Camera Settings Checklist

Check the settings each time you use your camera. Use this 10-step checklist to be ready when a wildlife photo opportunity presents itself.

  1. Set Exposure Mode: Choose Aperture Priority (A or AV) to control depth of field. Choose Shutter Priority (S or TV) to blur/freeze movement. Choose Manual to control both.
  2. Set Aperture f-stop (In Aperture Priority or Manual): f/4 – f/7 will soften or blur the background and enable faster shutter speeds.
  3. Set Shutter Speed (In Shutter Priority or Manual): For handholding, set shutter speed to be at least 1/focal length of your lens (i.e., 400mm focal length = 1/400 of a second). 1/1000 of a second will freeze the action of most running land animals. 1/2000 of a second will freeze most birds in flight.
  4. Set ISO: Choose the lowest ISO setting possible to achieve the intended result. ISO 800 will generally enable a fast shutter speed and good exposure for wildlife photography. Use a lower ISO in bright sun and a higher ISO in low light conditions.
  5. Check Meter Mode: The default setting of Matrix metering (aka. Evaluative) is good in most lighting conditions. No need to adjust it most of the time. Use Spot metering when your subject is significantly brighter or darker than the rest of your scene, but remember to set it back to the default setting afterwards.
  6. Set White Balance: For outdoor wildlife photography, use the daylight, cloudy or shade setting.
  7. Set Focus Mode: Use Auto Focus for most wildlife photography. Choose Continuous (C or AI Servo) to focus continuously while the shutter-release button is pressed halfway.
  8. Set Auto Focus Area Mode: Choose the focus point(s). Use Single Point Mode to focus on a specific feature such as an animal’s eyes. Use Dynamic Area (aka. AF Point Expansion) to enable enhanced predictive tracking.
  9. Set Motor Drive: Choose how many photos will be taken when the shutter is pressed. Continuous (Low or High) is best for wildlife photography.
  10. Double Check Exposure Compensation: Start with a setting of zero. When using Aperture or Shutter Priority, change exposure compensation to add or subtract light from the camera’s setting.

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