My Camera Setup

April 14, 2019  •  Leave a Comment


Why I think this works
  1. Able to shoot anything 
  2. Simple and Fast
  3. Tracks motion and manual focus
The Setup
When I get a new camera I go through and set it up the way that I’ve found works best for me. The goal for me is to be able to switch quick from one type of shooting to another. For example, I generally shoot action photos but I occasionally get the wild hair and wanna shoot astrophotography. So, I need my camera to be set up so I only have to make minor adjustments to switch to a new genre. 
I like to start with the basics and build on that. That way I have a very stable foundation to create from. I’m not worried about my gear. I know what it’s going to do and why. The first thing I’ll do is adjust the eye piece, also called the using the Dioptic adjustment knob. It is a small dial on most cameras that adjusts the focus of the eye piece so you can shoot with out without glasses or to correct for your vision. That way your photos look as sharp as they are through the viewfinder. This doesn’t effect the actual photo, just what you see when you look through the viewfinder. 
I then move on to the menu system. Since I shoot Canon it’s going to be a little different for other manufacturers but they all have similarities. The order of the menu items are different even in different Canon bodies but I’ll go through my 1DX2 menu and you can adapt this to your camera. 
Red Menu 1: 
  • White Balance
    • Generally set to Custom. 
    • Because it’s so easy to set a custom white balance so your colors start out perfect. Or, I’m trying to balance to a light with a gel on it. 
  • Set Custom White Balance
    • This is where you choose a photo and tell the camera to use it to create a custom while balance. 
  • WB Shift/Bracket
    • I use this only when I think the Custom White Balance is wrong. 
  • Color Space
    • Adobe RGB this gives you the most colors
  • Picture Style
    • Doesn’t matter for RAW. 
    • I’ve set up a custom one for my JPGS 
    • This gives me a neutral image that is pretty close to printable. With just minor tweaking in LR. So that we can go fast in my booth at events. 
  • Lens Aberration Correction 
    • All on
    • These help to reduce lens issues. 
  • Multiple Exposure
    • Off
    • This lets you shoot two photos on top of each other for a certain effect. Not very useful. 
    • I create this look in post. It’s way easier. 
Red Menu 2:
  • JPEG Quality 
    • L - 10
    • Ignore the rest
  • Image Type/Size
    • RAW
      • I shoot everything in RAW except for action photos because there’s so many and RAW is so large of a file size. 
    • L-JPEG 
      • Large JPEGs are the only way to go if shooting JPEG. 
  • ISO Speed Settings
    • Generally the last thing I think about. I’m setting this per scene. 
    • Range for Stills
      • 100-12,800 on this 1DX2 is fine. Anything beyond that is pretty rough. 
    • Auto Range
      • Same
    • Minimum Shutter Speed
      • Auto is fine most of the time. 
      • I’ll only change this if I need to be handheld and I gotta be fast. 
  • Auto Lighting Optimizer
    • Off
  • Long Exposure Noise Reduction
    • Off
  • High ISO Noise Reduction
    • Off
  • Highlight Tone Priority
    • Off, unless you really need to to capture details in highlights really close to blown out. 
    • It does add noise. 
Red Menu 3
  • Image Review 
    • Off
    • This will improve battery life
    • You don’t need to look at every image. 
  • Beep
    • Enable unless you need to be super quiet. 
    • I don’t find that my camera beeps often
  • Release Shutter without card
    • This is super important. 
    • This must be off at all times. 
    • Otherwise you run the risk of thinking there’s a card in there and then none of your images were saved. 
  • Mirror Lockup
    • Off unless doing important long exposures 
  • Delete Dust Data
    • This lets the camera remove dust after shooting a photo. If you have dust that won’t go away after cleaning this is an option. But clean your sensor first. 
  • External Speedlight Control. 
    • Enable Flash Firing
    • Evaluative Metering is usually fine
    • Everything else leave standard generally 
  • Anti-Flicker Shoot
    • Enable 
    • This is great because some lights flicker faster than the human eye can perceive it. So, the camera times the shot with the flicker. 
Red Menu 4
  • Live View Shoot
    • Enable 
  • AF Method 
    • Face Tracking is my favorite, especially for video. 
    • FlexiZone is great if someone’s face isn’t large or visible in the shot. 
  • Grid Display
    • Off - Because I don’t like it on the live view 
  • Expo. Simulation 
    • Enable 
    • This makes your DSLR more like a mirrorless Camera. What you see is what you get. 
