If you just got a brand new camera, then you’re probably looking at its viewfinder and wondering exactly what you’re seeing. Just know that even advanced users sometimes look at it and see a ton of information. But you don’t need to be intimidated. Here’s what you need to know in under 600 words. Hopefully, by the end of this, you’ll have a bit more clarity on the subject.
Can’t See Clearly? Adjust the Diopter
When you look into the viewfinder of your new camera, it’s not supposed to be blurry. If it seems that way, you have to adjust the diopter. Think about this as a magnifying glass. Sometimes the closer the magnifying glass is, the less effective it is. So essentially, you need to move it back and forth. You can adjust it using a little knob by the viewfinder. Turn it to the + side if you’re farsighted and can see things clearly from far away but not close up. Turn it to the – side if you need to see close up. My diopter always gets turned all the way to the negative side, and I always take photos while wearing glasses.
Also, remember, you might have one eye that’s stronger than the other.
Exposure Preview in the Exposure Control Modes
If you set your camera to M (manual), Av or A (aperture), S or TV (shutter) or P (program) then the camera will give you some control over the exposure settings. By default, cameras are set so that you can adjust the exposure parameters and see the setting effect on the scene. Different brands call this effect different things.
If the scene is dark then you need to either:
- Raise your ISO (the higher the number, the higher the ISO)
- Open up the aperture (the lower the number, the more open it is)
- Slow down the shutter speed (this works in fractions of a second, so 1/4 of a second is slower than 1/8000th)
Likewise, if the scene is too bright, then you need to do the opposite of what’s above.
When you’re focusing the camera by pressing the autofocus button, you’ll see the camera focus on a subject. In the viewfinder, it will appear with a green box or boxes over that subject. That’s how the camera tells you the subject is in focus.
The Info/Display Buttons and the Information You’ll See
Your viewfinder can show you a lot of information. Put the viewfinder to your eye and press the info or display button until you see exactly what you want. You can also customize these in the settings, but that’s a whole other thing. Here you’ll see info like the exposure settings, autofocus, type, white balance, metering type, how much space is left on your memory card, battery life, the level, and so much more.
For beginners, this is what you need to get started with using your viewfinder. There’s more to go through, but that’s when things get more advanced. We don’t want to confuse you. And if you want better photos, the viewfinder can help cut out all distractions by making you peer into a little window and, therefore, the camera’s eye.
For more tips tailored for beginners, be sure to check out our Useful Photography Tips section.