Photos By Meta - Photography Tips

Photos By Meta – Learn Meta’s Top Sony Camera Tips

Sony Camera Tips

Meta’s Sony Camera Tips for Nature Photographers uses Sony a77 II Cameras. Meta’s Sony Camera Tips also apply to the Sony a65, Sony a68, Sony a77, Sony A77 II, Sony a99 and Sony a99 II Cameras. Meta’s Sony Camera Tips include:

The Exposure Triangle

Sony Camera Modes

Sony Camera Mirror Replacement

Sony Camera Back Button Focus

Sony Camera Focus Hold Button

Sony Camera Manual Focus Tips

Sony Camera Shooting in RAW

LuminarAurora HDRPhotolemurSkylum Software

The Sony Camera Mirrorless SLT Camera – 12 fps – 24 Megapixels

If you’re new to Sony Photography, it can be a bit overwhelming by the large number of Settings and Options on this Powerful Sony Camera.

Many Beginner Photographers ask Meta:

Which Camera Mode Should I Use and When?
Why should I Shoot in RAW vs JPEG?
Can do you shoot HDR Photos in RAW?
What’s the Best Post Production Software?
Can Modern Sony Cameras use Vintage Minolta Lenses?
Where Can I Find Cheap Sony Lenses?

The Exposure Triangle

Exposure Triangle
The Exposure Triangle – Click to Enlarge

Meta Explains the Exposure Triangle

The Exposure Triangle (Photo: Left) is made up of 3 Sides or 3 Elements:
Aperture – The Lens Opening
Shutter Speed – The Exposure Time
ISO – The Light Sensitivity – Camera Sensor Amplification

All 3 Sides or 3 Elements of the Exposure Triangle must be in Perfect Balance for a Correct Exposure to happen. Adjusting any one side or element will require adjustments of one or two of the other sides of the Exposure Triangle to balance.

If you can grasp the concept of the Exposure Triangle and how they interact with each other, then you are well on your way to understanding Photography.

Which Camera Modes Should I Use and When?

Sony Camera Modes
Sony Camera Modes

Meta Explaines the Various Sony Camera Modes

A-Mode – Aperture – Aperture Priority Mode – Controls Lens Opening

Aperture Size

In Aperture Priority Mode, you set a Fixed Aperture Size of your Lens Opening, and let the Camera decide on what Shutter Speed to use, to achieve the correct exposure. Lens Aperture Sizes typically vary from f/32 (Top Left: Very Small Opening Diagram) to f/1.4 (Top Right: Very Large Opening Diagram).

Which Aperture Size should you use? That often depends on your subject. How much background blurring you want? How much Depth of Field you require. Do you have enought available light to use a smaller aperture? The Middle Size Lens Aperture Size of f/8 is a good starting point – “Remember f/8 and Everything is Great!”

Large Open Aperture Lens Sizes (Top: Right Diagram), like Meta’s very fast Vintage Minolta Maxxum 50mm f/1.4 Prime Lens (Photo: Left) will Blur the background and result in a narrow depth of field (less area in focus), which is very handy for Closeup Portraits, Very Low Light Situations, Fireworks, or when using Very High Shutter Speeds, like shooting Hummingbirds (Photo: Bottom Left).

Small Aperture Lens Sizes (Top: Left Diagram) like f/32 will Sharpen the background and result in a Wide Depth of Field (more area in focus), which is very handy for Landscapes and Macro Photography, when using External Lighting.

Aperture Priority Mode typically requires a Sturdy Tripod, because the Shutter Speed is decided by the Camera, and can often fall below the 1/60th of a second, the Minimum Hand Held Shutter Speed (Refer to Shutter Speeds Below).

Meta typically shoots most of her Macro Photography in A Mode when using a Sturdy Tripod.

Photos By Meta - Lens Speeds
Hummingbird Shot at 1/8,000th of a Second

Lens Aperture Numbers and Lens Speeds

All lenses are rated with an Aperture Number, such as f/2.8 or f/1.4 (“Faster Lenses”) or f/4.0 of f/5.6 (“Slower Lenses”). This Lens Aperture Number is also referred to as the “Speed of the Lens”. This is confusing at first, because the Aperture Number of the Lens doesn’t control the Camera’s Shutter Speed, but they are related in the Exposure Triangle.

At the same exposure, Larger Aperture and Faster f/1.4 and f/2.8 lenses can shoot at faster shutter speeds, because they capture more light than a Smaller Aperture and Slower f/4.0 of f/5.6 lens.

