How to Make Your Camera Settings Before You Need Them

Mode dial with custom settings of C1 and C2 shown.

Mode dial with custom settings of C1 and C2 shown.

I often take my camera with me, and rarely know exactly what I will be shooting. The best photos are not planned ones. How frustrating when I have to stop and set-up my camera. Here’s one thing that I do to make sure I am ready to shoot:

I use the “custom” mode dial settings on my camera to input my most common camera settings for the conditions I usually run into. Your’s may be different, but here below is what I do for outdoor photos and you can adjust for your own.

Canon cameras have a “C1” and “C2” on their mode dial. Some now also have “C3.” These are custom setting positions that can be obtained just as you would Av mode (aperture priorty) or Tv (shutter priority), P, Auto, etc. Nikon probably has something similar, or maybe even better. Not all cameras have this feature, but the ones that do, make your shooting that much easier.

These have to be set ahead of time, and I usually set up mine as follows:

  • C1: Program mode, daylight white balance, center-weighted light metering, multi-shot (a.k.a continuous, so I can hold down the shutter release button and capture a whole bunch of photos).
    • I use C1 for mostly wildlife and nature shots. That is why I set the center-weighted light metering and the multi-shot. I wrote about why I choose this light metering mode (center-weighted) in this post (link). I chose multi-shot because if my subject is moving, I can capture multiple images in a short time and hopefully get the shot. I can choose at the time whether to leave my finger down on the release or not, so it works just as well for single shot.
  • C2: Aperture priority mode, daylight white balance, multi-zone (a.k.a. evaluative) light metering, bracketed (auto exposure bracketing, +/- 2).
    • I use C2 for HDR or exposure bracketed shots. With one push of the shutter button, three shots are taken, one at normal exposure and two others, one high by 2 EV and one low by 2 EV. These can then be combined later into a three shot HDR image. Surprisingly, I have had success with hand-holding with these settings and not using a tripod. If I don’t use the three shots for HDR, at least I get a range of exposures to choose from and sometimes this is beneficial all on its own.

By setting these up ahead of time, I am better prepared when it comes time to shoot. The best photos, I’ve found, come from situations that are rapidly changing and having these settings in my camera really helps me get photos that I otherwise would miss.

Thank you for reading what I wrote — I hope you enjoyed it!