I just asked a question on Twitter to two 5DmkII users as to whether they use the custom modes. I was surprised to hear them both say no. One said “I don’t use them, never needed to…..I think” – that’s true but it kind of misses the point. Custom Modes , if you are lucky enough to have them, are one of the best features of your camera and here is why….
The settings used to shoot landscape photographs are exactly the same for EVERY SINGLE SHOT! …..Okay I am exaggerating but most landscapes will be shot with a small aperture (I use f11), ISO100 and a shutter speed to suit. The reason for this is that, as landscape photographers, we want the highest possible image quality and usually a richly detailed photo.
A small aperture guarantees a good depth of field and lens sharpness. The only reason why you might use a wide aperture is to get a deliberately shallow DOF (unusual in landscape) or to force a shorter shutter speed. You’d only use smaller apertures than f11 if you wanted to squeeze every last drop of depth of feild (at the expense of diffraction) or to set a longer shutter speed if you don’t have neutral density filters.
ISO100 guarantees the best colour, dynamic range and SNR (signal to noise ratio) . The only reason you would want to use a high ISO is when the light is exceptionally low and you want a reasonable shutter speed. That pretty much means astrophotography and nothing else!
The shutter speed generally gives way to aperture and ISO with the exception that occasionally we may want to adjust aperture and ISO (or apply filters) to freeze motion or blur it!
In my case 90% of my images are shot with the same aperture (f11) and ISO (100) because I shoot relatively rarely at night and it’s not often that I want to freeze motion or have a shallow depth of field…
Have you ever shot a landscape at ISO800 by mistake? I have
Have you ever realised just at the decisive moment of lighting that your 10 second timer is on? I have
Have you ever shot a perfect sunset in JPEG when RAW would have produced a higher quality image? I have
You name it and some photographer has done it. At the very least setting up our cameras can cause a delay when the light is good. At the worst you can ruin an entire shoot by not setting your camera up correctly
Custom Modes to the Rescue!
Custom modes can be used to ensure you never make a mistake setting up your camera. Even better than that, you are ready to go at the turn of the mode dial! Sounds pretty good right?
How to set Custom Mode 1 (C1) for general shooting
Put your camera in Manual.
Set the ISO to 100 and the aperture to f11 (or at least between f8 and f13) set the shutter speed to 1/10th or thereabouts
Set the quality to RAW or RAW+jpeg
Set Mirror Lockup to on (its found in the custom settings)
Set the self timer to 2 seconds (these 2 settings together help the camera to be as vibration free as possible at the time the photo is taken)
Set live view settings to your preference, but use exposure simulation.
Set the metering mode to your choice (I suggest evaluative).
Set the camera timeout to at least 2 minutes – this is so that when you adjust your camera shutter speed for your scene, and take a break, your settings don’t instantly revert to the custom mode default.
Register the settings to a Custom Mode.
How to set Custom mode 1 (C2) for exposure bracketing (optional)
Set your camera to C1
Set exposure bracketing (3 shots, -1.5 EV, 0EV, -1.5EV)
Register the settings to Custom Mode 2
If you are lucky you have a custom mode spare. I will let you figure out how to use it, but suggestions include – Shooting astro photos, grabbing quick handheld shots, customising for a video setup, etc.
It might shock you to learn that after taking time to consider my composition I take almost no time in setting up my camera. I put my camera into C1 for most shots, or C2 for sunsets where bracketing is required. I adjust shutter speed. I focus. I turn on live view. I recheck the composition. I press the shutter button. That’s it.
If you are spending ages setting up your camera you are wasting time, time that could be used creatively or simply just enjoying the moment. When I take a landscape shot I KNOW my technique won’t let me down, I know that I have set the camera up optimally every single time. Custom modes make photography easier, and stress free! If you aren’t using them now, you should be.