The reason you don’t see a lot of camera recommendations from me is that camera technology changes so often; about every 5 minutes it seems sometimes. In the last 2 years we’ve seen an influx of new cameras that push the limits of optics and compression, and incidentally make some ridiculously good pictures. And all for bargain-basement prices.

But here’s the thing. None of them are as intelligent as you. Auto focus, auto exposure and auto white balance go only so far in getting you to some semblance of “truth and beauty” in your video image.

Likewise for the audio portion.

So the truth is, you still need to tweak a few things. Notice I said “a few”. And therein lies our tale for today.

I created this pair of videos over 2 years ago and the advice is the same now as it was then. As far as I can tell, the only difference is that I was 30 lbs. heavier, making more demands on my wide angle lens 🙂

So whether you’re shooting with a Hi-8 camera from the 80’s or an iPhone 5 outfitted with the latest apps, you will learn a lot from this 2-part series. In fact, I’m a little surprised at how much info I squeezed into these brief videos on making your picture look pristine.

You may want to take a few notes, then dive into the menu settings on your camera to make them look like the ones in this series.

Please let me know what you think. Other than my campy outfit and jokes, (I was still exploring my own persona) does this series resonate with you? If so, just comment below on other basics you’d like to learn, or feel free to ask any questions about this series.

And here’s Part II

    9 replies to "Timeless Tips To Tweak Any Camera"

    • Marta

      Thank you, Steve, for the helpful tips in these two little videos.

      Could you, please, tell me how do I set the White balance, if I’m just by myself, no another person is around? How do I focus with a close up on my eyes without one’s help? How do I check whether my zebra setting looks like with my face? How do I know when the focus might shift somewhere?

      So you advised once in one of your training videos to use a paper-bag Lady-Iris. What would be the other tips if, again, I’m to shoot on my own without anyone’s assistance? How one person takes care of all these things to be set up successfully? Just by shoooting a number of little test videos?

      Thank you very much,

      • Steven Washer

        I suppose it’s just a matter of placing a white sheet of paper on a music stand.

        Focusing on the eyes is just another way to say “close up” and of course you can use Iris the Bag Lady for that.

        Just do these two things and there’s no need to shoot test videos.

    • Patrick Albanese

      Very nice!
      Although I have a decent amount of basic knowledge, I had never heard of the zebra setting before.

      I’ll have to check out my camera to see if it has it.


    • Wiz Withers

      Hi, Steven –

      Great tips, as always.

      As an owner/user of a Kodak Zi8, it’s nice to be able to set up quickly and shoot. However, the downside is that I don’t have all the features you describe here.

      With camera technology changing so quickly, it seems the “big box” stores are focusing (pardon the pun) on the “auto-everything” cameras. Are there any new ones that you like – cameras with some degree of manual control, plus the ability to plug in a lavaliere mic?


      • Steve

        It’s too true that the big box stores have ceded the high ground to Amazon and other online retailers.

        I’ve always liked the Canon Vixia line. Even the lowest price-point camera gives you manual control and a mic input. You won’t necessarily get zebras, but almost everything else.

        Hope that helps.

        • Wiz Withers

          It does indeed! Something to add to my birthday list!

          PS – When we goin’ flying?

          • Steven Washer

            Hm. OK. How about as soon as you close $25,000 in business using what you learned in ABB?

    • Arturo Mills

      It is true that having your camera set to automatic has it’s advantages. In some situations, it is the best thing you can do. For example, if you are shooting an observational documentary with one camera and don’t have the time to keep on switching your settings manually. When making corporate videos, the ideal is that you use the manual functions on your camera. Having your camera set to manual will give you control – control which is only useful if you know what you are doing! The main problem with auto is that your camera doesn’t know what you want – this basic fact explains the multitude of problems that can occur (including shots shifting in and out of focus).

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