How Well Do You Really Know Your Camera?

Digital cameras today are sophisticated pieces of technology. With all those buttons, menus, options, and features comes a steep learning curve and a good investment of time to master the equipment. So today, rather than give out advice on how to operate your camera, I’m asking a list of questions to get your gears turning.

I’m not really asking you to answer the questions directly — it’s just kind of a way to test your own camera knowledge. If you read through these questions and you either don’t understand what it’s asking or you don’t know the answer, you may not know your camera as well as you thought you did.

These questions are really aimed at the digital SLR users, so if you’re a compact camera user some of the questions won’t directly apply. Even so, a good chunk of them can be answered with any digital camera. Film users will probably have even less questions that are applicable.


  • Exposure Mode
    What exposure modes are available on your camera? Manual, aperture priority, shutter priority, program, auto, presets? Do you know how to use them?
  • Drive Mode
    What drive modes are available on your camera? Single frame, continuous, bracketing, timers? What uses do these have in different situations?
  • Focus Mode
    What options do you have for focus control? Single shot, automatic, continuous, manual? Why would you use one over the other?
  • Metering Mode
    Which metering modes does your camera have? Segment pattern, weighted, spot? Do you know how each of these responds to different lighting conditions?
  • Flash Mode
    What are you telling your flash to do when you release the shutter? Auto, fill flash, red-eye removal, slow-sync, wireless?
  • Flash Control
    How are you controlling your flash? Through the lens (TTL), manual, some other type of integrated control?
  • Camera Sensitivity
    What ISO ranges can you use? What sensitivities does your auto setting use? At what point does the noise become too noisy?
  • White Balance
    What are your options for setting white balance? Auto, presets, temperature, measured? Do you know how to set a measured white balance?
  • Exposure Compensation
    Do you know how to compensate for exposure when using auto or semi-auto exposure modes? Are you using your histograms?
  • Exposure Lock
    Can you lock your exposure? Can you do it without locking the focus? Can you lock it across multiple shots?
  • Flash Compensation
    Do you know how to control your flash intensity separately from your exposure? Do you know why you would do this?


  • Image Quality
    What resolutions and qualities are available? Can you shoot JPEG, RAW, or both? What are you typically set to?
  • Color Mode
    Which color modes are available? ProPhoto RGB, Adobe RGB, sRGB, others? Do you color manage your workflow?
  • JPEG Processing
    What processing adjustments are available for JPEGs? Sharpness, saturation, contrast, hue, etc? Have you adjusted these to give you better results?
  • Bracketing Order
    Are you bracketing 3 shots or 5? What order is the bracket set up for?


  • Diopter Adjustment
    Can you adjust the diopter of your viewfinder? Have you lately?
  • DOF Preview
    Do you know how to preview the DOF? And do you know how to interpret the results?
  • Mirror Lock
    What steps do you need to take to lock your mirror in the upright position?
  • Sensor Cleaning
    Do you know how to enter the sensor cleaning mode? Have you ever cleaned your sensor?
  • Image Stabilization
    Do you have image stabilization capabilities? Is it in-camera or on-lens?

So what am I missing here (this one you can answer)? Did I skip over some of the basics, or do I not know my camera as well as I should? I’d also like to hear from the Canon and Nikon users since I’m sure there are specific questions that would apply to different camera models.

This entry was posted in Equipment, Features on by .

About Brian Auer

a photography enthusiast from North Idaho. He's also the guy behind the Epic Edits Weblog. As a hobbyist photographer since 2003, his passion has been to constantly improve his photography skill set, to share his own knowledge with others, and to become an integral part of the photographic community.

16 thoughts on “How Well Do You Really Know Your Camera?

  1. Lisa

    Your camera looks seriously complicated. My Canon doesn’t have ProPhoto RGB. I have to say I don’t even know what that is. I use Adobe RGB. For some Canon cameras, there is the AF-ON button for locking the camera’s auto-focus.

    Great read. Thanks for this. I needed the review. 🙂

  2. Brian Auer Post author

    Complicated = Fun. I love my buttons. Just about any KM 7D user will tell you the same.