The Faster f/1.4 and f/2.8 Lenses are often more expensive, larger in diameter and much heavier, but are typically worth the long term investment. Meta only buys f/2.8 or faster Professional Sony Lenses.

At the same exposure level, comparing Meta’s Sony 50mm f/2.8 Prime Lens with her Vintage Minolta Maxxum 50mm f/1.4 Prime Lens, the 2x Faster f/1.4 Vintage Minolta lens can shoot at 1/8,000th of a second, where as the f/2.8 Sony lens can only shoot at 1/4,000th of a second. If you double the shutter speed to 1/8,000th of a second, the f/2.8 Sony lens will loose 1/2 of the available light, because the f/1.4 Vintage Minolta lens can capture twice the light as the f/2.8 Sony Lens, due to its larger Aperture. This has nothign to do with Sony Lens vs. Minolta Lens, but the actual speed of the two lenses.

Meta prefers her faster Vintage Minolta Maxxum 50mm f/1.4 Lens over the 50mm f/2.8 Lens when shooting Hummingbirds at 0.5 meters away, at 1/8,000 of a second shutter, in order to freeze their wings (Photo: Top Left). Using one or more High Speed Sync Flashes is recommended when shooting Hummingbirds.

Zoom Lenses on the other hand, have either a Constant Aperture Number or a Variable Aperture Number. Meta’s Vintage Minolta Maxxum 70–210mm f/4.0 Lens (Photo: Left) aka “Beer Can” has a Constant Aperture Number of f/4.0, meaning the Aperture Size stays fixed at f/4.0 across the entire Zoom Range of 70–210mm. This results in no change in exposure as the lens is zoomed in or out, which is preferred.

Meta’s Vintage Minolta Maxxum 75–300mm f/4.5–5.6 Lens aka “Big Beer Can” has a Variable Aperture Number of f/4.5 to f/5.6 (Slower Lens), meaning the Aperture size decreases as the lens is zoomed in, causing a slight drop in exposure, which needs to be compensated for by lowering your shutter speed at the higher end. Variable Aperture Lenses are often a trade off in order to get the wider zoom range of the lens at the expense of the Lens Speed.

Meta prefers her Faster, Constant Aperture Minolta Maxxum 70–210mm f/4.0 Len, when shooting in low light or at faster shutter speeds, if she doesn’t require the 300mm Range Zoom Lens.

Meta’s Vintage Minolta Maxxum 75–300mm f/4.5–5.6 Lens is still a very useful zoom lens to shoot Hummingbirds with in bright sunlight, at 1.5 meters away, because at that distance, they don’t notice you standing there.

S-Mode – Shutter – Shutter Priority Mode – Controls Exposure Time

Shutter Speed

In Shutter Priority Mode, you set a Fixed Shutter Speed, and let the Camera decide on which Aperture Size to use, to achieve the correct exposure. Camera Shutter Speeds typically vary from 30 seconds to 1/8,000th of a second.

Which Shutter Speed should you use? That often depends on your subject, is it still or moving? Do you want it tack sharp or blurred? Do you have enought available light to use a higher shutter speed?

Slower Shutter Speeds (Top: Right) like 1/2 second will Blur the Image, which is handy for blurring waterfalls or Long Exposure Shots using a Neutral Density Filter and a Sturdy Tripod.

Faster Shutter Speeds (Top: Left) like 1/1,000th of a second will Freeze the Motion, which is handy for sports shots or to freeze the wings of a Hummingbird (1,8000th of a second works very well).

Shutter Speeds Slower than 30 seconds (Very Long Exposures with Neutral Density Filters) will require switching to Bulb Mode and using a Programmable Remote Shutter Release and a Sturdy Tripod.

The Mimimum Hand Held Shutter Speed is 1/60th of a second. Anything slower than 1/60th of a second would require a Sturdy Tripod. The Size of the Lens is also a factor when selecting The Minimum Hand Held Shutter Speed.

A Rule of Thumb for taking Hand Held Shots is to select the Minimum Shutter Speed of 2.5x the Lens Size:
• 24mm lens – Use 1/60th of a second.
• 50mm lens – Use 1/125th of a second.
• 100mm lens – Use 1/250th of a second.
• 200mm lens – Use 1/500th of a second.

Meta typically shoots most of her Hand Held shots in S Mode at 2.5x the Lens Size.

