Modern cameras offer a wide variety of settings to change the behavior and customize to your own preferences. There are also a lot of basic settings you choose once and forget about it. Did you know there are settings you can ignore completely? I found eight of those.
Menu systems of modern cameras can be very complex. There are many settings possible, and it can be difficult to find your way through it. Even manufacturers can have a difficult time ordering all those logically. Sony is well known for its menu complexity, while Canon has a more logical layout. Nikon and Fujifilm are somewhere in between.
Even if you’re used to these menus, it can be difficult to find that one setting, no matter which camera brand you’re using. Fortunately, you can forget some settings, because these won't make a difference.
For the Raw Photographer Only
There are two kinds of photographers. The first shoots in the JPEG file format, the second in the raw file format. The eight settings I have listed in this article are not important for the latter. But you have to realize, if you’re a JPEG photographer, these settings are very important.
You may think this article is for the raw photographer only. But I think the JPEG photographer can have benefit from this article as well. Just read it, and find out for yourself.
1. White Balance
The color temperature setting is responsible for the correct white balance. Often, there are six different presets, next to the custom setting and the auto white balance.
For the raw photographer, it’s not important which setting you use. The white balance can be adjusted to your liking during post without image quality degradation. Even so, it might be handy to choose the best possible white balance while shooting. It may help you to check the image preview on the LCD screen. If you have the wrong setting, it can be corrected.
2. Picture Style
Almost every camera offers a selection of picture styles or film simulations. These presets will give a certain look to the final image, which is basically an in-camera post-processing step. The result will always be a JPEG image. If you’re using raw, the picture profile or film simulation is not added to the image, though you will see it in the preview.
In some occasions, you can add a similar picture profile to the raw file during your own post-processing. It might not be exactly the same as the profile offered by the camera manufacturer, but it can be a good starting point for your own personal final touch.
3. Lens Correction
A perfect lens doesn’t exist. Every lens has imperfections. This can be vignetting, aberration errors, or image distortions. Cameras offer settings to correct these errors using built-in lens profiles. If the lens is recognized, certain lens corrections are applied to the final image.
If you’re shooting in the raw file format, these corrections are often not applied at all. You will need to activate the lens correction in post yourself. Despite that, some camera manufacturers will add lens corrections into the raw file itself, which can’t be disabled at all. In other words, sometimes, you don’t have a choice.
4. Noise Reduction
There are two kinds of noise reduction. First, there is long exposure noise reduction, which makes use of a dark frame to remove hot pixels and other unwanted pixel errors. The second is high-ISO noise reduction.
The latter is not added to the raw file. You have to use the noise reduction of your photo-editing software. No matter what high-ISO noise reduction you have set, it won’t affect the raw file.
5. Highlight Tone Priority
Active D-lighting, highlight tone priority, Dynamic Range Optimization. These are all names for the same thing, the expansion of the dynamic range that is visible in the image.
By using the highlight tone priority setting, the camera will underexpose the image to protect the highlights. Before the JPEG image is produced, it will light the darkest tones, expanding the dynamic range a bit.
This setting is for the JPEG image only, not for the raw image. As a matter of fact, if you’re a Nikon photographer, and you use the Active D-lighting, the raw image will be underexposed. So, turn this option off because the raw photographer already has the ability to use the maximum amount of dynamic range.
6. Image Aspect Ratio
I love to shoot images in the 4:5 format, especially when shooting in portrait mode. Most cameras offer the ability to change the image aspect ratio. Canon, for instance, allows 2:3, 4:5, 1:1, and 16:9. If you use one of these aspect ratios, the resulting JPEG image will have those dimensions.
If you’re shooting in raw, you will end up with the normal sensor aspect ratio, no matter what you’ve chosen. After all, raw means the almost untouched sensor data, and that is what you will get.
Be careful, though. If you activate a crop mode, it will affect the raw image also. With that setting, sometimes, only a part of the sensor is used, and the resulting image will have a lower resolution. Although it’s often found in the same aspect ratio menu setting, it’s completely different from the aspect ratio.
7. Color Space
A camera has the ability to choose between the Adobe RGB or sRGB color space. This color space is assigned to the JPEG file, not to the raw file. If you open a raw file in software like Lightroom Classic, it will assign a different color space regardless of your camera setting. For Lightroom Classic, this is ProPhoto RGB.
Color space is only important for the JPEG photographer. Although Adobe RGB has a larger color space compared to the sRGB, it might be wise to choose the latter. This will ensure the colors will be displayed correctly on any device.
Some cameras have an HDR function built in. This setting is not intended for the raw photographer, and often, the setting is disabled if the camera is set to raw. It will only be active if JPEG is chosen.
If you want to use HDR, you will be better off using exposure bracketing and combining the images in post. This way, you can manipulate the HDR image to your own preferences. The in-camera HDR setting is doing the same thing, but it will produce a JPEG image as a result. There is no way to change that appearance, although you may be offered a choice between a couple of effects in the HDR menu.
For the JPEG Photographer
If you are a JPEG photographer, for whatever reason, the eight settings mentioned in this article are important for you. Use these to your own benefit, and choose wisely.
Do you know of other camera settings that are not important for the raw photographer? Please share in the comments below.