Why and How You Should Create Custom Shooting Modes

Mary in Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park, CO
Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef National Park, UT

If you have a Canon DSLR, you probably have Custom Shooting Modes C1, C2, and C3 on your Mode Dial. (If you have a Rebel, you will not have these modes, but custom modes already created for you like portrait, landscape, macro, sports, and night).  The custom shooting modes can be an invaluable shortcut when you do not have time or need to execute a common pre-planned photo quickly.  Here’s how:

Mary in Big Sur
Big Sur, CA

Look at your manual and find “Register Custom Shooting Modes.”  This is a fast and easy way to keep several sets of camera settings available to use quickly.  Many of us photograph one way or least have a favorite way.  Mary shoots in Aperture priority with a 70-200 mm lens.

Mary in Death Valley
Death Valley National Park, CA

Because I make mostly landscape and nature photos, I shoot in manual mode at f/16 and I manually adjust the shutter speed while reading the light meter; 100 ISO, and a 2 second timer to minimize camera shake, while on a tripod using Live View.  I use auto-focus, but I also magnify in Live View and adjust focus manually to make sure.  This process works well when you have plenty of time and not much is happening – like sunset.  However, there are other times when being ready to go quickly is a must.

Mary in Ouray, CO
Ouray, CO

My Custom Shooting Modes

C1 is set in aperture priority, at f/16, 100 ISO, and 2 second timer.  This works well if I am late to a landscape shoot and just want to set up my camera quickly on a tripod and start shooting.  I do not like to be late for a sunset or sunrise, but if I am, I will use C1 and start shooting quickly and make adjustments based on the results.  I might then go to manual and shoot the way I usually do.  However, this always gives me a starting point that I can depend on and not think about.

C2 is set in manual mode at f/16, 100 ISO, and 2 second timer with 5 shots bracketed at +1.5, +3, 0, -1.5, -3.  This is a basic set up for the exposures needed to produced a High Dynamic Range (HDR) composite when I get home.  I still have to set the exposure correctly at zero, but then getting the five shots takes just a few seconds.  Granted, I  could do this all manually, and I do it all of the time, but this also puts my hands on the camera every time and this could cause shake or misaligned photos and will take a minute or so.  In fast changing conditions, this works really well for HDR.

C3 is set to aperture priority at f/4, Auto ISO, and high burst mode.  I also change the auto-focus mode from One Shot to AI Focus to account for still and moving objects.  This is ideal for photographing wild life, kids, pets, portraits, or fast moving objects.  When we were in Gaviota State Park photographing the coast and sea, I heard a train coming and I knew it would be on an elevated bridge in seconds.  I flipped to C3 and ended up with 8 decent shots of a moving train and the coast line.  When Mary and I are driving through the woods with a chance to see wild life, I keep my camera in my lap set at C3  ready for any action.

White Sands, New Mexico
White Sands National Monument, NM

Here’s How

On Mary’s 5D Mark II, spin the mode dial to C1, C2, and C3 while making the camera settings you desire for each custom shooting mode.  Then go into the Menu and hit “Camera user setting” on the third page of the “wrench” menu, and then hit “Register.”  This will save the settings on C1, C2, and C3.  If you want to change them, just make the changes while you are in the C1, C2, or C3 and “register” them again.

On my 5D Mark III, go to the fourth page of the “wrench” menu and hit “Custom shooting mode (C1-C3)”, and again, hit “register settings.”  Once you do this a few times, it gets really easy to make changes.

Mary at Horseshoe Bend, Page, CO
Horseshoe Bend, Page, AZ

So, these are my custom shooting modes.  You may have some favorites yourself.  I encourage you to explore the instruction manual and features of your camera that are meant to create ease of use, like custom shooting modes.

Mary under an ancient Bristlecone Pine, Whte Mountains, CA
Whtie Mountains, CA

To see and purchase our photographs, please go to www.pamphotography.com.


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