Red Menu 5:
  • Live View Shoot
    • Mode 1 is what mine is set on. 
    • Honestly don’t use live View shooting often
  • Metering Timer
    • 8 seconds seems to be long enough for me. 
  • LV Touch Control
    • Standard is perfect on the 1DX2. 
Pink Menu 1:
  • Case 5 because it’s for Subjects with erratic movements quickly in any direction. 
  • But I changed everything LOL 
    • Tracking Sensitivity = -2
    • Accel./Decel. Tracking = +2
    • AF Point Auto Switching = 0
Pink Menu 2:
  • AI Servo 1st Priority = Focus
  • AI Servo 2nd Priority = Equal between speed and focus. 
Pink Menu 3:
  • Lens electronic MF
    • Enable after One-Shot AF seems to work fine
  • AF assist Beam Firing 
    • I have this off but if you’re shooting with a speedlight in dark conditions then turn it on. 
  • One-Shot AF Release Priority 
    • I don’t use One-Shot so this doesn’t matter to me. 
Pink Menu 4:
  • Auto AF pt sel: EOS iTR AF
    • This will try to help you focus on someone’s face. 
  • Lens Drive when AF impossible 
    • Continue Focus Search is what I use because I want the camera to keep trying to focus. 
  • Selectable AF Point
    • I have them all available but I keep in mind that if it’s a difficult situation that I only use the cross type ones. The others will be blinking in my viewfinder. 
  • Select AF Area Select Mode
    • I only use three but 90% of the time it’s the single point AF Point
    • The others are use are Spot AF, and Expand AF Area
  • AF Area Selection Method 
    • M-Fn button is best for me. 
    • I try to have one button/dial per job
  • Orientation linked AF point
    • Separate AF pts: Pt only
      • This is best for me because I’m often switching between vertical and horizontal shots for photo shoots of people and objects.
      • This allows me to set different AF points for horizontal and vertical shots. 
  • Initial AFpt, { } AI Servo AF
    • This works well for my flow. 
Pink Menu 5:
  • AF point selection movement 
    • Continuous. No stopping when it hits the sides 
  • AF Point display during focus
    • Selected AF Point
    • This keeps makes it obvious what AF point I’m using. 
  • AF point Brightness 
    • Normal seems plenty bright but if you often find yourself shooting in already bright conditions then brighter might be better. 
  • AF Status in viewfinder 
    • Show outside view is better for me because I don’t want it in the way of my shot. 
  • AF Microadjustment 
    • You’ll want to set this up for each lens you shoot with on that body. 
    • I generally don’t bother with my wide lenses but certainly all telephotos especially fast primes. 
Blue Menu 1:
  • Skip. 
    • Complete waste of a menu
Blue Menu 2:
  • Skip. 
    • The only thing I changed was the “Image Jump with Dial”. I have it jump 10 but don’t really use it much. 
Blue Menu 3:
  • Highlight Alert (AKA “The Blinkies”)
    • I prefer this enabled but sometimes turn it off for clients. 
  • AF Point Display
    • Enable 
      • This is part of my speed. With this always displayed, there’s no wondering where it’s going to pop up. It’s faster to gain focus too. Speed is king. 
  • Playback Grid
    • Off
  • Histogram Display 
    • Generally Brightness is fine. 
    • Sometimes I use RGB but not often 
  • Skip the rest 
Yellow Menu 1:
  • Record Func+card/folder sel. 
    • This is great for organizing photos into folders. 
    • I often use this when shooting several rounds of a small roping. 
    • Or, by keeping opening ceremonies separate from the action. 
    • Record Func. 
      • Standard is where I keep mine. 
      • Auto Switch card is great if you often fill up your cards and can’t be bothered to switch cards.
      • Record Seperately could be nice if you record RAW and JPEG but I don’t. 
      • Record to multiple is perfect for those high value jobs that could cost you big if photos are lost. This creates instant backups of all photos in the second card slot. 
  • File Numbering
    • I use Continuous so that the file names keep going when I put in a new card. 
    • Auto Reset would be nice if you wanted the file names to start over every time you put in a new card. 
    • I often use Manual reset for two reasons. 
