Just Got a New Camera What do I do now?
- Read the instruction manual. Yep, I said it. If your camera doesn’t have a paper manual, there is likely a .PDF available online.
- Charge your battery. It is likely that the rechargeable battery that shipped with your camera is not fully charged.
- Get a memory card.Format the memory card. Using knowledge you just gained from the manual, format the card inside your camera before you start shooting. A) You want to have a full memory card to play with, B) sometimes a camera will not read or write to a memory card that has been formatted in another type of camera, and C) formatting resets the file structure and helps prevent data errors.
Set your diopter. Most viewfinders have an optical adjustment, called a diopter, which allows people with different visual acuity to see the viewfinder image clearly. If your viewfinder looks blurry, it is likely because you need to set your diopter to suit your eye, or have your vision checked. Every day, at camera stores around the world, people come in complaining about “broken” cameras due to blurry viewfinders.
Image quality. If you are planning on post-processing your images, you might want to set your camera to capture images in the RAW format. If you aren’t into post processing, or prefer smaller files, I recommend you set your camera to the highest-resolution JPEG that your camera can capture. One thing you do not want to do is go out on your first outing and take the greatest picture in the history of photography with your camera set to less-than-full resolution.
Familiarize yourself with your camera’s metering modes. This is how the camera measures the light coming into the frame.
Learn your camera’s shooting/exposure modes. This tells you how much automation the camera is going to apply to your image taking.
Your camera will likely default your white balance setting to “AUTO.” This is usually fine, but you should be familiar with white balance and how to adjust for different light sources if needed.
Autofocus makes things easy. However, it can be fooled, and you might want to learn how to control and select focus points it to better achieve your goals by using different autofocus modes.
Many cameras have different “drive” modes. You will be surprised how many photos you can take and how fast your memory card fills up when shooting 14 frames per second! Unless your first outing with your new camera is a sports event, you might want to set your drive mode to single-shot.
Learn your Picture Modes, such as Landscape Mode, Portrait Mode, Toy Mode, Macro Mode, and dozens more. Your camera likely does not default to these modes, but you’ll want to make sure you don’t accidently select one while you’re out shooting.
An often-overlooked setting on digital cameras is Color Space. This discussion could devolve into a graduate-level thesis but, in general, if you are going to be post-processing your images, you might want to use “Adobe RGB” color space. If you are skipping the post-processing, you might leave your camera at “sRGB.”
To beep or not to beep? Many of today’s digital cameras (and other electronics) sound like robots from your favorite sci-fi movie series; beeping when they are turned on, take a photo, or simply feel like beeping. If you want to be stealthy when shooting, find the needed menu option and silence your camera.
Start saving. One of the great things about (and curses of) cameras is what is called “Gear Acquisition Syndrome,” or GAS. If you are one of those lucky souls who is content carrying a fixed focal length point-and-shoot camera around for all of your artistic needs, I am jealous! For the rest of us, we like to accessorize our cameras with some needed and not-so-needed gear. In my opinion, the following items lean toward the “required” category of GAS.
Post-processing software. The scourge of digital photography is that, to get the best image from your photographs, you’ll likely need to make digital adjustments to the file. Some cameras come with the company’s software or other commercial software bundled with the camera, so don’t ignore that CD/DVD or associated literature that was in the box.
Tripod. Depending on how and what you photograph, a tripod may be the quickest way for you to sharpen your images in-camera. Remote release. If you are working on a tripod, or have your camera resting on a surface to steady it, you’ll want to trigger the camera with a wired or wireless remote trigger.