ISO – Light Sensitivity


The Camera’s ISO or Sensitivity typically ranges from ISO 50 (Low Sensitivity) to ISO 25,600 (High Sensitivity). ISO is one part of the Exposure Triangle, but its not a Camera Mode on your Camera’s Dial. ISO adjusts the sensitivity of the Camera’s Sensor Amplifier, which if pushed too high, will result in unwanted digital noise.

High ISO (Top: Right) like ISO 25,600, can be use to shoot in the extreme dark at high shutter speeds or with small apertures. High ISO (ISO 1600+) can introduce digital noise (Like ASA 800 Film Grain in Old Film Cameras).

Low ISO (Top: Left) like ISO 50, can be use to shoot in bright light at very slower shutter speeds or with very large apertures. Low ISO reduces unwanted digital noise, and is recommended to use, whenever possible. Low ISO needs plenty of light or the use of a Flash.

Meta typically shoots at Native ISO 100 (No Sensor Amplification), to keep the digital noise level at the lowest levels. She only increases the ISO to 200 or 400, as a last resort to keep her Photos as Noise Free as possible. Meta doesn’t use Auto ISO, because it typically raises the ISO first, before adjusting the shutter speed or aperture, often resulting in unwanted digital noise due to a High ISO.

Automatic Mode – Auto Mode

If you’re a Beginner Digital Photographer, there’s nothing wrong with using Automatic Mode or Auto Mode. Many Professional Photographers use Auto Mode (but they probably won’t admit it). Auto Mode is often faster than S, A or M Mode if you need to take a quick action shot, and don’t have time to adjust your camera.

Manual Mode – M Mode

In Manual Mode, you set the ISO, Aperture Size and the Shutter Speed and have Full Control over all of your Camera’s Settings. Manual Mode or M Mode is often used by many Professional Photographers, who know what they are doing, often for special effects, depending on what special effect they are trying to achieve (Long Exposures, Neutral Density Filters, Time Lapse Photography, HDR Bracketing, etc). Native ISO 100, f/8 and 1/125th of a second, are good starting points when starting out shooting in Manual Mode. A Sturdy Tripod is often required.

Sony Cameras – Do It Yourself Translucent Mirror Replacement

Sony Camera Translucent Mirror – Genuine Sony Replacement Part

Don’t spend over $400 to have the Sony Service Center take up to 2 weeks to replace your Sony Camera Translucent Mirror! This Genuine Sony Part Number A1855640A Translucent Mirror Replacement Part is a very simple pop in replacement part. Remember to never ever touch this fragile film mirror when cleaning your Sony Sensor, as it dents and distorts very easily (Been there – Done that). This Genuine Sony Replacement Part Number also fits many other Sony Cameras. Sony a77 II Clock Battery: ML621.

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Learn How to Set Back Button Focus on the Sony Cameras

Back Button Focus

On most Modern Cameras, when you press the Shutter Button half way down, the Auto Focus locks onto your subject. When you press the Shutter Button all the way down to take the shot, if you happen to move the camera slightly or decide to adjust your composition, there’s good chance that the camera will try to Auto Focus once more, but this time, not on your subject. This will cause a lot of out of focus shots. A simple fix is to turn off the Auto Focus Function with the Shutter Button.

Sony Camera – Focus Standard

When in Auto Focus Mode, Focus Standard (aka Back Button Focus) is already assigned by Default to the Center of the Joystick on the Sony Camera – Give it a try! Holding down the Center of the Joystick will continuously Auto Focus the Camera! This is the only real means of assigning a real Back Button Focus on the Sony Camera. Remember to turn off the Auto Focus Function with the Shutter Button, so it isn’t trying to Auto Focus every time you take a shot.

MENU –> Gear 6 –> Custom Key Setting –> Center Button –> Standard
MENU –> Gear 4 –> AF w/shutter –> Off

Back Button Focus takes some time to get used to, because you’ll have to always remember to always Auto Focus using the Center of the Joystick, instead of just pressing the Shutter Button. If you don’t like the way this works, try using the Focus Hold Button Procedure below.

Learn How to Set the Focus Hold Button on the Sony Cameras

Focus Hold Button

If you’ve ever used a High End Telephoto Lens, such as the Sony 70–200 f/2.8, you’re familiar with the Focus Hold Button(s), located near the manual focus ring. When a Focus Hold Button is held down, it temporarily deactivates the Camera’s Auto Focus. This Focus Hold button is very handy when shooting Nature Photography and is found on both the Sony 50mm f/2.8 Macro Lens or the Sony 100mm f/2.8 Macro Lens.

