposed. So turn this off because the raw photographer already has the ability to use the maximum amount of dynamic range.
6. Image Format
I love taking pictures in 4:5 format, especially in portrait mode. Most cameras offer the ability to change the aspect ratio of the image. Canon, for example, allows 2:3, 4:5, 1:1 and 16:9. If you use one of these aspect ratios, the resulting JPEG image will have these dimensions.
If you’re shooting raw, you’ll end up with the normal sensor aspect ratio no matter what you’ve chosen. After all, raw means near-untouched sensor data, and that’s what you’ll get.
Be careful, however. If you activate a crop mode, it will also affect the raw image. With this setting, sometimes only part of the sensor is used and the resulting image will have a lower resolution. Although it is often found in the same aspect ratio menu setting, it is completely different from aspect ratio.
7. Color space
A camera has the option to choose between Adobe RGB or sRGB color space. This color space is assigned to the JPEG file, not the raw file. If you open a raw file in software like Lightroom Classic, it will assign a different color space regardless of your camera setting. For Lightroom Classic, this is ProPhoto RGB.
The color space is only important for the JPEG photographer. Although Adobe RGB has a larger color space than sRGB, it may be a good idea to choose the latter. This will ensure that the colors will be displayed correctly on any device.
Some cameras have a built-in HDR function. This setting is not intended for the raw photographer, and often the setting is disabled if the camera is set to raw. It will only be active if JPEG is chosen.
If you want to use HDR, you better use exposure bracketing and combine images in post. This way you can manipulate the HDR image according to your own preferences. The in-camera HDR setting does the same, but it will output a JPEG image accordingly. There’s no way to change this look, although you can choose from a few effects in the HDR menu.
For the JPEG Photographer
If you are a JPEG photographer, for whatever reason, the eight settings mentioned in this article are important to you. Use them to your advantage and choose wisely.
Do you know of any other camera settings that are not important to the raw photographer? Please share in the comments below.