Woot! You got a new camera, and you want to take awesome photos right away. (big smile) It’s exciting, right?!
But wait! Before you jump into the deep end, there are basics you need to know about your camera before you start traveling everywhere with it in tow. I’m sure you won’t make diligent searches, scouring the web for these small basics, because who has time? However, they are important. I learned each of these while reading post after post and wished I discovered them when I first got the camera. These 10 basics seem small, but go a long way.
1. White balance. You know how some photos get an orange glow all over or look super blue, especially near a window? That’s white balance. I’m gonna keep this simple for now because you’re probably using auto mode and shooting jpgs. And that’s totally ok! There is something to be said about white balance though.
First, read your manual and find out how to change white balance, and try not to use auto white balance. Your camera doesn’t know better than you, so you make the decisions. If you want, take it a step further, and learn to use a grey card so you can set a custom white balance. And if you can set Kelvins, learn that!
When you shoot, try to get everything right in camera first, especially if shooting jpgs. Are you shooting jpgs? If so, no big deal, but it’s more difficult to correct imperfections with your processing software than if you are shooting raw format.
If you shoot raw format instead of jpg then you can change white balance in post, but it can be frustrating. So, say goodbye to ugly orange glows or cold blue photos and adjust your white balance in camera. Take a breath and anticipate what type of light you are shooting in. I know you can do this!
2. Changing a lens. Scary? Naw! But, there are horror stories about changing lenses. I even heard one about bugs getting into the camera. Lesson: There are good times to change a lens and bad times.
First, don’t change lenses at the beach with the wind blowing, or in a dusty place. The sand, or dust, is bound to make it into your camera. Use common sense here. I know some people who change their lenses (if they must) in their camera bag and with shelter, but protect the camera as much as possible.
I know the Nikon and Sony manuals tell you to change your lens only after you turn the camera off. There is debate on this, but the claim is the camera has a static charge while on and it can attract dust to the sensor. I forgot a couple of times to turn off the camera and nothing horrible happened yet, but I don’t want to risk it either. Just turn the camera off first.
Finally, allow your camera to acclimate to hot or cold air first before using it and before changing a lens. The problem here is moisture build up and you don’t want that because yuck! mold inside the camera. Not good.
3. Use a hood or protective filter. Especially if you have little kids. They like to touch. Especially my littlest. Best that you cover your lens so you don’t have to worry about bad smudges or even worse ruin it with scratches.
It’s my habit to leave the lens cap off. Not a good habit, but I like to grab my camera and run to the moment if my girls are doing something I want to capture. If the lens cap is on, then I forget and end up missing the moment. A protective filter acts like a cap but you don’t have to remove it. I’d rather something happen to the filter than the lens. If I’m not using a filter (because yes sometimes they mess with focus – at least mine do) then I use a hood.
4. Lens cleaner – buy a couple of them and keep them in various places. Use it. Because that little smudge that got on your lens, or filter, will show up on your photo. Fix it.
5. Memory cards – get a couple because they become corrupt or stop working for no clear reason. And they’ll stop right when you need one. Carry a couple and you can switch them out if one becomes full.
Get at least a 16GB card, especially if you are shooting raw. Because there are times you may forget to format your card. That’s when you’ll want to squeeze that one extra moment on there.
And while you are looking at what size to get, look at the speed too. Get the highest speed you can because if you ever shoot in continuous mode or, for Nikon owners, use the interval timer, speed will help. The camera can only shoot as fast as the card can write the photo to memory. So if you want several photos one right after the other, the speed of the card matters.
6. Do not delete your photos from the memory card in your camera. Do not even delete them by sticking them in the recycling bin on your computer. Instead, format your memory card in the camera.
Memory cards have a certain amount of life in them and/or may become corrupt causing your photos to look wonky or not even show. Even though you may never have a problem deleting in camera, it’s better to play it safe and format that memory card. If anything it will keep the performance of the memory card up. Resist that urge to delete that awful selfie you took and wait to format you card. When you format though, you do erase any and all images, so beware.
7. You don’t need a lot of lenses and gear to take great images. Check out Instagram and how many people rock their phones!
You can use only your kit lens and camera and still get great photos by creatively using what you do have. Learn to use what you do have and develop your shooting style before going out and buying new stuff. You’ll know when you’ve reached your limits with what you have and need an upgrade or additional piece of gear.
8. Read the manual. Man! I wish I had done this immediately. Still, I probably need to go back and reread it too. I realized reading the manual is important when I tried to set a custom white balance for the first time. If only I read the manual, I would’ve saved myself a couple of hours trying to figure it out.
9. Camera straps – they matter. Learn how to hold your camera using the strap to keep your camera safely in your hand too. Wrapping it around your wrist and hand will keep it safe. I love my Black Rapid cross body strap because it stays on me no matter what, and I can quickly pull it up to take a shot.
When it isn’t on me, I have it wrapped around my wrist and hand. Find something that works for you to keep your camera safe from dropping out of your hands. No brainer for klutzy me.
10. Learn how to shoot in manual, and if you are going to process your shots, start shooting in RAW. Also learn how to do a clean edit on your own without actions or presets. None of this is scary and if you don’t like it, you can go back to auto and jpgs. You have an expensive camera, learn to use it for reals.
I’m releasing a free course on getting out of auto mode in a couple of weeks to my email subscribers. I’d love to have you join us! I’ll take you through 5 lessons where we slowly work our way to manual mode using the exposure triangle. I’ve created a format that is simple, easy to follow, and I have worksheets and printables!! Because we all secretly love them. Sign up below!
There you go. 10 crucial basics I wish someone had laid out to me when I first got my dslr. Well, no one did and after reading half the internet I discovered these accidentally. Don’t let that happen to anyone else, share this!
What else would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments.
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