FILM-MAKING 101: BASICS OF CAMERAS & CAMERA SETTINGS
Written By: Edgar Romero and Zach Champ
Edited By: Zach Champ
All DSLR cameras consist of a camera body and a camera lens.
Most DSLR camera bodies will have an LCD screen display. This screen display may or may not be a touchscreen.
Newer DSLR camera models allow for unique features like built-in balance meters, which help with camera stabilization, as well as a histogram display option to help with exposure settings.
Both film and digital camera bodies will use turn dials for different settings like exposure, shutter speed, and switching between manual vs automatic settings.
There are several types of buttons on a camera body. This includes buttons for menu options, the play button for reviewing captured footage and photos, as well as a delete button. In some camera models, you can map specific functions on the camera body using customizable buttons.
All cameras have a viewfinder, which is the part of the camera you look through with your eye. The viewfinder is great for getting an isolated view of your shot. If you are shooting outdoors during the daytime, the viewfinder can be helpful since the bright light of the sun can make it hard to use a camera’s LCD screen display. The viewfinder also can be useful for ensuring that the frame is in focus.
The camera lens is the most important piece of any camera. The camera lens you use can completely change the appearance and outcome of your photo or filmed sequence.
There are two types of camera lens- prime lenses and zoom lenses. A prime lens is a camera lens with a fixed focal length. A prime lens can’t zoom in and out like a zoom lens, but instead, it will have an additional aperture ring for focusing depth of field.
When you are attaching a camera lens, you should use the dot indicator located on both the lens and camera body. Line up the dot indicators on each before attaching and screwing the lens onto the camera mount.
Camera lenses can be divided into two categories: Compatible vs Non-compatible Lens.
Compatible lenses have electrical connections that allow for enhanced features with the camera body. These types of lenses can zoom and switch between different aperture settings all from the click of a button or the swipe of a dial on the camera body!
Different types of mounts exist for each major brand of camera so you need to make sure your lens is compatible with your specific camera body.
Below is a comparison chart displaying the different camera lens sizes and the effect this can have on your shot:
Every camera lens will have internal aperture blades and a focus ring.
When it comes to professional photography and videography you will want to use manual settings and adjust each camera setting appropriately.
The four important camera settings that apply to both photography and videography are Frame Rate, Shutter Speed, Aperture, and ISO.
These four settings are universally found on all professional cameras no matter what make and model.
Understanding the basic principles of these four camera settings will allow you to have full creative control of your photography and videography.
What is Frame Rate? Basically how many frames you are viewing per second. Each frame is a photo.
The larger the frame rate, the smoother the image appears.
We film at higher frame rates because when we edit the video we often step the frame rate down to slow down the footage, such as with slow-motion or similar types of shots.
The lower the frame rate, the more objects and subjects in motion will blur in your video and photos.
How do I adjust the Frame Rate in my camera settings? To change the frame rate in most digital cameras you will need to select your desired frame rate settings through the camera’s menu options.
Most cameras include factory presets, but you can also manually select which frame rate you want to shoot your photos or videos in.
Below is a frame rate comparison chart which can give you a better idea...
Frame Rate Comparison Chart:
24fps is cinematic standard
30fps is television
60fps is slow motion
120fps is slow motion
What is Shutter Speed? Shutter Speed is how fast the camera captures the image. Frame rate influences shutter speed.
The basic formula for determining shutter speed is shutter speed = Frame Rate x 2. Essentially, this is a 2:1 ratio.
So for example, if you are working with 24fps, then your shutter speed should be 48fps.
How do I adjust the shutter speed in my camera settings?
You can adjust shutter speed by 1 of 2 methods.
The first is through the camera’s menu settings on the LCD screen display. The second is through a designated turn dial on the camera body.
How does shutter speed affect photos and videos? The lower the shutter speed, the more light the camera captures. Lower shutter speed also results in a slower video, which is great for filming stationary objects.
If the shutter speed is set too low, then the image will appear blurry and individuals will look fuzzy like ghosts.
The higher the shutter speed the less light the camera captures. This results in a faster video which is perfect for filming scenes with lots of action and movement!
