UPDATE: My new podcast series Phototalk With Stylonylon discusses photography & Olympus Pen – go subscribe! So I’ve had my lovely little Olympus Pen E-PL7 (new model is Pen E-PL8) for several months now and I’ve been getting to know my way round it quite well. Needless to say, I have a few tips and tricks I’d like to share with you… Update: These tips all apply to the new Pen E-PL8!
These are the ones I always find myself falling over myself to tell blogger pals because really there’s so much this little camera can do and there are lots of ways to optimise your experience and get the most out of it.
1. Bring up your Settings Menu
[Skip this step for the E-PL8 as the Settings Menu is already visible!] One of the handiest things I found is to set your Settings Menu to show (the one with the little cogs icon). This allows you to do things like assign functions to buttons, get into Movie settings and access the Super Control Panel – more on that in the next point!
To do this: Press the Menu button, scroll down to the spanner icon and click on that. In that menu scroll down to Menu Display with the cogs icon and go in and turn the cogs Menu display to On.
Voila! Now when you press Menu the cogs icon will display and you can go in there and have a look at the things you can do!
2. Bring up the Super Control Panel
This is something you can do on all the Olympus cameras but you have to turn it on. It’s a full-screen menu that allows you to easily access all you camera settings like ISO, aperture, white balance, manual focus and so in. It’s much better than using the sidebar menu that you’ll currently have set up.
To do this: Press Menu. Go to your (now showing) Settings Menu (cogs) and go to D. Disp/PC and then go to Control Settings. In Control Settings first select P/A/S/M, click in and tick Live SCP and untick the other boxes. Do this for iAuto and ART and SCN too if you want to. Depends what mode you usually shoot in.
Now, back on your main camera screen, press OK and the Super Control Panel will now show across your whole screen with little touchscreen buttons for ISO, WB, S-AF and so on.
3. Turn off Face Priority
Now that you’ve got the SCP working, the first thing I would do is turn Face Priority off, as I find this often conflicts with where you’re trying to focus the camera. But do have it on if you want to easily focus on faces.
4. Tap the screen to focus
I’m a bit old-fashioned when it comes to selecting my focus point – I use the round control to do that. Much easier is to tap the screen. To do this, get familiar with the little on-screen tap icon in the bottom lefthand corner. If this isn’t showing, press Menu and then go back to your active camera screen. If the finger tapping a rectangle is showing, then you can tap by focussing. Tap the icon and it changes to finger on two lines, that means by tapping you’ll take the picture (which tbh, I find a bit annoying as I always like to see my focus properly first!) and tap again to turn off, the icon will go white.
5. Change your aspect ratio
This is so useful, mainly because you can set you camera to square to take shots for Instagram. Quite telling that my camera is practically always set to square these days! To access, bring up your SCP and find it on the bottom line. Yours may be set to 4:3 or 3:2. For square set it to 1:1. I quite like using 16:9 to change things up every now and then!
6. Use Blur Background
If you are new to your camera and still using iAuto then you can use the Blur Background button. I wouldn’t say this is the magic answer to getting great blur, but it’s helpful if you’re just using the kit lens. To do this you need to make sure the Live Guide box is ticked for iAuto in Display Settings (see point 1 for how to access this). Then on your live camera screen, press OK and a sidebar with coloured icons will come up. Blur Background is the fourth one down – select with your finger or the controller and a slider will come up which you can move to make more blurry.
7. Buy a 45mm 1.8 lens
However, if you’re really after some beautiful blur in your backgrounds, then I would advise buying the 45mm 1.8 lens. Such a little beauty and really the first step towards creating stunning, professional blog photography.
8. Change your highlights & shadow settings
One way to introduce a bit of contrast and depth to your photos is to play around with the highlights & shadows settings. Above the OK button on the back of your camera is the + & – symbol which is your shadows and highlights. Click that, then press INFO. You can now change the 0 value of your shadows (highlighted in green) up and down by 7 each way. Press INFO again, and you move to your highlights value. I set mine at -3 and +3 for extra contrast in my photos. But play around with the values and see what suits you.
9. Set your button & dial functions
The dial on top of your camera should be pre-set to change your aperture. So if you roll this you can see your aperture, highlighted in green at the bottom of the screen change from its lowest to highest. For the kit lens, 3.5 is the widest your aperture will go – the wider your aperture, the shallower your depth of field. ie more of your photo will be blurry, which is great for more artistic type shots. But if you want to assign particular functions to your dial and buttons, press Menu, go into the cog Settings icon and go to B Button/Dial. You can pretty much choose what you want to do, e.g. I have my Fn button set to select my focus point, so it brings up a grid and I can navigate where I want the focus. And I have the magnify button set to WB so I can access that easily, which I always useful when you’re in changing light situations like showrooms at press days.
10. Flip out your screen
I’m sure you know this one, but just in case, the Pen E-PL7 screen flips both ways. It flips up which is useful for surreptitiously shooting from the hip and it flips all the way down for selfie taking – tap the screen to take the shot, you have a couple of seconds to pull you hand away. The most useful, I find, is flipping it out about halfway up to take food shots without having to stand up. This is also great for any kind of flatlay situation. To release the screen down, don’t pull but first nudge the left-hand corner down a smidgen and then pull.
11. Get the Olympus Share app
I’m assuming you’ve already done this but just in case you haven’t go straight to the App Store and download immediately! Being able to transfer pictures straight onto your phone is life-changing!
Troubleshooting Tip: If you find the connection is not working properly, turn everything off and re-make the connection again. I’ve had this a few times, it always ends up working again. If for some reason your photos aren’t loading up properly, check you haven’t got you images only set to RAW in the SCP as they need to be Jpeg files to show up on your phone.
12. Use your phone as a remote
In all honestly, this was one of the main reasons I bought my first Olympus camera. I wanted to be able to take pictures of myself with my tripod. Using my phone as a shutter release, but also being able to see myself on my phone screen and access all the settings was life-changing!
Shooting tip: Set the self-timer to 6 seconds to give you time to hide your phone and pose! And for all you vloggers out there, a new software update in the next couple of months will allow you to trigger the record button from your phone too!
13. Edit on your phone
Practically all my Instagram shots are ones taken on my camera. Once I’ve uploaded a photo, I edit mainly in VSCOcam (sometimes Snapseed or Afterlight) and then share. The great thing is that the photo file sizes aren’t compressed so the images are large enough to stick straight up on your blog too, which I do when away from my laptop, using the WordPress app.
14. Get involved!
I love photo challenges and hashtag projects and come across them on Instagram all the time. From Instagram’s own Weekend Hashtag Project (announced every Friday) to #mystillsundaycompetition by Kim Klassen and #mymonthofsundays by Me & Orla. And I’ve just started my own Instagram hashtag #PENInPractice in conjunction with my monthly Olympus Pen In Practice column – I’m choosing my fave photos each week to feature on the @olympusUK account, so do and join in!
15. Get a new strap!
And last, but by no means least, add a little leather chic to you Pen with a lovely new strap! Find my new collaboration straps and pouches over at mimiberry.co.uk – I hope you love them! (So sorry, but the Sail Handmade straps pictured are no longer available.)
So, I hope that was more useful than confusing! And leave any questions in the comments below… The Pen E-PL7 pictured is still available second hand (Read my introduction to it here) but the latest model is the Pen E-PL8 – find out all you need to know about the new model here. Also check out my Pen In Practice posts, also here in the Photography section.
Stylonylon is a UK Olympus ambassador