One of the most exciting features of digital photography is the ability to instantly review shots as they are taken. Just this one feature alone has practically changed the dynamics of how we take photos. Used effectively, the image playback of camera can help us greatly improve our image making.
However, if you’re just beginning with digital photography and not sure how to use a digital camera, you might be overlooking the useful information that image playback feature of your camera provides. If you have never really considered the details of image playback, grab your camera and the manual that came with it, and let’s look at this aspect of how to use a digital camera to reveal some of the possible information you might discover.
How to Use a Digital Camera Image Playback
I’m assuming that you know what button to push to play back images on your camera. Typically your camera will set up to automatically playback the most recently shot image, but you should also know how to pull up the images up at any time.
Next, you should locate the menu setting for the Review time that you images will be shown in playback. The default setting might be 2 or 4 seconds. Four seconds is good, but 8 may be even better in order to have ample time to better review your images between shots. A longer review time does increase battery charge but not significantly in my experience. And just because the review time is set for say 8 seconds doesn’t mean images have to remain on display for that time. Once you press the shutter button again, the image playback should disappear.
Another piece of default information is the image recording quality of your photos. An icon will typically be displayed to show what type image quality you’re shooting in, such as small, medium, or large JPEG size or one or more RAW quality image types.
Image playback will also typically indicate how many shots you’ve taken and what is the number of the shot you’re currently viewing.
Now each camera will be different. The images of the information used in this article are taken from the Canon 50D. You may also have to push your camera’s information button more than once to get additional detail. On the Canon 50D, pressing the INFO button up to four times provides additional information.
The most useful information in playback are the exposure settings (see image above). If a photo is not coming out right, you can check the exposure settings in image playback. If the photo is too dark or blurry, you can check the shutter and aperture settings for the photo. Typically if a shot is not sharp, it might be because the shutter speed is too low, say below 1/30th of a second. Or maybe the aperture is closed down at f/11 or or smaller. Image playback is a quick way to check that information.
Again, the information may be a little different, but typically additional information might include the following:
1. The date and time the images were shot.
2. The file size of your images
3. The White Balance mode of the shot
4. The shooting mode the shot was taken in, e.g. Automatic, Program, Aperture or Shutter Priority, Manual.
5. Metering mode
6. The Histogram, which is another tool you can use to analyze the exposure quality of your images
7. Color Space Mode. Typically this mode should be set at Adobe RGB for highest quality. sRGB is primarily for images that will only be posted on the Web.
8. And finally there might icon to tell you what type of media card you’re using, e.g. Compact or SD.
Image playback might also include RGB information, which is a graph showing the distribution of the images brightness of each color (red, green, and blue.) On the graph, when you see pixel information bunched toward the left of the graph that indicates how dark or less prominent the color is. Pixel information bunched toward the right indicates how bright or overexposed the color might be. The RGB histogram and the regular histogram simply help you get a better understanding of the quality of exposure of your images.
You should also know that you can magnify your images in image playback in order to see just how sharp they are. Images viewed on LCD screen typically look twice as good as they do when viewed on a much larger monitor where you see much more image detail. So look for your camera’s magnifying button in order to zoom in on the photo to check its sharpness.
Multiple Images and Rotating Photos
Finally, in image playback you can also view multiple images at a time or play them in a slide show setting.
Images can also be rotated if need be in image playback. If images you shoot are not upright when reviewing them, check your menu settings to see if images can be automatically rotated to landscape view for the widest viewing.
If you’re new digital photography, also check another one of my MUO articles, 10 Features You Should Know About Your Digital Camera.
Let us know if you’re using image playback on your camera. How does it help you take better photos?