Freeing The Bird From The Nest

on September 13, 2016

Awwww. that sounds so romantic, doesn't it. This should be a meme on Facebook with tiny bluebirds and hearts...instead of a camera shop blog trying to sell you stuff. Well consider the following.

The German, Japanese, or Chinese makers of digital cameras vie with each other for your money. They're not allowed to waylay you at the ATM and demand cash at gunpoint, so they do it by making better and better equipment - and convincing you that you need to buy it. That's also my job - trumpeting the goods.

When the design departments of said firms think up cameras and lenses they know they need to work well and they need to do it right out of the box. The slightest hesitation or glitch will see the buyer move off to another brand. No names and no pack drill...but camera enthusiasts will remember some of the times when things did not go well in the last few years...

But they do want them to give good performance up front. So they design the cameras with factory default settings that will do it for you about 85% of the time with no further input. Charge the battery, insert a card and format it, and the little optical bird can pretty much sail out of the nest and fly straight away.

Of course there will be areas where pushing the buttons and ringing the changes will make things better for some people - and there are no end of sources of advice for this. The internet, books, camera club meetings, and photo seminars can all be mined for inspiration. Workshops and courses run by Shoot Photography Workshops are potent schools. You gradually learn what controls will do what for your own needs. And then you overdo it...

Don't be ashamed to admit it. We all overcook the egg sometimes. We start changing settings based upon the criteria of several different advisers and pretty soon our images are out beyond where the streetcars run. If we have done this gradually we may actually forget what the real image is and start to see reality as somehow lacking. We think that Heaven has been a bit skimpy with the colour or contrast or sharpening or focus or whatever and in our efforts to improve it we go completely off the boil.

Thank goodness for the design departments, because they understand us. They provide the Prodigal Photographer with a way to come back to reality - they have a "reset" button in the set-up menu. It generally throws out all our wireless and returns the camera to factory defaults...and to that 85% success platform. The bird is back in the nest.

If you have a camera in which every single control, from the lens release button on the front to the beer tap on the back, has been tweaked out of position I suggest you make this experiment:

a. Take a series of pictures - 20 or so of a wide variety of subjects in different lights.

b. Write down or take a screen shot of all the settings as they exist.

c. Find the "reset" button and press it. Go back to factory defaults.

d. Take those 20 pictures again, and then compare the results on your computer.

d. I won't say that all of the images will look better at factory setting, but I'll bet a few do...

Then be brutally honest with yourself - are the fancy tweaks and weird settings really improving your work? Is it time to give the design team their due and working with their recommendations?