Focus Hold Button (this “Button” doesn’t actually exist on the Sony Camera) can be assigned to the Preview Button (Hidden Unmarked Bottom Front Right on Camera). The Preview Button can then be reassigned to the Back C Button. Now this works exactly the same as the Focus Hold Button on High End Telephoto Lens, using your left middle finger to temporarily deactivate the Auto Focus.

Sony a77 II Camera – Focus Hold Button

MENU –> Gear 6 –> Custom Key Setting –> Preview Button –> Focus Hold
MENU –> Gear 6 –> Custom Key Setting –> C Button –> Aperture Preview
MENU –> Gear 6 –> Custom Key Setting –> Focus Hold Button (Lens) –> Focus Hold

Learn How to Use Manual Focus – Peaking Level and Peaking Color

Manual Focus – Peaking Level and Peaking Color

If you want total control of your Camera’s Focus, there’s nothing better than the Old Fashion Manual Focus, especially when shooting Nature Photography.

To make your Manual Focus easier to use, you should Enable Peaking Level and Peaking Color.

Sony Camera – Peaking Level and Peaking Color

MENU –> Gear 2 –> Peaking Level –> Low or Middle
MENU –> Gear 2 –> Peaking Color –> Yellow

When using Manual Focus in Nature Photography, these two handy options will brightly highlight the outline of the subject that is in focus in Low Yellow or Medium Yellow. The Peaking Level highlights the exact Area in Focus, so using the Low setting is More Precise than using the Medium or High setting. This is extremely handy in Macro Photograph, where your Depth of Field is often very shallow and you are usually shooting in Manual Focus. You also have the option of using Yellow, Red or White for Highlight Colors, with Low, Medium or High Peaking Levels.

Why You Should Shoot in RAW on Sony Cameras

Reasons to Shoot in RAW

RAW is a native file format that captures the image data directly from your Sony Camera’s Sensor. There’s no in-camera processing (HDR, MFNR, Panoramic, Handheld Twilight) or any type of compression applied to RAW Files. Sony uses their own ARW file format, which is similar, but different from other camera manufacturers.

Meta uses Luminar, (No More Monthly Photoshop or Lightroom Fees) for all of her RAW Post Production Workflow, RAW Photo Editing and Watermarking. Luminar replaced a number of Meta’s RAW Processing Applications. Luminar has made Meta’s RAW Post Production Workflow much more efficient.

Meta shoots her Sony Cameras in RAW, Native ISO 100 (No Sensor Amplification), Manual Mode, Manual Focus, Cloudy White Balance. Meta uses a Sturdy Tripod with a Remote Shutter Release.

MENU –> Camera 1 –> Quality –> RAW
MENU –> Camera 5 –> ISO –> ISO 100
MENU –> Camera 5 –> White Balance –> Cloudy

The Top Reasons to Shoot in RAW vs. JPEG.

1) Higher Quality Images – Higher Levels of Brightness and Colors

RAW Files are uncompressed with 16 bits (65536) of information.
JPEG Files are compressed with only 8 bits (256) of information.
If Image Quality is Important to you, which would you rather have, 65536 or 256 bits of information? Quality is the biggest argument for Shooting in RAW. The more information you start with, the higher quality of your final images, with less banding in the sky, more colors and brightness. The difference of Shooting in RAW vs. JPEG is amazing!

2) Better Exposure Correction

When shooting in RAW, most underexposed and overexposed images can be easily fixed with Luminar, because you have so much more information available in the blacks and the whites to work with.

3) White Balance Color Correction

When shooting in JPEG, White Balance is applied to the JPEG image based on the Camera’s White Balance setting at the time.
When shooting in RAW, White Balance is recorded, but because you have so much more data to use, the Color Temperature and Tint (White Balance Presets) are easy to adjust in Luminar. Meta sets her cameras to Cloudy White Balance when shooting in RAW. Cloudy White Balance is a good starting point.

4) Better Sharpening and Noise Reduction – No JPEG Artifacts – No Double JPEG Compression

When shooting in JPEG, images are automatically compressed once in JPEG Format inside the Camera. If you do any Post Production in Photoshop, you’ll probably save your final image as a JPEG File. This results in Double JPEG Compression, which adds more JPEG Artifacts on top of JPEG Artifacts – Not Good! A General Rule in Photography is “Never Compress an already Compressed File”. When you are shooting in JPEG, this rule is almost impossible to obey, especially if you Save As JPEG out of Photoshop.

Luminar offers RAW Sharpening, RAW Masking and RAW Noise Reduction. If you Export your RAW images as Uncompressed TIFF Files, there’s no Compression between your Camera and your Printer, resulting in much higher quality prints.