    FOCUS LOCK — that’s what I forgot! I remembered the exposure lock, but forgot the focus lock. Probably because I usually just switch to MF with my little AF/MF button if I need to lock the focus.

  3. Jenni

    I’m not sure if you have it under one of the points above but the functionality to choose on which point your auto-focus should focus or if it should choose one automatically is also something that can be of importance (especially if you are shooting Macros).

  4. Brian Auer Post author

    Good point Jenni — I don’t think I specifically listed that under the autofocus section, but that’s a very important function to know.

  5. ozlady

    Great post – I know about half of these, and I’m pretty sure my camera has at least half as many features again that I haven’t figured out. Thanks and I’m off to explore.

  6. dawn

    I have the Nikon D200 and the only other thing that I can think of that I changed in the complex menus was the orientation rotation. I have verticals rotated so I can see them upright.

    Since I shoot in manual mode, I use metering, white balance, ISO, etc. constantly. I think that shooting in M has really taught me more about my camera and taught me how to finesse the shots in the way that I want them to be shot. Sometimes the results are horrible but the more comfortable I get with it, the better they get.

  7. libeco

    I must say of all these settings mentioned I know they exist, but I don’t use all of them. Some because I don’t really need them, like exposure modes (I only use M to learn the fastest way), white balance and color mode (I change it in photoshop anyway).

    Others I just never tried, like: flash compensation (I don’t have any fancy flash and never use the onboard one), exposure compensation (I just compensate manually, really I should learn this function!), sensor cleaning mod (I have a 400D which shakes the dust off, I’m still afraid one day I will have to clean my sensor and I have no idea how to do it).

    Some things my 400D can do are:
    – Use data of dust specs after taking a picture of a white piece of paper and send it to the Canon program to remove it from future pictures.
    – (probably something every camera can do nowadays) use a help light to focus in the dark.

  8. Brian Auer Post author

    Aha, so you’re a manual mode shooter. While I’m a fan of learning how to use the manual controls, I actually shoot in aperture priority most of the time. Often, I don’t have time to meter the exposure and fidget with two scroll wheels while trying to compose and not miss a shot. The aperture priority lets me determine the DOF while letting the camera’s light meter do it’s job. If I want a specific shutter speed (say for motion or blur), I’ll switch to shutter priority. The only times I really go full manual is when I’m on a tripod and when I’m doing macro work.

    As for cleaning your sensor, you’d be surprised at how much stuff doesn’t get shaken off. At a minimum, you ought to be using a rocket blaster to blow off the sensor occasionally. But eventually, you’ll have to give up and clean that sucker. It’s really not as bad as you’d think.

  9. libeco

    I have a nice Giottos rocket air blower, which I used exactl once after I found there was something distracting in my viewfinder (turned out to be on the mirror and not the sensor).

    Perhaps a tutorial on cleaning your sensor soon on epicedits ;-)?

  10. Brian Auer Post author

    Ah yes… perhaps. I think I have an opening for next Monday. I need a bit of time to get some pictures together to aid with the descriptions.

  11. NJHeart2Heart Dawn

    I’d love to see a follow up post on this… How about a quiz? I recently re-listened to a CD series on goal setting and using a paper based planner with various categories. The teacher, after having spoken about the various categories, and why put certain information in a certain location, then quizzed the students, by asking “if you have so-and-so”, which section would you put it in? I’ve love to see a series of questions on a particular photographic situation with specific goal in mind (It’s a bright sunny day, and I want to shoot a bush that is say, 20 feet from me. I want to maintain focus on the bush, but also the flowers 2 feet in front, and the tree 4 feet in back of the bush) , then ask which drive mode, program mode, focus setting, etc. you would use for that situation? You may get lots of different answers, but it could lead to some fascinating discussions on technique!

  12. Jayde

    I could answer about half of these questions, and have heard of the rest. I’ve been shooting fully manual because I figured that was the best way to control everything, but I may need to reconsider and try shooting in Aperture Priority mode. I guess I never fully understood the benefits. As much as I’ve read about my camera, some of it doesn’t stick as I’m such a visual learner.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *