5 Things you probably didn’t know about your DSLR

IMG_1338-2When you start photography, you learn a lot of features in the initial phase of learning. About shutter speed, aperture, ISO, White balance etc. Then all of a sudden, the learning stops or slows down. Why so? The reason is, after a certain level of understanding, most of the amateurs tend more towards just framing. But there are some features which remain unlearned by many amateurs. This post discusses the powerful but less used features of a DSLR.

5 Things you probably didn’t know about your DSLR

I will be discussing the importance and usability of the features in this post, not how to enable and use these in your camera. Because there are different ways of using them in different camera brands. Please refer to your camera manual for detailed steps of using them.

1. Back Button Focusing

Back button focusing is one of the most wonderful features. As we all know, the camera focuses on the subject when the shutter is pressed half way down. And when the shutter is pressed in full, it takes the shot. Enabling back button focusing makes it so that shutter button doesn’t control the focusing at all. Instead it assigns a dedicated button for focusing. And then, the shutter button is just for clicking. This is really useful when you have to take a lot of shots, but you know the focus is not going to change for every shot. With Back Button Focusing, you can set the focus once and take many shots as you want without refocusing again and again. An another useful example is when you focused anything and you are about to take the shot. Something suddenly comes between the camera and the subject. At that moment, the camera changes the focus. But if you are using the Back button focusing, no matter what happens, the focus remains fixed until or unless you want it to change.

2. Exposure Lock

Exposure lock, if used properly, it can save a lot of time and give good results. It does exactly what it says. It reads the exposure from one frame and locks the exposure. And you use that locked exposure reading to click the picture of any other frame. This feature is useful when the area you are trying to capture has a dynamic range, and the light meter is easily confused. Consider the following example.


The image on the left is without exposure lock. It overexposed the highlights and showed some shadow details. But I didn’t want the shadow details. I wanted the details in highlights. So I took the camera outside, locked the exposure and then moved back inside. Then I took the shot. In that process, the camera used the exposure reading of the highlight area. ( the similar result is quite possible by using spot metering in this example. But this is just an example. Exposure lock and spot metering are different things. You can achieve many different results which you can’t by spot metering)

3. Custom White Balance

Setting up White balance is one of the important decisions we have to make while taking a photograph. The entire look and feel of the photo depend upon that. Many of us still use the AWB (Auto white balance). Before moving to custom white balance, let me tell you, stop using AWB. It is just crap. You should try other white balance options like Shade or tungsten with some test shots and see how that affects the picture. You’ll get far better results than AWB .
Custom white balance is one of the custom options in your camera. With a little practice, if used correctly, custom white balance can give you brilliant results. Simple words of defining Custom White Balance is, It lets you capture the colors the way they look to you in reality. You know the camera is not intelligent enough, it neutralises the colors. The colors you look in reality, AWB gets you something different in the picture. For setting up a custom white balance, you will be needing a calibrator for this, a gray card (or a white paper will do, but a gray card will get you more precise results). Now, most of you will say that we can adjust white balance and color correct the picture while post processing. But the question is, how will you remember the colors of the subject later.
Following example shows the difference between an auto white balance and custom white balance


4. DOF (Depth of field) Preview

Depth of field is a common term to a photographer. It is the amount of distance between the nearest and farthest objects that appear in acceptably sharp focus in a photograph. Unfortunately, we cannot directly see the depth of field before taking the shot. That is where the DOF Preview comes into action. In almost every modern DSLR, we have a DOF Preview button. For many amateur photographers, this button does nothing but making viewfinder dark. But there is more on that. When you press the button, you will see a preview of areas in focus and areas out of focus. It saves time, because when you care about DOF in a picture. You can see the preview instantly in just one button press, rather than taking a lot of shots and deciding which is the one you need.