5) Non Destructive RAW Editing – Digital Negatives

Think of your RAW Files as Film Negatives. Any RAW Post Production is saved in a Side File (where the tweaks and changes are recorded and stored). The Original RAW File, like your Original Film Negative, never gets touched, so you can always go back to it and tweak it over and over again.

6) Wider Color Space

Color Space is a specific Range of Colors that can be represented in an image. The RAW Export in Luminar offers 3 Different Color Space Exports – sRBG (Web), Abobe RGB 1998 (Photoshop) or ProPhoto RGB (The Widest Color Space Available). If your Printer can Handle ProPhoto RGB TIFF Files – Go for it!

7) More Efficient RAW Post Production Workflow

Luminar offers Batch Processing of your images to easily process large groups of RAW Files, using the same exact adjustment settings. Luminar can also sort through your thousands of images, remove images, rank images and compare images side by side. It’s extremely fast and efficient!

8) Most Professional Photographers Shoot in RAW

If you’re thinking of making the leap into Professional Photography – You need to Start Shooting in RAW Today! Don’t put it off any longer! Your paying clients don’t want to see dull, lifeless colors, banding in the skys, oversaturated whites and undersaturated blacks, that are so very common when shooting in JPEG.

Check Out Luminar Post Production Application, which lets you take Total Control of your RAW Production Workflow and RAW Photo Editing. You can even add a Watermark or Signature to the Exported File. Start to Finish RAW Post Production can be performed with just One Single Application, without paying Adobe for using Photoshop or Lightroom Every Month!

Meta used to shoot in JPEG Super Fine, but once she discovered how easy and efficient the Luminar Post Production Application is with her RAW Files, now she only shoots in RAW!

Still Not Convinced RAW is Better than JPEG? Paying Adobe for Lightroom and Photoshop Every Month?

Download Luminar

Download Aurora HDR

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“Shooting in RAW, It Ain’t for Wimps”

OK, if Shooting in RAW were easy, everyone would be doing it! Most people shoot in Auto Mode and in JPEG because it’s fast and easy, and it’s the default shooting mode on their Point and Shoot Cameras or iPhones. JPEG is Quick and Easy and it requires No Post Production. Shooting in RAW separates the Amateurs from the Professionals!

• All RAW Files Must be Post Processed – Post Processing takes more time. You can’t quickly Print, E-Mail or Upload a RAW File online.
• If you’re one of those people that has to post everything they shoot Immediately on Social Media, consider shooting in RAW + JPEG.
• RAW + JPEG eats up more SD Card Space, plus the JPEG File is Fine, Not Super Fine. This might be the best of both Worlds.
• RAW Files Larger! The Sony a77 II Camera produces 30 Meg RAW Files. Meta uses Fast 128G Sandisk SD Cards. (4,300+ RAW Images).
• Slower Camera Buffering! If you’re shooting your Sony a77 II Camera at 12fps, expect to experience some Increased Buffering Time in RAW.
• Sony RAW Files are recorded in Sony’s AWR Format. Your RAW Processing Software must know your Camera’s Make and Model.
• Some Brand New Camera Models may not be in your RAW Processing Software yet, causing months of delays and frustration.
• Keep your Adobe Camera RAW Plug-In (ACR) updated often. As new Camera Models hit the market, your ACR needs to keep pace.
• Some In-Camera Features of the Sony a77 II Camera, like HDR, MFNR, Handheld Twilight and Sweep Panorama don’t work in RAW.
• HDR is possible using Bracketing when Shooting in RAW. See the Next Section Below.

TipIf you’re a big fan of the Sony Camera’s Super Fast HDR Processing, you’re going to be very disappointed when shooting in RAW, because HDR is an Internal Camera Processing Function, so it’s Disabled in RAW. To make a quick switch back and forth between RAW and Super Fine JPEG, set one of your Fn Button Presets to Quality close to your HDR/DRO.

Contact Meta Gätschenberger

Photos By Meta

Boone NC Commercial Photographers
PO Box 1571
Blowing Rock, NC 28605
Monday – Friday, 9 AM – 5 PM (Eastern)
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Photos By Meta - Boone NC Commercial Photographers

Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce Member

Website Photos Courtesy of Meta Gätschenberger, Award Winning North Carolina Nature Photographer.

Photos By Meta

Meta Gätschenberger is an Award Winning Photographer from Blowing Rock, NC. Visit Meta’s Photo Gallery at Photos by Meta.
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