Camera Settings for Butterfly Photography

larry_geneJanuary 1, 2013

This forum article is by member bob_71.

One of the finest pieces of marketing, ever, has been the coining of the phrase "Point-and-Shoot" camera. In three simple words it promises the ease of operation of an old Kodak Brownie and that you will be able to produce National Geographic quality photographs.

Few of us ever produce pictures of such high quality...but we could! The new digital cameras have capabilities beyond our imagination! Unfortunately, the operator's manuals are written by the brilliant young engineers who have grown up with the technology and the language that surrounds it. They fail to understand that many buyers of cameras received their education somewhere around the middle of the last century...many (most?) of the terms in the manual did not even exist at that time. The language discourages these readers so the manual gets lightly scanned, or ignored. When this happens, the camera is used poorly and often with the wrong settings. This mini-tutorial is my attempt at simplifying the language while suggesting the "tweaks" that I use to customize my camera. My goal is to be able to walk outside, observe the weather conditions, make one setting adjustment to compensate for the existing weather and then to "point-and-shoot" all day with reasonable expectations of high quality photos.

The camera manufacturer has to produce a camera that is set up to take average pictures in almost any area, but it is NOT set up to take OUTSTANDING pictures of anything. Whether the customer will be using it for architecture, landscapes, sports, portraits, or for butterflies, many settings will have to be adjusted for that purpose. When all the settings are correctly tweaked, the digital camera becomes capable of coping with the special requirements in a simple and straight-forward manner.

There are two settings that are paramount in achieving quality, regardless of the subject matter.

The first of these, and the most critical, is usually referred to as the IMAGE RECORDING QUALITY. In my opinion, it is a setting of the past that has outlived its time. When digital cameras first came out, storage capacity (same as number of shots on a roll of film) was quite low. For example, the memory space within your camera might allow only 25 high-quality pictures before running out. To boost that, they added software that would allow you to increase up to a hundred the number of shots that your camera could store. The trade-off was that in order to do so, they had to reduce the size of the file for each picture that, in turn, reduced the quality drastically. You ended up with 100 lousy pictures. The high quality that your camera (and you) had shot is gone can not get it back!

Whether you shoot landscapes or butterflies...this one is a no-brainer: Select the option for the HIGHEST QUALITY SETTING available. Set it now and never, ever change it, regardless of what you are shooting.

The second setting actually occurs within your...

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