Some camera settings just don’t matter if you shoot in raw format
I see a lot of the same questions over and over on the online discussion groups. You’ve just gotten a new DSLR and you want to set it up. There are so many customizations in today’s digital cameras, so you want to do it right. As it turns out, many settings that are applied in-camera will have no meaning if you capture in RAW format and use a 3rd-party raw converter (Lightroom, Capture One, Luminar, Photos) to edit your images.
How do I set up my in-camera settings? I get asked this question a lot. Most modern DSLR cameras offer a tremendous number of options for image quality and other settings that go beyond film, when all that mattered was setting the appropriate exposure.
Camera settings come in several categories, but here are the major ones:
Exposure (shutter speed, aperture, ISO)
White balance (color temperature)
Processing settings (color, contrast, sharpness)
Noise reduction settings
Other corrections (lens distortion, vignette removal, etc.)
Each of these settings offers the photographer control over the final image, so it’s easy to see how they can quickly become overwhelming. But here’s the deal. Unless you shoot JPEG or use your manufacturer’s raw conversion software (eg, Nikon Capture NX or Canon DPP), most of these settings are utterly meaningless.
This photograph of a blue grosbeak illustrates just how far camera technology has come in the eight years since I first traveled to the private birding blinds of South Texas. Back then, I was using a Nikon D2x and 200-400mm f/4 zoom lens. I got plenty of good images, but my keeper rate was fairly low, especially as light faded. I also didn’t seem to get the sharpest shots at times and I couldn’t really figure out why, as some shots were tack-sharp. Was it the camera? The lens? Or was it something else about my technique? Continue reading Set up your camera for great bird photos→