Anyone who has ever done their homework before purchasing a camera has no doubt fallen victim to the following scenario. You’ve been researching your options for months and have finally decided on the absolute best model to meet your needs. You’ve gone to the store to try out a display unit in person to really put it through its paces. You’ve walked around the store, taken a huge number of photographs and have generally been very happy with the results. You get your newly purchased camera home, open it up, snap a first photo and are immediately met with crushing disappointment. For some reason, your photos just don’t look as crystal clear, as bright or as stunning as they did on the display model. Did you get a lemon? Is the camera not up to the level of quality that you originally thought it was?
No. The culprit is the default camera settings. You should immediately turn them off and then never turn them back on again.
The Default Settings Conundrum
If you’re serious about photography, you’re probably equally serious about learning about how and why your camera actually works. After all, developing this understanding will give you the tools that you need to take better and more powerful photographs in the future. Not every person will share your mentality, however, which is why default camera settings exist in the first place – they’re meticulously designed to allow people to point their camera at a subject, click the shutter and take photos that are “good enough” for their needs.
You, however, are serious about photography. “Good enough” is never actually “good enough,” nor should it ever be.
One of the major issues with default camera settings in the first place is that they are designed to take amazing photographs in every single situation that you might find yourself in – they’re designed to take amazing-looking photographs in the store where you bought the camera in first place. Think of your average retail store – it’s a vast environment filled with fluorescent lighting that is overpowering to the eyes. Visually speaking, it’s so bright that it is unlike just about any other environment that you are likely to find yourself in – even broad daylight. Default camera settings are designed to excel in this environment and, as a result, leave a lot to be desired just about everywhere else.
The same concept is true for just about every other type of electronic device that you can buy. Think about the HDTV sets that you saw on display at the same store where you bought your camera. They were probably the brightest TVs you’ve ever seen with colors that popped in the most incredible way. The default settings on these TV sets is operating on the same principle – they’re designed to make those sets look amazing in such an impossibly bright environment. If you get one of those TVs home to a regularly-lit house and plug it in, suddenly those default settings will look awful.
This is one of the major reasons why you should turn your default camera settings off and never think about them again – they will make your pictures better, not worse. The default settings don’t account for variables in lighting, adjustments in depth of field and other properties that go into capturing amazing-looking images. They’re designed for one situation and one situation only – which, by the way, is a situation that you’re unlikely to ever find yourself in again. Turning them off also gives you complete control over every last element of the finished image, which allows you to capture the images that you want exactly how you want them.