One of the Most Useful and Overlooked Camera Features

Modern cameras are impressively capable machines, full of a range of advanced features and capabilities. One of the most useful features has been around for much longer than mirrorless cameras, though; in fact, it goes back to the film era. This great video tutorial will show you where to find it and how to take advantage of it to make your workflow easier and to help you get more shots. 

Coming to you from Rick Bebbington, this awesome video tutorial will show you the usefulness of custom shooting modes. Many photographers never touch the custom shooting modes on their cameras, which is a shame, because they are a benefit in just about any genre. On most modern cameras, the custom modes allow you to store just about any setting you could reasonably need to adjust. If you shoot in a slow genre, like landscape photography, it makes it easy to quickly set up your camera the way you like every time. On the other hand, if you shoot in a more demanding genre, like weddings, custom modes can really save you, as you can more efficiently tackle quickly and drastically changing scenarios, such as moving from bright outdoor light to a dimly lit indoor venue. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Bebbington. 

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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I concur without reservation. My Lumix G9 has five custom memory locations, and I could easily use six. To keep them all straight in my head, I use a spreadsheet that details the specifics of each of the custom settings so I don't forget what I had done. Changes inevitably occur over time as needs dictate, so the name of the backed-up settings file is recorded in the spreadsheet as well, and all backed up settings files are retained on a separate SD card as well as on my computers. It works for me. YMMV...


I do not understand the value of these modes, for the type of photography I do. The only settings I change are back and forth from Aperture Priority to Manual, ISO, and White Balance. So what is the value of a custom mode if these are the only 3 settings I will ever use on my camera? Someone please explain.


You could set a custom mode to default to silent shooting. Being a Sony shooter, I actually have that on the quick menu, but devils advocate and all that... Was useful when I shot with a Panasonic G9.

I do have a custom mode set for video on one body, not that I use it very often.

Ok, but it takes me, quite literally, two seconds to switch to silent shooting by using the dial on the top of the camera. And I like that because I don't have to go into any menu that way. In my opinion, accessing the camera's menu sucks because I have to look at the back of the camera instead of just glancing at the top of the camera. I'll do whatever I can to NOT ever have to use the menu or look at the rear LCD for setting information.

Custom modes are useful for repetitive tasks. For, instance, I've been using my camera to digitise my old 35mm negatives. Rather than dial in the camera everytime I get round to doing a batch, I've simply saved the setting to a custom slot. This includes aperture, ISO, shutterspeed, white balance, neutral picture style, image file type, focus method etc.

Custom modes allow me to unlock the full potential of my R5. I have 4 (Canon cameras will rotate through all 3 programs + the current mode). I have birds in flight / perched birds / landscapes and macro / portraits. I toggle through all 4 with the M-Fn button next to the shutter. I rarely have to go into a menu fishing for a setting.

FWIW: 3 out of the 4 programs I use are based on full manual mode with auto ISO and unique AF configurations for each.

I love how well thought out your Cx modes are configured. Personally I'd get confused remembering what mode is for what, but being a Sony shooter means I just use the quick menu instead. Say what you will about their main menu, but the quick menu is genius.

I really just wish you could name custom modes on more cameras. My Canon R5 has a digital mode dial but you only have 3 custom modes? I have a tough time keeping track of what those 3 do so yeah… C’mon canon!

Thank you for writing about this. I talk about it in my workshops as I find these invaluable. One of the first things I do when I set up my camera -for street photography, or a sports event, or dance performance,etc- is to decide which three custom settings I want to create for that event. For instance, when I’m on the street, custom 1 is maybe “sunny 16,” custom 2 is panning, and custom 3 is for portrait. I may make slight adjustments as needed, but these quickly get me to a good starting point. I can’t tell you how many times this has allowed me to not miss shots.