Photography class 3 - Camera button layout and changing settings - part 2

Photography for beginners 

This is one of the most important classes in our online photography classes for beginners. How so? Learning your cameras button layout and what each button does will really improve your photography competence and speed. We obviously can't cover every menu, option etc for every camera here. But, we'll cover the main ones. You'll have to invest a little time with your camera manual to learn everything.

This section is based on the dedicated buttons found on a DSLR. As with most of this guide, not all cameras have the same buttons or layouts. Check your camera manuals for your own specific buttons/settings.

Dedicated settings buttons

Most cameras nowadays are inundated with buttons everywhere! Knowing what each one does is important, but even more so is the ability to press a specific button and change the settings without even taking your eye away from the viewfinder. This is the end goal. Again, this will be a general overview and you may have to consult your camera manual for the specifics on your particular camera brand. See a pattern emerging here..?

The more time you put into learning button positions now, and what each button does, the more you'll thank us later! We expect you to know each button blindfolded!


Playback button -

This will generally be a play button in a square. Nice and simple. Press this to review images you've shot or watch videos you've taken.

Delete button -

A self explanatory button. Pressing this will delete selected photos and videos. I personally recommend not deleting this way however, unless absolutely necessary. My preference is to format the card. This literally deletes everything.

Format buttons -

As mentioned above, formatting deletes the whole contents of a memory card so it's to be used when you're absolutely sure you've finished with the data contained on the card. More often then not, this will be a multiple button press. My Nikons have a little red square with the word format inside them, underneath the two buttons needed pressing for formatting.

Menu -

The menu button, as you can imagine, gives you access to a wide range of camera settings. The settings are typically laid out in easy to navigate sections. On Nikon, there are separate menu sections, with sub menu sections too. I imagine other camera manufacturers will b the same. Through these menu and sub menus, you'll be able to change a huge amount of settings, ranging from how photos are played back to you, to fine tuning your auto focus. Most cameras allow users to create custom user defined menus too.

Custom menu setting-1.jpg

Settings menus

Here is an example of one of the many menus in your camera systems. Each menu has sunseqent sub menus.

Key lock-1.jpg

Photo protection key

You can see the key icon on the photo when the button is pressed.

Key - Protects photos from deletion. 

I have never really used the key button. During image playback, if you press the key button, it'll lock that photo so it can't be deleted. You'll see a little key icon appear on the photo and even if you try to delete it, you'll be greeted with a message stating protected images can't be deleted. DOES NOT PROTECT AGAINST FORMATTING!

Playback grid

Playback grid

This is the kind of image playback grid you'll come across if you press the zoom out button a few too many times. It can be helpful for quick image review.

Magnifying glasses -

During image playback, these buttons allow you to zoom into an image and back out. Pressing the zoom out button a few times will take your image playback into a grid view mode. The zoom in button will take you back to normal image playback view. These buttons can be used during live view too. The section where the focus point is placed on the screen will be enlarged with the zoom in button. *Note: this does not zoom the lens itself! Just that portion of the screen*

Info button display.jpg

Info button display

Pressing the info button on the back of your camera will bring up a screen something like this. You can see a tonne of camera settings from here.

Info -

Like most of these buttons, they're a little subjective to the camera brand you use. I use Nikon, and all of my camera have an info button. Pressing this will turn the rear screen on with a tonne of information about my camera settings.



Focus point lock switch.jpg

Focus point lock switch

Flick this switch to lock your focus point in place. Remember to switch it back when you're finished though!

L (switch) - The "L" stands for lock.

Flicking this switch will lock the focus point in place. This will stop the ability to move the focus point around the view finder. 

Directional pad -

So many uses! We can move the focus point around the view finder with the d-pad, navigate through menus and photos etc. 


LV - Live view.

This may take the form of a switch or button. Activating live view will show the scene infront of the camera lens in real time, through the rear LCD screen. Live view has to be active for recording video through a DSLR.


