Tips to a Great Photo, Part 2 | Know Your Camera

February 18, 2011


Welcome to the second installment in my series about taking great photos!  I hope that this series will help you take photos that you’re proud of.

Once you have the right camera for you–the one that will best suit your needs (learn how to find that camera by reading part 1 of this series here)–you might think that the next step is simply taking photos.  Unfortunately it’s not quite that simple or that fast.  I mean, sure, you could just start snapping photos and most likely (if you’ve bought a good enough camera) you’ll end up with okay photographs.  They aren’t going to be as good as they could be, though.  Cameras these days are so involved that it really takes a degree to figure one of them out, and that’s exactly what this second tip will get you.


Know Your Camera: The very first thing Tim & I do when we get a new camera is we read the instruction manual.  No, really.  We read it from cover to cover.  We sit down with the camera in one hand and the manual in the other and study our camera!  There’s no way with all the bells and whistles these cameras have today that we could figure out all the cool features simply by “messing around.”  Really studying your camera takes a lot of time and effort and is frustrating from time to time, but it is so worth it.  You might even want to highlight or sticky-note the pages that you know you’ll need to reference for a few weeks while you practice memorizing the features.  Good photography is like anything else: it needs to be practiced.  You may take a great shot, but if you don’t know how to change the ISO and you have it set way too high, your “great” shot will be worthless!  STUDY YOUR MANUAL!

There’s not a whole lot more to say.  I mean I can’t really help you read your manual . . . you have to do that on your own!  However, to help you wade through all the information you’re about to read, here are (in my opinion and for the next few tips I’m going to share with you) the most important features that you need to figure out about your camera (although it would be best to learn everything about it!):

  • Figure out if your camera can take pictures in RAW format.  If it does, figure out how to shoot RAW photos.  (You  must have Photoshop or Lightroom or some other program which allows you to edit RAW photos for this to be worth it.  This is an entire new can of worms.  If you want to know more ask me, or leave a comment with a question).
  • Learn how to set your camera in Automatic & Manual modes.
  • Learn how to change the Shutter Speed
  • Learn how to change the ISO
  • Learn how to change the aperture
  • Learn about the timer feature
  • Learn how to turn on and off the flash
  • Learn how to format a memory card

You don’t need to learn anything specific about the above topics–I’m going to cover most of them in following blog posts.  You just need to know where each exists on your camera and how to change the settings for each.

It’s been my experience that studying the manual is the one thing no one really wants to do.  They want someone to explain to them every single feature of their camera and teach them how to use it.  That’s just not practical.  For instance, I could tell you a little bit about your camera, but if your camera isn’t the exact same as mine (or one of the cameras I’ve used in the past) I’m not going to be able to tell you what you need to know (unless I were to read your manual).

If you really want to learn how to take good photos knowing your camera is incredibly important and you’re just going to have to take the time to get to know it!  So get learning!  And then come back next week and I’ll tell you all about lighting!


2 Responses to “Tips to a Great Photo, Part 2 | Know Your Camera”

  1. Jasmine said

    Um… I have a Canon Rebel XT, can you read my manual for me? ;-) or tell me how to do everything… Seriously though, I can read my manual (I have), but I learn better if someone explains it to me in real terms and shows me what things do, so maybe I could trade lunch for a lesson?

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