Understanding the creative aspect of lens aperture
We all learn in Photography 101 that the aperture setting is a physical property of the lens, and you can vary its size to control the amount of light entering your camera. Usually, we think of aperture as it relates to the rules of exposure.
Back when I was shooting film and early digital cameras, it was considered ideal to have a “fast” lens (meaning one with an aperture of f/2.8 or wider). Why? because with limited ISO options (remember film rarely was faster than ISO 800 and early DSLRs got noisy in a hurry above ISO 400), a fast lens meant you could shoot hand-held in dim conditions without a flash.
Today, ISO no longer limits most photographers. Sure, images are still cleaner and have greater dynamic range at a camera’s base ISO, but you can shoot above ISO 6400 these days pretty much with impunity. That means you have much more creative latitude to choose the aesthetic of your shots by varying the lens aperture.
I’m working on a revision to my Z9 eBook to include the newly released Nikon Z8. The two cameras share the same autofocus system, and new Z8 owners can start reading about it by getting my Z9 book. The Z8 version will be a FREE upgrade to all existing eBook owners.
What’s New in the Second Edition
I’ve fully updated the printable PDF guide to include new features in Z9 firmware 2.1, including:
Wide-area Custom AF
Recall shooting settings (hold)
Focus point selection speed
High FPS viewfinder display
I completely revised my custom settings to incorporate the new features in the Z9 and my most recent control configurations for both BBF and Shutter AF
Coming Soon: Firmware 3 (Z9) and Z8 updates
There are a few tweaks I’ve made to my Z9 settings after the release of firmware version 3, and those will be in the updated edition, along with settings for Nikon Z8 owners.
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→