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Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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8 May 2020 7:42AM   Views : 375 Unique : 269


Let’s start with the wonderful and modern: touch screens. They make so many everyday tasks easy, allowing ‘buttons’ to be larger, giving control of a host of different functions on a device that lacks more than a couple of physical controls. (By the way, Alaria's long fingers are at the top to get your attention...)

And we’ve got used to them, swiping left, right, up and down in so many things. So much so, that we’re often blind to the alternatives. This article is about the alternatives, and making the most of them (which is immensely worth doing). I’m also going to suggest why virtual buttons are taking over the world, and why you shouldn’t let them. And there’s homework at the end.

Let’s go back to the clunky, all-metal, all-manual film camera at the top. It only has three main controls: shutter speed, aperture, and focus. There’s a ring to control each of them, with well-defined limits to the scale.

Contrast this with a (fairly) modern digital camera, though one that has well thought through controls: lots of different things that you can set and modify. Look at the little cluster behind the shutter button, with a heavily-inset button for the light in the LCD, and two pairs of buttons (clockwise from top left) for exposure compensation, drive mode, ISO and white balance.

Why are they there, and not on the back of the camera? Simples, Sergei! It’s to make them easy to find by touch: with the camera at your eye, you can press any of them, and alter the setting with the front control wheel. Another press, or a first-pressure tap on the shutter release and the wheel reverts to its normal purpose.


(Handy hint: more or less wherever you’ve got to in menus, views and other settings, a tap on the shutter release takes you back to square one. Worth remembering…)

Now, if you know where your buttons are, this makes quick adjustment under pressure a doddle, and doesn’t involve changing your glasses. While touch-screen addicts are fumbling, you’ve sorted it and shot it.

Fifty years ago, two of the most entertaining photographic columnists, Kevin MacDonnell and Vic Blackman, were canny journeyman photographers. Neither of them, I think, would claim to be professorial material, but they were sensible and very far from stupid. They understood the value of having an established way of doing everything – or ‘workflow’ as we call it now. Vic, who was a staff photographer at the Daily Express, recommended the professional way to handle a camera was to be able to set all the controls in the dark, by touch.

This doesn’t work now: with electronic focus rings, and control wheels that spin for ever. But we have an intermediate technology to help us in the form of viewfinder displays. If we know which button to press, we have control of everything with the camera still at eye level.

By the way – imagine the chaos if you had to look at the gear lever, the trafficator stalk or the wiper control every time you used them while driving…

So here’s the homework: learn your buttons. If you can’t work it out from the markings, look in the manual, and I suggest that finding how to adjust exposure compensation is the place to start.


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GGAB Avatar
GGAB 7 31 1 United States
8 May 2020 1:48PM
"So here’s the homework: learn your buttons. If you can’t work it out from the markings, look in the manual, and I suggest that finding how to adjust exposure compensation is the place to start".👍
mistere Avatar
mistere Plus
10 38 8 England
8 May 2020 3:15PM
And remember to take the lens cap off...
Practice, practice, practice. There really aren't any shortcuts. It takes a while (longer than most people think) but it's nice when things start happen instinctively. Like changing gear, without having to look at the gear stick.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
8 May 2020 5:10PM
That's precisely it, Dave.

I shall add 'and switch the touchscreen off' - I know they have their uses, occasionally, but they're more of a threat to sanity than anything else, most of the time!
mistere Avatar
mistere Plus
10 38 8 England
8 May 2020 5:48PM
Touch screens, It's ok on the phone but i don't use the one on the camera. It's too easy to bugger things up.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
9 May 2020 10:26AM
And we're all, already, far too good at that...

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