Know Your Camera
Part 1: Auto and Manual Settings

Shooting video is easy, just point and shoot, right? But cameras are jam packed with features that are there for one reason, making your pictures and videos better. There’s nothing wrong with auto mode, in fact in a lot of situations it works. But hidden deep inside most cameras are manual settings that can help take your videos to the next level. This 5 part series Manual Settings will go over the basics, but first:

Why use auto mode?

  • You don’t have much time. Life happens quickly and sometimes you’ll miss the shot if you sit around trying to fumble through all those settings.
  • Automatic settings are a good starting point. Before I set my exposure and focus I often slip the camera into auto mode. From there I switch to manual mode and make the necessary adjustments.
  • Each camera has a unique interface to access these features and learning this interface can take time. If you can use a computer or smartphone odds are you can navigate your camera’s interface.
  • You are beginner.
  • You just don’t care about your camera’s advanced features.

Why use manual settings?

  • You have time to prepare before you shoot.
  • Sometimes auto mode just doesn’t work.
  • Your camera might focus on something you don’t want it to.
  • Part of your picture might be too bright.
  • Part of your picture might be too dark.
  • Auto settings can change in the middle of a recording when you don’t want them too.

Not everyone is obsessed with videography. Regardless knowing the functions of a camera is useful for everyone on a production set, from the lone vlogger broadcasting to their local PTA to the most experienced producer creating action packed Hollywood hits, the more you know the better you will feel.

Here are some of the basic options most consumer cameras and camcorders come with.
This list is by no means exhaustive, and depending on your camera you may or may not have access to these manual controls. Click on the links below to go to these sections (note that these links will become available once the next parts are released).

Part 2:

– Gain or ISO
– Aperture
– Exposure

See Part 2.

Part 3:

– Focus and Zoom

Part 4:

– Frame Rate
– Resolution

Part 5:

– Color, Contrast, and Picture Styles
– White Balance



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"I am a videographer, still photographer and musician. In addition to working in the independent film world, I enjoy playing with computer software and keeping abreast on the latest video production technology."