5. Flash Compensation

A lot of amateurs think that on board flash is just a piece of crap. Well, this is not true. Something is always better than nothing. You just have to know how to use it properly. Flash compensation is similar to exposure compensation. Like exposure compensation compensate the exposure. Flash compensation is a way to compensate the power of flash. It is fairly easy to use. You can increase or decrease the power of flash so that you will get the exact amount of flash light you need. Once you understand this. You’ll know how to use flash effectively.

These were few important features which are less used by most of the amateurs. But once understood, you’ll be one step closer to being a pro. I will be coming up with detailed articles on individual features soon.

Histogram and LCD – The matter of Trust

The article is about Histograms and how to read them. The histogram is one of the most useful tools in the world of photography and often the most misunderstood. A histogram is a tool which guides us to evaluate the exposure of a picture. Understanding Histogram makes a big difference between an amateur photographer and an advanced one. So once you understand and start using this, you’ll be one step closer to being an advanced photographer.



Can’t just we use the LCD like always?

Yes, you can. After all , Histograms don’t replace your eyes and experience. But in some situations, you cannot rely upon LCD. The issue with LCDs is, they can’t be trusted. There are two reasons. First, you can misread the exposure of an image in certain situations like in bright sunlight. Secondly, changing the brightness of your LCD screen can cause you to misread the exposure.

One important thing is, you cannot be sure if there are details missing in a picture due to overexposure or underexposure just by looking at the LCD. So the question is which one to trust, LCD or Histogram? I’ll say the combination of both. Use Histogram as a guide, and eyes for the experience of picture.

Histogram and How to Read it

There are many complex definitions for it. But I’ll make it simple for you. It is a graph showing the brightness distribution. In other words, a graph which counts the number of pixels at each level of brightness. Didn’t understand this, don’t worry, who cares about the definition :). All we care about is the usage. A typical histogram is shown below.


The far left is the dark or pure black, called Shadows, and far right is bright, or pure white called Highlights. And area in middle is called Midtones.
If an image is underexposed, the pixels in the graph will be concentrated towards the left.
If an image is overexposed, the pixels in the graph will be concentrated towards the right.
And a correctly exposed image is the one in which the graph is spread all over, not concentrated towards any end.
Here are few examples.
Histogram for an underexposed image will look like the following image


You’ll see the graph moved towards the left end, that means there are more dark pixels and fewer bright pixels. In other words, it is underexposed.
An example of overexposed image
Opposite to the previous image, the graph is leaning towards the right end, that means there are more bright pixels, or it is overexposed.
So how does the balanced or nicely exposed image looks like



I annotated the picture just to make clear which area represents which part of the histogram.

Keypoints while reading histograms

Well, if you are still not confident much about reading the histogram, I’ll make it little more simpler. Here are some keypoints to keep in mind while reviewing a histogram.

  1. If a histogram is leaning towards the left or if there is a big gap between the end of the histogram and far right, the picture is underexposed.
  2. If a histogram is leaning towards right or there is a big gap between the far left end and the start of the histogram, that means the picture is overexposed.
  3. If you find the graph being clipped off from either end, that means there are some details missing. Either due to overexposure or underexposure, depending upon the area being clipped off.

And if you find incorrect exposure, there are ways to correct it. One of them is exposure compensation. I’ll be shortly coming up with an article on that.
If you keep these three keypoints in mind, these will work, most of the times. Remember, the histogram is just a guide, not a master. There is no hard & fast rule for beautiful pictures. This is just a tool which can help us to evaluate the exposure in conditions where we cannot rely upon LCD screens.

Should we stick to it?

No, not at all. Photography is about breaking the rules (after knowing them). So consider this as a helper. But you don’t have to stick with it. Because sometimes, you want to get some pictures whose histogram can’t be perfect. I’ll show you an example


This picture doesn’t have a perfect histogram, but still, it is beautiful. You know why.


Understanding histogram will add one more skill to get good pictures. There is no perfect graph in histograms which can get you the best picture in the world. Histograms are just a guide which can help you better evaluate the picture. And you become one step closer to being a Pro. I’ll be shortly coming up with a new article on more advanced details, Color Histograms.

Please leave a feedback and share it if you found this helpful.