Beginner Tutorial 6
The manufacturer’s default settings mean your camera is ready to go, however there are a couple of things to consider. Modern digital models offer a choice of shape for your photos and it is a good idea to be aware of the basic shooting control options, and how the intelligent full auto mode works.
Setting up your camera for first use
Excited about your new camera and keen to get started taking great pictures, you may be faced with a number of unfamiliar options and menus… so, how to set things for your first shoot?
The manufacturer’s settings will allow the camera to be used straight away – however, a little time spent setting things to suit your particular requirements will help you achieve the results you want.
Let’s look at some of the basics and get you quickly on your way. The settings included here are common to all LUMIX G cameras, but other brands feature similar options, with varied menus / graphics.
With a charged battery installed, when first switched on, your camera will prompt you to set the date and time. This is important, as your photos will all be date logged automatically and you will find this useful for reference later.
Camera setup menu options
Press the ‘Menu’ button and examine the setup options:
- Still Picture Record
- Motion Video Record
- Custom setup
- Standard setup
- Playback setup
In this tutorial – using the LUMIX G6 for illustration – we are concentrating on ‘Still Picture Record’ (highlighted).
Still picture record menu
Its first setting on page one is ‘Photo Style’, which we will return to another time – for now, leave it set to STD (Standard).
Use the matrix control ring with your thumb to navigate around menus by pressing the edge of the ring up, down, left or right and press the ‘Set’ button in the centre to access each option.
The setting that first needs explaining – as you may want to set it for your first shots – Aspect Ratio.
Aspect Ratio setup options
The aspect ratio setting dictates the height and width of your photo. The options offered each create an image of different shape and pixel count. The four most common ratios are:
Choose your Aspect depending on which would best suit your intended composition and how the image will be viewed.
To help you decide let’s take a look at each one in turn.
Images with a 4:3 ratio are four units wide to three tall – the shape of an old-style TV screen. This is also the same as the sensor in a Four Thirds or Micro Four Thirds system camera, meaning the maximum number of pixels is used to create an image.
- Maximum resolution by using the entire sensor.
- Creates pictures with good height and width.
- Ideal for most Digital Photo Frames.
- Does not display full-screen on a widescreen TV / monitor.
- Not ideal for printing – some cropping will occur.
This is the same ratio as 35mm film; it is especially good for printing due to available photographic paper sizes, including the most popular 6×4 print format. You could argue that composition is easier, too, due to people’s familiarity with this photographic ratio:
- Familiar shape, easy composition.
- Perfect for printing using 6×4 format paper.
- Pixel count reduced slightly, with less height in images.
The same aspect ratio as a widescreen TV. LUMIX G cameras offer the 16:9 ‘Picture Size’ setting for HDTV recording, creating 1920×1080 images – the same number of pixels that make up a high-definition screen. This makes it perfect for displaying an HD slide show on your TV:
- Great setting for wide composition.
- Perfect for landscape photos on HD TV or widescreen digital photo frames.
- Makes impressive portrait images of tall structures.
- Pixel count reduced, with less height in images.
- Portrait images look very skinny viewed on TV.
- Special wide-aspect photo paper required for printing.
Perfectly square images; the full pixel height of the sensor is used, but the width is cropped. This ratio is used for special creative prints or photo frames:
- Ideal for creative printing – on canvas, mugs, T-shirts etc.
- Good for uploading to websites, for thumbnails or avatars.
- Reduces pixel count by up to a quarter.
- Not suitable for printing on regular print paper – large amount of cropping.
Flexibility in the shape of your photographs is another great advantage of digital cameras. And not only can you choose a shape before you take the shot, you can also preview it in the live viewfinder or on-screen, giving you a lot of freedom in your composition.
All other settings in the menu will be factory set and there is no need at this stage to make any changes. We will look at some of the other settings in later tutorials.
Basic shooting control options
Before you can begin shooting, however, there is one control to set that is not accessed through the menu. This is the ‘Shooting mode’ and it is selected via the dial or control ring on the top of the camera.
Here you have two options: Point and Shoot, which is fully automatic; or Programme Exposure mode – essentially auto with options.
- Shooting Dial Mode
- Power On/Off
- Intelligent Auto Button – engages ‘Full Auto’ Shooting Mode
Point and Shoot (iA mode)
Most cameras offer an intelligent automatic mode that handles the settings, so you can get your shot without fuss. It is literally Point and Shoot, with the camera taking care of focus and exposure by recognising a number of common shooting scenarios – so landscapes, people or flowers for example, trigger selected pre-set exposure settings.
All you have to do is aim and press the shutter button. This mode is sometimes found on the control dial, or it may have a dedicated button (as in the case of our featured LUMIX model).
Programme exposure mode
You will set the mode dial to ‘P’ once you feel confident to take more control of your camera. It will still work out the ideal exposure, changing aperture, shutter speed and ISO accordingly, but it will give you the flexibility to override the pre-sets through a method called ‘Program Shift’, as required.
Engaging this mode also gives you access to all the other settings on the camera, some of which are not available in fully automatic mode.
So, there you have it. Make your basic settings and then you are ready to start enjoying a whole new world of photography.
The LUMIX Advantage
All LUMIX G cameras offer iA (Intelligent Auto) as a quick and simple way to begin taking photos. iA has a number of shooting scenarios ready-programmed, enabling the camera to automatically change settings accordingly.
For instance, when shooting scenery, it will set a narrow aperture, ensuring the maximum amount of the scene is in focus. It will also emphasise the green and blue of grass and sky by resetting its colour balance.
When photographing people, it uses face recognition to concentrate focus and contrast for faces. And it can recognise when you are shooting close-ups, switching to macro mode with a wide-open aperture and fast shutter speed.
These are just a small example of the permutations it has in its memory ensuring that if you are not yet confident enough to set the camera manually, it takes away the worry and just makes sure you get the shot.
Try taking a few shots with the same subject, but different aspect ratio settings. View the results later on a TV and compare the difference it makes to your composition. Also, vary your subjects widely to see the range of intelligent fully automatic settings at work.
Not sure what something means? Read our glossary