Lesson 1 – “Understanding Your Camera!
I guess before we even get to the lesson about “Understanding Your Camera”, the first thing I would quite often get asked about is, “What camera should I buy?” Now this is a difficult question. It depends on a number of factors – your budget and what you want to be able to do with it are two of them.
Bear in mind that a great camera doesn’t mean a great photo. You can take some fabulous photos with your mobile phone, and some really rubbish ones with a great DSLR! A huge percentage of what makes a good photo is down to your skills, and how well you can make your camera perform.
As an example, if you would just like to take pretty pictures to post on a blog, Social Networking site or to show friends and family, the actual quality of the picture when enlarged is not as important as if you are planning to sell stock photos, or enlarge and print your photos. A really good camera phone, or “point and shoot” might be all you need – together with some pointers on what makes a good photo. It is pointless to invest a lot of money into something that you are not going to use to it’s full potential. You are better off getting something that has less functions, but is better quality.
So have a goal in mind of what you want to do with your photos. Instead of going into all the different options that are out there, and any personal recommendations, I would suggest that you read through this article on SLRLounge. It is an excellent article that helps you to decide what you really need.
Write yourself a list that includes a particular brand that you might like, what accessories and extras are available, your maximum budget, size, what features you must have, and a goal of what you want to achieve with it. When you have narrowed down your choice, spend some time on review sites (such as Amazon or dpreview), and read both positive and negative reviews on your favourite choices.
What can your camera do?
So now you have your brand new camera in your hand. I know it sounds very boring, but I would suggest that you have a read through the manual. You can learn so much about what your camera can do, and how best to use it. If reading isn’t your thing, there are also many online tutorials specifically for your new camera. When I bought my first (and only!) DSLR a few years back, I was able to go onto the Canon website and go through an interactive tutorial showing me the basic functions of my new camera.
The next step is to just go right on ahead and play with it! That is the great advantage that the digital era has brought us. You are not going to waste film, and it is not going to cost you anything!! Try out all of the preset functions – see what they do – make note of effects or settings that you like. Go through the menus and settings to make sure they are set on the highest quality photo. Learn how to view your photos, how to zoom in and out on screen, how to change lenses, batteries, and memory cards, how to turn the flash on and off and how to adjust the aperture and shutter speed when in Manual mode. Even if you don’t understand what you are doing with this last one, try to become comfortable and familiar with where the buttons are and how to adjust them. This will become really useful later on, and the more comfortable you are with adjusting these two things, the better!
I might liken changing the aperture and shutter speed to changing gears on a car. When you first learn to drive, you think about changing gears, and the process of doing it. After some time, it becomes second nature, you do it without even thinking, and you can concentrate more fully on actually driving. Once changing aperture and shutter speed become second nature, you can concentrate more on what you are seeing through the lens, and less on what buttons you are supposed to press! Don’t worry too much about what this actually does to a photo – we will deal with that in more detail later. I am just saying that becoming familiar with how to adjust them will help you out a lot!
Lesson 2 will be on “Composing Great Photos“