      1. The start of an event so I can start with 0000. Because I’m a little OCD. LOL 
      2. If I think there’s a chance that the file name will roll over past 9999 and I’m not ready to switch cards. When it rolls over, the camera creates a new folder and the file names start over at 0000. This is annoying to me and confusing for customers and my booth crew. I try to avoid it. 
  • File Name
    • This is kinda just for fun. 
      • I changed my file name to OLIE####. But when shooting on Adobe RGB color space, it changes my file name to _LIE####. Kinda a bummer really. 
    • I like to make all my cameras have the same file name but you might want yours different. 
  • Auto Rotate
    • This is a big one for me. A small change but a big difference. 
    • Do you ever shoot a vertical shot and try to look at it on the back of the camera but instead of it being full screen. It’s vertical on the horizontal screen. Ugh. I hate that. 
    • So, switch this to On with only the computer icon. 
    • Problem solved. 
  • Format Card
    • Always do this immediately after putting in a card. This helps to keep  only the photos you’re going to take next on the card. This way you don’t have old photos in the way of new ones. 
    • It also improves the health and longevity of the cards. 
    • Do not just delete photos. Format your cards. 
  • LCD Brightness 
    • I like it in the middle for when you look at photos on the back of the screen. They don’t look brighter or darker than they are. 
  • LCD color tone
    • I find that standard has the truest colors. 
Yellow Menu 2:
  • Auto Power Off: 8 Minutes is right for me. 
  • Date/Time/Zone
    • I find it’s often useful to have the correct date and time. 
    • Lots of reasons I suppose. Ask if you are interested. 
  • Language: English for me. LOL 
  • Viewfinder Display 
    • Electronic Level: Show
      • Not always the best but I keep an eye on it. 
    • Grid Display: Show
      • Helpful I suppose. Hardly noticeable otherwise 
    • Show/hide in viewfinder 
      • Shooting Mode: Yes
      • Metering Mode: No
      • White Balance: Yes
      • Drive: Yes
      • AF operation: Yes
      • Flicker: Yes
      • This may be a lot of information but start with less and add as you need it. I love having all the info in the viewfinder so I can see it without looking at my back screen. 
  • Info Button Display options
    • I have all of these checked because I like to have all the information but they aren’t used often. 
  • Custom Quick Control 
    • Super handy for doing just what it says. 
Yellow Menu 3: 
  • Video System: NTSC
    • I don’t know the difference. I just heard this is what we use in America. LOL 
  • Battery Info
    • I often check battery info. 
    • It’s much more accurate to see the % instead if the bars. 
  • Sensor cleaning.
    • Auto Clean: Enabled
    • Clean Now: only if there’s new dust or something. 
    • Clean Manually.
      • Use this to lock the mirror up and clean your sensor with sensor cleaning tools. 
  • Communication Settings
    • Disabled unless shooting tethered via Ethernet 
  • GPS Settings 
    • Disabled to save battery life
  • HDMI Framerate
    • Auto is fine
Yellow Menu 5:
  • Save/Load Camera Settings in card
    • Great for not having to go through and set up all of this on ever camera. Just save the settings from one camera and load it on another. 
    • System Status Display 
      • Serial Number
      • Firmware
      • Release Cycles (AKA Pictures taken or Shutter Count)
Orange Menu 1:
  • Exposure Level Increments: 1/3
  • ISO Speed setting Increments: 1/3
    • This way the math works out best. 
    • The clicks on each dial are 1:1 ratio. 
  • Bracketing Auto Cancel: On
    • You’ll want this on so when you’re done doing bracketed exposures and turn your camera off, then it won’t still be in bracket mode when you turn it back on later. 
  • Bracketing Sequence: +,0,-
    • I prefer this because Speed is king. 
    • I’m kinda lazy sometimes and want to shoot bracketed handheld. I’m usually using AV mode. This the camera is figuring out the Shutter Speed for me. If the first photo is the brightest one (+), then it will be using the slowest shutter speed to get it. If I half press the shutter button to start the meter my camera will show me what shutter speed it’s going to use for that shot. If it’s below what I think I could safely hand hold, then I bump up the ISO until it’s where I’m safe. I know the rest of the shots in the sequence will be faster so I’m good. 
  • Number of bracketed 
    • I use 5. Then if one is trashed I’m still ok. Sometimes the camera’s meter is fooled so having an extra shot on either side of the 3 I’d probably end up using will help. 
  • Spot meter linked to AF point
    • I know most cameras don’t have this. But it’s so handy. I love it. 
