2. Custom Shooting Modes

3 June 2019, Monday

Author: Rick Budai from Wild Artistic

What are Custom Shooting Modes? (and where to find them)

A custom shooting mode is a camera setting that allows the photographer to instantly recall a saved configuration. It can take a considerable amount of time to adjust camera settings to best suit your needs. As a result, this can mean the difference between getting the shot and coming away empty handed. This is especially true with wildlife photography.
This is where custom shooting modes can become a wildlife photographers’ best friend. You can save a group of settings and assign them to a specific custom shooting mode. Once done, they are ready to access within seconds at the turn of a dial.
Custom Shooting Mode Dial
Configuring a ‘C’ mode is relatively easy. First of all, adjust all your camera settings as desired. After that, navigate through the camera’s menu and select the appropriate custom shooting mode and register your settings. That’s it! It’s as simple as that. That particular ‘C’ mode is now programmed and accessible via the top dial or button.
To clarify, some cameras may not have this function available. However, if it is available, make sure you read through your camera manual on where to find and customise these modes.

How are these Modes relative to Wildlife Photography?

custom  shooting mode used to capture shot of vulture
Take this image for example. I was actually photographing the remains of a carcass when I noticed this Cape Vulture flying towards me. At this point, my settings were probably around f/8 1/250 with an ISO 100 and in ‘single shot’ mode. With these settings locked in, there was no way I could capture the approaching bird correctly. Or I would have had to be extremely lucky…
 Rather than rely on luck, a simple turn of the dial to one of my custom shooting modes allowed me to instantly change to the appropriate settings allowing me to capture this shot. In contrast, had I needed to manually readjust my settings, the opportunity would have passed.

Where to start………

The settings listed below are based purely on personal preferences.  I am always changing shutter speeds depending on the subjects movement (or lack thereof).  I also have different settings assigned to other custom shooting modes.
These settings, however, are what I believe to be a good base to start from.
  • Shutter speed 1/1250 – usually fast enough to freeze most action, but can be adjusted accordingly.
  • ISO Auto – the camera sets the ISO that will allow me to shoot at 1/1250 (or any shutter speed set) based on available light within the scene.
  • High-speed Continuous drive mode.
  • AI servo autofocus mode – this allows me to maintain focus whilst tracking the subject if needed.
  • Centremost AF point.
  • Expand AF area.
  • Set Autofocus configuration to continue tracking subjects ignoring obstacles.
  • Center-weighted metering.


For capturing birds in flight you may need a faster shutter speed. In some instances, you may want to intentionally overexpose by 2/3 of a stop. Conversely, you may want to capture some motion blur. For this reason, it is a good idea to assign additional settings to different custom shooting modes.
  Note: To clarify, these settings apply for the Canon 5d Mark III and some features may not apply to other cameras.

In Conclusion……

If you are on safari, then every shot counts. Navigating through camera menus to adjust settings can be frustratingly slow. Those precious seconds lost fumbling through menus can result in missed opportunities. Setting your own custom shooting modes will go a long way to alleviate these issues.
 In short, learn to customise your camera to suit your shooting requirements irrespective whether you are capturing wildlife or the night sky. Custom shooting modes are there to make your life easier. They are there help you capture those magical moments without having to worry about adjusting your camera settings.
Author: Rick Budai from Wild Artistic Photography

Other Topics covered in our Wildlife Photography Tips and Techniques Include.

1. Photographing Birds

2. Pre Focus Technique

3. Back Button Focus

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