AE-L-AF-L AF-ON buttons

AE-L/AF-L buttons

Press this button to lock either exposure, or focus.

AE-L/AF-L/FE-L - Auto exposure lock/Auto focus lock/Flash exposure lock.

In semi professional camera modes, such as aperture priority mode, the exposure changes constantly. Pressing and holding this button will lock the exposure for as long as you wish. Auto focus lock works in pretty much the same way. Aquire focus, then press and hold to keep the focus point the same. Lastly, flash exposure lock is, again, pretty much the same. Press and hold this button to keep the flash exposure the same. Check to see whether the button has to be held or pressed for lock.


Exposure Compensation Button • (+/- and a green dot) -

Exposure compensation button.jpg

Exposure compensation button

Press and hold this button, then spin the rear command wheel, to change the exposure compensation in auto modes.

In auto modes, (P, Ap, Sp etc) press and hold the exposure compensation button. Then spin the rear command wheel. + will make the next photos you take brighter, and - will make them darker. 

Remember to reset the exposure compensation when you are finished.


Metering mode

Metering mode button.jpg

Metering mode button

Use this button to switch between metering modes. Matrix mode is the most commonly used metering mode.

Press and hold the metering button, then spin the rear command wheel to switch between metering modes. Metering works by assessing the light in the scene before you, then recommending an exposure to suit.



BKT button - bracketing button

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Bracketing button

BKT/bracketing button. 

We've done a decent section on bracketing shots in our issue 4 of Photomappers magazine. It can be read here. Bracketing photos allows us to take multiple photos of the same scene, with different exposures. 







Green buttons - Reset to default

Green dots.jpg

Green dots - Reset settings

Pressing and holding the relevant buttons with the green dots depicted will reset your settings back to the default. Here they are on my Nikon D700.

Not an actual dedicated single button, but these green dots work in the same way as the format card buttons. Press and hold both of the buttons with the green dots for a couple of seconds to return the camera settings back to default settings. This can be super helpful if you've changed some settings and have no idea how to rectify it!




FN - Function button

The FN button is a programmable key on the front of the camera body. It is a button that can be assigned many different functions from the custom settings menu. Nikon has set the default feature for this key as flash exposure lock. You can set this to be any available short cut that works best for you.

DOF preview button - Depth Of Field preview button

DOF preview button.jpg

DOF - Depth Of Field preview button

This is usually an unmarked button on the front of your camera, underneath your lens. When you look through the viewfinder, you're looking through the lens at it's MAXIMUM wide open aperture. Pressing and holding the DOF button will change the viewfinder to the chosen aperture set in camera. The viewfinder will get darker relative to the aperture, and you'll see a truer rendition of the depth of field. Alternatively, you could just take a shot and review it on the back screen and assign this button a new command.


AF MF selector switch.jpg

AF MF selector switch

Switch between auto focus and manual focus 

AF MF switch - Auto focus, Manual focus switch.

The auto focus - manual focus mode switch allows the user to easily between using auto focus, or manual focus. If in manual focus mode, the focus ring on the front of the camera lens must be used.






Focus mode button.jpg

Focus mode button

Press this button in and twist the rear command dial to change focus modes

Focus mode button -

On the Nikon D7000, the camera focus mode can be changed by pressing and holding this button, then using the main command and sub command dials. The main command dial scrolls through single point auto focus (AF-A), continuous auto focus (AF-C), and a hybrid of the two (AF-A). The sub command dial changes the number of focus points in the focus area.







Flash mode button.jpg

Flash mode button

Press this and use the rear command dial to change flash mode. Press this and use the front sub command dial to change flash compensation

Flash mode button

This button serves multiple purposes on my D7000. The first being popping up the flash. In the manual, and semi automatic modes, the flash won't fire unless made active by hitting this switch. Pressing and holding this button, while scrolling with the rear main command dial will, switch between flash modes. Pressing and holding, while scrolling with the sub command dial will change the flash compensation.