Orange Menu 2:
  • Safety Shift: Off
  • Same Exposure for New Aperture: Off
Orange Menu 3:
  • Restrict Shooting Modes
    • I kinda hate Program Mode
    • I also don’t find myself needing the custom modes
    • I only use Manual 90% of the time. 
    • AV Mode: 7%
    • TV Mode: 2%
    • Bulb Mode: 1%
  • I do not restrict metering modes though I most often use Spot Metering because it’s linked to my AF Point. 
  • Metering Used in Manual Exposure 
    • Specified Metering Mode
      • This lets me change it anytime I want without going through the menu. 
  • Set Shutter Speed Range
    • I didn’t set a range
    • I don’t think it’s helpful 
  • Set Aperture Range
    • Same 
  • AE and FE microadjustments are both off for me. Just don’t see the point. 
Orange Menu 4:
  • Continues shooting Speed 
    • High: 14
      • This camera won’t track motion faster than 14fps because the mirror locks up. 
    • Low: 7
      • This feels really slow. It’s easy to just fire off one shot but if you need a burst then it’s ready for ya. 
      • I usually have it set to this if I’m doing natural light portraits or something like that. Otherwise I’m on single shot. 
    • Silent continuous shooting isn’t useful for me but would be cool for a wedding I guess. 
  • Limit continues shot count
    • This camera really doesn’t hit the buffer so maybe this is useful but I don’t limit my shots because if I’m using continues shooting mode then I’m doing it for the reason that I know I won’t be able to have perfect timing. So, I don’t want my camera getting in the way. 
  • Restrict drive modes
    • Off. I use them all occasionally. 
Orange Menu 5:
  • Viewfinder Info during Exposure 
    • On
  • LCD Panel Illuminated during bulb
    • Off. 
      • Generally only using bulb mode for time lapses and long exposure work so I don’t want the extra light or drain on the battery. 
  • Record Card, Image Size Setting
    • Rear LCD Panel 
      • One of the reasons to have a pro body. 
    • LCD Monitor 
      • This is nice too though. Just more to look at while you’re trying to do a basic function 
Orange Menu 6
  • Warnings in Viewfinder
    • All on except spot meter. I like spot meter most of the time so I don’t want to be warned. LOL 
  • Dial direction
    • Useful is switching from another system like Nikon. 
  • AV setting without lens 
    • Handy when I don’t feel like using Photo Pills to check my math. LOL 
  • Multi-Function lock. 
    • Handy when letting someone else shoot for a while. They can’t change the important stuff. 
  • Custom Controls 
    • Back Button Focus
      • This is the most important of all of them. 
      • This is where you set up for back button focus. 
      • Simply remove focus from the shutter button. 
      • Canon’s have the AF-On button ready for back button focus from the factory. You just need to take focus off the shutter button to realize the power. 
      • I’ve done a whole blog post about back button focus. It’s super important. 
      • Life changing. Seriously 
    • Switch to Registered AF Point
      • This is another game changer
      • I set one of the front buttons so that when I push it, it will switch my AF point to the center only while I’m holding it. 
      • This is super handy for quick candid shots or otherwise when I want to center my subject and I’m using a different AF point. 
Orange Menu 7:
  • Cropping Info: Off
  • Timer Duration: Standard 
  • Shutter release time lag: Shortened
  • I don’t use memos
  • Retract Lens on power off doesn’t seem useful 
That’s all for the menu settings. I’m sure that not all cameras have that many menu options. But you’ll hopefully have gained some insight into how my system works with my Canon 1DX2. 
This system pretty much is unchanged for years. The point is to try to get your camera setup so it’s a point and shoot camera. That way you can focus on getting great shots, not fiddling with menu settings. 
Typically, I’m shooting in Manual. So, I’ve locked in the Shutter Speed, Aperture, and ISO. All my other menu items stay the same. White Balance has been set. I’m ready for the action to unfold. Now, I can sit back and relax until someone nods their head or heads towards a barrel. Then I grab my camera, fold the back button while holding the AF point on the subject. Then, when the right time comes, I pull the trigger. It’s just a matter of repeating that every time. All I worry about is timing and framing. I’m following the subject around the arena while zooming in and out to keep them in frame. Then taking the shot every time I feel its going to be a peak action moment. There’s a little timing to it because it’s not instant. Though, with a 1DX2, it sure feels like it.  



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