As a beginner, you might think that you just have to pick up your camera, point it, and shoot it. This might work, sometimes. But, if you take a few simple steps to prepare your camera before you take any cat photos, you will have a better chance of capturing a thrilling shot, or a happy memory, a lot sooner.
These camera adjustments are not earth shakingly vital BUT but they will let your camera help you the way the manufacturers want it to.
Setting up your camera
This advice applies to all kinds of cameras not just the high end expensive models, and a little bit of time adjusting your tools and settings before you take pictures means you will spend less time rescuing a photo in Photoshop Elements, GIMP or Affinity Photo.
- Changing settings is not hard to do. The more you use the camera the more you build your own confidence.
To find your settings, or navigate to them, check your manual, or a tutorial video for your brand of camera. A lot of keen enthusiasts have created fantastic and informative help videos on YouTube just for you to watch. The more you can use the basic settings of your camera, the better your cat photos will be every time.
Start With Automatic Mode
Photographers might be horrified, or even cry, because I recommend ‘Auto’/’Automatic’ but there is a reason I suggest it.
If, as an inexperienced snapper, your mind freezes in a panic when you are taking photos, auto is a life saver. As long as the light is reasonable, the automatic mode means you might get the photograph you want. This is what matters – don’t worry about the judgement of others – if you got the shot you win.
Practice is Key. You can’t damage your camera by trying out all the options, variations and settings.Tom Ang – New Zealand-based Photographer
Set Your Camera’s Date and Time
Of course, you are going to remember the day, date and time of every cat photograph in your photo library, aren’t you? If you are like me, I don’t think so. Find your camera’s settings and set it with today’s date and time.
Look for a setting like Date/Time, Setup, Settings or Tools. The adjustment isn’t a huge one but it is a helpful one. You will find your camera stores this and any adjustments you make in an attached file known as the ‘Exif file’. You can often find this file with a right-click.
- EXIF DATA: Exchangeable image file format is a standard that specifies the formats for images, sound, and ancillary tags used by digital cameras (including smartphones), and other systems handling image and sound files recorded by digital cameras. Wikipedia
Know Your Shooting Modes
You may be familiar with names like Landscape, Portrait, Sport, and Close-ups or know their icons (see the photo below). Knowing this dial can speed up adjustments if you are short on time. TIP: the speeding athlete is all you need for a fast cat photo!
- Click to Sport for action shots or,
- turn the dial to Portrait to experiment with closer pictures.
- DLSR users can try Av mode (A in a Nikon)
- When all else fails try ‘Auto‘ or you feel stressed – switch on Auto and get a photo. You will have something, not just an ‘I wish’ feeling of frustration.
What Do These Modes DO?
New camera users have to build up their knowledge in small steps, and friendly names like Landscape are a simple way of describing a collection of pre-set adjustments bundled together. Each mode will make different changes to your own camera’s ISO, aperture and resolution.
Why create the modes? Well, most people would be using those settings anyway and the modes are time-saving shortcuts. You might use Portrait mode for a human photograph with a specific set of adjustments that take into account things like skin tone and disable the flash. I use Aperture Priority when I struggle to find a setting at the cat cafe where busy cats move around and the light is variable.
Compact cameras and Smartphones are beginning to adopt an increasingly large range of mode options as well. Don’t believe me? Check out this breathtaking Samsung Smartphone options list! Many modern smartphones have up to four different lenses (but that’s another post) and these all impact on what your phone can do, so explore – don’t just point and shoot.
- Camera RAW was a DSLR option, now you will find smartphone apps that let you shoot with it.
Change A Camera’s White Balance With Confidence
I wrote about white balance previously. It can make a difference to your photos, especially those taken indoors. So it is worth testing to see if it makes a difference to your photos.
White balance lets you adjust your settings to avoid a cat looking an unpleasant shade of orange or blue under indoor light. Most cameras can be left in AWB mode for day-to-day use but knowing how to adjust your white balance allows you to move quickly to take an indoor shot that works.
Your camera may have a white balance button or it may be part of a menu or both. You may see words like tungsten when you are adjusting your light for indoors.
Know How to Download Your Photographs
This might sound obvious but sometimes life gets in the way and photos can be left on a storage disk or in your phone for too long. Download your photos regularly to a computer or to a cloud backup. PLEASE! Devices and memory cards go wrong, or worse, get stolen. Backing u photos is not hard so try to back up as often as you can. Set a reminder on your phone or HomePod/Alexa to prompt you.
When I first got my DSLR camera I was not sure how to download my photographs. I downloaded them using a cable until someone told me that I could take the memory card out of my camera and slide it in the back of my computer instead. I had not realised this! I could then download images in the special camera card slot in less time, which meant I backed up more often.
The lesson you can learn from me? Work smart and know how to download your photos either via a cable, card slot, or a wi-fi option if your camera has one. Keep your download cable in a safe place (this means somewhere your cat(s) can’t find it and borrow it.
Download with Wi-Fi/Bluetooth – Airdrop or Nearby Share.
The wi-fi or bluetooth option is very popular on smartphones and some tablets. Look for either AirDrop (iOS) or Nearby Share (Android). When you send your images via wifi you should get the option (or an app will help) you. Make sure you are sat in front of your computer and point your phone straight at it.
….. reading a manual—all of it—can be one of the most effective ways to improve your photographic output. While a good camera will not compensate for mediocre photography skills, the best photographers will be limited by an inability to use their equipment properly and quickly.Tutsplus
I hope these simple first steps will help you to take better cat photos from the start. Dates matter, light matters, and having an idea which mode might work when you are unsure of the settings to use. Knowing a little bit more can make ytaking cat photos a lot more fun and a lot more successful.
Now have YOU got the date set on your camera?
- Resolution – I recommend Picture Correct’s ‘Setting the Image Size‘ for clear insights into adjusting image sizes. When you prepare your camera image sizes affect how many pictures you can take.
- Photo Genius has a video in image settings. While it is DSLR focused, Paul explains things in easy to understand detail and I recommend his channel. I am a fan of this Brisbane-based photographer.
- Resolution can quickly become a minefield of highly confusing tech speak so I recommend this article by Photography Life. It advises you on what you can use and what to avoid.
- What is AirDrop – Apple ‘Make sure that the person you’re sending to is nearby and within Bluetooth and Wi-Fi range.’
- What is Nearby Share – Android “Nearby Share is a service to send and receive files between Android devices located at proximity. The sender and receiver should be in the same room. “
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