WHAT ABOUT TIME-LAPSE?
To create time-lapse photos or videos you manipulate shutter speed by adjusting the camera aperture so it is narrow with a maximum depth of field.
When taking a time-lapse shot you will need to make sure the camera is set on a flat level surface or mounted securely on a tripod.
You will need a digital timer to help you account for the necessary amount of time required to produce the time-lapse video. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to keep time-lapse clips no longer than 30 seconds.
When taking time-lapse photos or videos it is recommended that you save the files as JPEG format.
Before filming or taking the time-lapse photo you should perform a white balance to ensure that color temperatures reflect the natural lighting and hue.
What is Camera Lens Aperture? The Camera Aperture is the ring inside the camera lens which can open and close to let light in or out.
If the lens aperture is open, then more light is being let into the camera lens. Likewise, if the lens aperture is closed, then less light is being let into the camera lens.
Every camera has a turn dial that adjusts the camera aperture with a series of corresponding F Stop values ranging from 0 to 32.
The smaller the number the wider the lens. As an example, the F-Stop Value of 0 will result in a wide-open camera aperture.
The larger the number the smaller the camera aperture and thus a smaller pinhole with more light being blocked.
When you have a wide aperture your focus is near. However, consider when you want to focus on an item far away… Normally you squint with your eye to see afar… this is exactly the same as how the camera aperture works!
How should I adjust my camera lens aperture? If you are using a compatible lens, then you adjust the camera aperture with a turn dial or button on the camera body. When using non-compatible lenses you will have to manually adjust the aperture ring located on the camera lens.
On the camera body, there will sometimes be a dial with incremental degrees of F-Stop numbers. When you adjust this dial, you raise or lower the F-Stop number value which corresponds with a corresponding change in the camera aperture.
The lower the F-Stop number the more open the aperture blades are on the camera lens, resulting in more light being captured.
How does Aperture affect photos and videos? The camera aperture also affects the depth of field. If the lens aperture is open then you get a shallow depth of field, whereas if the lens aperture is closed then you get a large depth of field where everything within the frame is in focus.
When you open the aperture the focus range becomes more narrow and when you close the aperture the focus range becomes larger.
It’s important to remember that when you are filming multiple people talking at the same time but who are spaced far apart that you will need to adjust the camera aperture accordingly.
What is ISO? ISO measures the sensitivity of the image sensor. Adjusting ISO is an artificial method of brightening an image. Every camera has ISO.
You should adjust the camera’s ISO settings when you are taking footage indoors or at night-time.
How does ISO affect my photos and videos? The higher the ISO, the more noise, or static, that will appear within the image or video. This can result in a grainy image.
How do I adjust ISO in my camera settings? Your camera’s ISO settings are the last thing you want to adjust. Normally, you can adjust ISO settings for most DSLR cameras using the LCD menu.
ADDITIONAL CAMERA SETTINGS
What is Camera Resolution? Resolution is the size of the actual frame determined in pixels. The higher the resolution of an image or video, the more enhanced the image quality.
Depending on the resolution you are using, you will need to use a compatible SD memory card. For our cameras such as the Sony A7SII, we use an SDXC 100mb/s card for filming in 4K.
White Balance is used to adjust the colors within a photograph or video so that color temperatures and hues can match the natural lighting and color of real-life scenes.
Adjusting white balance for different scenarios helps you as a photographer or videographer maintain control over the natural appearance of your environment.
Color Temperature is measured in degrees called Kelvins (K).
Examples of color temperatures produced by other sources of light as measured in Kelvin degrees are listed below:
Color Temperature can affect the overall hue of a photo or video, making the scene appear yellow (warm) or blue (cold). Using white balance ensures the color temperature in the camera will match that of real-life conditions as best as possible.
Most DSLR cameras will have the following White Balance presets:
Auto White Balance (AWB)
Some DSLR camera models will also have Advanced White Balance Modes such as
Custom White Balance
Kelvin (Sets color temperature directly)
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This concludes this lesson on the Basics of Cameras and Camera Settings.
Hopefully, by reviewing the information in this article you will have a better technical understanding of how cameras operate which will give you more creative control over your films and photography!
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