You Got A New Camera - Part One

Congratulations! That’s awesome. Either this is your first serious camera and you are itching to turn it into your best friend, or it’s an upgrade from your trusted pal that will help unlock more creativity and experience. Whatever brought this new joy into your life, there are a few things that you can do to make the new addition more fun and garner more success sooner.

Presuming the camera arrived on the holidays, you’ve probably already been using it, and that’s a very good thing. Today’s photo technology is better than ever at producing really excellent exposures right out of the box so our ever increasing demand for something right this second is well fulfilled. Before we get too far down the road, let’s look at some things we should all do, regardless of our level of expertise.

For years, manufacturers have worked hard to make their manuals read more clearly, to have a flow and to be sufficiently useful that owners actually use them. They have done a really good job, but our other technology experiences encourage us to eschew reading documentation and just dive in. Today’s cameras have tons more compute power than the Apollo 11 moon visit, and those folks spent a lot of time in study. You don’t have to spend months studying, but you should take the time to sit down and read your manual. Maybe not all in one sitting, but I don’t have enough fingers to count the number of people I’ve taught who after doing so said “I didn’t know my camera could do that!” Even basic point and shoot cameras are incredibly powerful, so taking time to read the manual will be very helpful. It will also save you hours of internet search time seeking the right answer to a question you have about your camera.

Camera Control Dial

For some people, reading manuals is a challenge. It’s not a learning style that works for them. For those folks, I strongly recommend taking a camera class. I want to be clear and say CAMERA CLASS, not a photography class or video class. As an instructor with Henry’s Learning Lab, I can assure you that the two are not the same thing. A camera class teaches you about your camera, in a small venue with folks just like you, using the same camera. You will learn what your camera can do and how to make the camera do it. At Henry’s Learning Lab we typically call these the 101s, and there is one for each major camera group. For a small fee and a few hours of your time, you will get over the confidence hump that all users of new products face and do so with the support of great instructors and in the presence of people with the same kinds of questions as you.

My last tip for this article is to learn to trust your new camera. Autofocus works pretty darn amazingly these days. So does the automation that drives exposure. A big part of the success that comes from learning to use your new camera comes from experience, and you can gain experience by not worrying about the things that the camera is built to do for you.

Camera Modes

Before you go rushing off to switch out of full automatic to a semi-auto mode or to jump into full manual, I challenge, nay DARE, you to shoot for an entire day in the most automatic mode that the camera offers you. For many, this is a green setting on a dial or a Superior Auto menu option (or some similar name). Manufacturers analyze millions of image scenarios to construct their programmed responses in their camera’s automatic modes. No single photographer has ever done the level of work a manufacturer has done to make automatic work as well as it does. This isn’t 1950. In 2016, the automatic modes do amazing work and for general purpose images is a great place to shoot while you get to know your camera. The person who tells you that you aren’t a real photographer unless you shoot in full manual all the time is either honestly wrong, or actively lying. Let your camera do what it’s designed to do while you learn to handle it, where all the buttons are and how they help and build your comfort level. There will be plenty of time to head out of the automatic modes for learning and experimentation.

Until next time, peace.

Ross has been a photographer for over four decades. He has worked as an apprentice, is a professional photographer, videographer and imaging educator. Ross leads workshops, seminars, photowalks and delivers customized mentoring programs. He is also an instructor with Henry’s Learning Lab.


Ross Chevalier

Ross has been a photographer for over four decades. He has worked as an apprentice, been a professional photographer and a photographic educator. He is an amateur videographer and offers mentoring programs. He is an instructor with <a href="">Henry’s Learning Lab</a>.