Getting to Know Your Camera
This week I want to make one basic point about getting familiar with the capabilities of your camera. Simply stated, get comfortable in your chair and shoot your feet.
That New Camera Smell
So you have just liberate your new camera from the box. Before the Styrofoam has settled to the floor, you are struggling with finding the memory card slot and how to attach the damn strap. You throw the manual to one side with a promise to scan it later and then you are off on your first bumbling shoot. Given the complexity of even the simplest of today's high tech digital cameras, it can take hours of study to figure out all the capabilities and features. Of course we experienced photographers don't need "no stinking manual" to tell us what to do. We would rather enjoy the adventure of trying to figure out on our own how to set A, T, M, and P modes, how to control where the camera is focusing and what Exposure Bracketing actually does. There is much more to learn, but don't worry, give it a few years and you will figure it out. Of course in a few years you will be ready for a new camera and the process, or rather the non process, will start all over again. In the meantime there is always "P" mode. The camera companies will try to tell you that "P" stands for "Program", but we all know that it means Pathetic.
Of course, I know that you aren't one of THOSE people. You will insist that, before the memory card gets close the that shiny new treasure, you settle into a chair and read the manual cover to cover. Great photographers know everything about their cameras at an almost instinctual level. They can change settings without even looking at the dials and they can navigate complex menus without have to search for the correct option. I'm not there yet, but I'm working at it. It takes study and practice, but how do you start?
The process of learning a camera's functions has never been easier. With those big LCD screens the results of anything we try is instantly available, but the time to experiment should not be when you are trying to capture that once in a lifetime shot.
Ok, start by putting a fully charged battery in your new camera and a memory card in the slot, if you can find it. Grab a cup of coffee, not wine, and settle into a comfortable chair. Open your manual and start shooting your feet.
It doesn't matter if your feet aren't especially photogenic. The idea is to work your way through the manual, experimenting with all the major settings. In less than an hour you should know how to use auto-focus to select what you want to keep in precise focus, and how to lock the focus while reframing. You can experiment with the effect of shooting in aperture and shutter preferred modes and how depth of field can be controlled with adjustments in aperture. You will want to try varying the exposure using adjustments in aperture and shutter and also discover how to adjust the ISO setting. You can try shooting with longer exposures to discover how slow you can go before you may need a tripod to control camera shake. And, if you have it, be sure to find the anti-shake switch. Of course your ability to hold steady may be affected by that coffee you've been drinking.
|You can shoot more than feet.|
At this point, if you have resisted the urge to run outside to photograph a tree, you can explore more technical adjustments, such as various modes of focusing to capture action, and the use of exposure bracketing for HDR photography. It is especially important to become comfortable with the use of flash and if your flash is built into the camera, be sure to learn how to turn the damn thing off.
As usual, I am belaboring a very simple point. Take the time to learn your camera and practice until it becomes second nature. This technique is not restricted to new equipment. I am still learning new things about my camera. And of course your can choose other exciting subjects beyond your feet. Lamps, computer screens or your compliant dog all work as well. You will be glad that you invested the effort the next time you try to quickly adjust your camera to catch that majestic bird flying by.