You’ve done your research and decided on a camera, then as you start to unpack the box, a little panic sets in. Now what? What in the world are all these buttons and symbols on the lcd screen? You could put it in auto mode and start clicking away, but which is auto mode? How do you turn the flash on, or off? How do you focus? Why are the pictures blurry, or too dark, or too light?
All of these questions and more will be answered in the Basic Photography Class that I’m teaching in Japan this summer. This next series of articles is geared toward the new photographer who wants to learn how to take control of the image making process to make more creative photographs.
So let’s start from the beginning. Make sure your battery is charged and you’ve got a memory card inserted into the camera.
A few ground rules to help you get started:
- Never insert or remove a memory card with the camera powered on. Doing so, could corrupt the data on the card, making the images unusable.
- Do not remove or change lenses with the camera powered on. This can increase the amount of dust inside the camera. It’s a good idea to the hold the camera with the lens opening pointing down, to prevent dust or debris from falling into the camera while changing lenses.
- Format your memory card before you start to shoot. This will ensure that the card will work best with your new camera. You will also want to reformat your card once the images are downloaded and backed up. Reformatting will erase all the data on the card, but it will also prevent corruption. This is better than simply deleting all images, or deleting images one by one. You may need to refer to your manual to find where the format option is found. It is usually buried in a menu.
- For your first day or two of shooting, go ahead and set it to Auto or Program Mode.
- Auto mode will make all exposure setting decisions for you, including f/stop, shutter speed and probably ISO.
- Program mode will allow you cycle through different combinations of aperture and shutter speed settings. On most cameras this is accomplished by turning the rear dial. With this setting you want to avoid shutter speeds lower than 1/125 of a second, to avoid images being blurred by camera shake, or use a tripod.
- Make sure your lens is set to Auto Focus (AF) If the auto focus is not focusing on what you want, then you may want to switch it to manual focus (MF) or learn how to adjust the focus points in your camera.
- Turn on IS or VR on your lens, if it’s an option. Camera shake is a result of camera movement during a slow shutter speed, some lenses will have VR (vibration reduction) or IS (Image Stabilization) to help prevent camera shake. With these lenses you can usually use slightly slower shutter speeds.
- Don’t worry, I’ll explain shutter speeds and aperture settings in a future blog post.
- Keep that manual handy! You’ll need to refer to a lot in the beginning. I’ll use this blog post as a way to help explain some of the concepts that will help you decipher the manual.