Do You Know Your Gear?

When you're flying in to your vacation airport, and you get behind the wheel of your rental car, do you take the time to adjust your rearview mirror?  Do you find the headlight switch and familiarize yourself with the other important buttons?  Sure, you do.  You want to know how to safely operate this temporary vehicle safely.  On your personal auto, you probably know all its comfort and safety settings without thinking about them.  They make your commute as comfortable and safe as possible. Your ability to operate a camera is not quite as important as vehicle safety, but you should know its settings and any of its idiosyncrasies just as well.  When I'm answering simple camera questions, it is disappointing how many beginning photographers don't have any real familiarity with their camera controls.  Many have had the same gear for a couple of years and don't understand even the basics of their camera.  Then they wonder why they can't get their photographs properly focused or exposed. 

If you don't know where you've stashed your camera manual, you're doing it wrong.  You should know where all your camera's buttons are and what they do, without needing to take your eye away from the viewfinder.  Your camera probably has several menus that you need to be able to navigate.  These menus help you control how the camera will record your important moments.  You should understand them. When you add accessories, like a flash, you have additional buttons and settings to learn.

Read your manual and learn how to make your gear do what you bought it for.  If the manual is written in a style that is too technical for you, look on-line for additional material.  There are lots of people writing about almost every camera for sale.  If you want something to carry with you, there are books that give you camera-specific information in a more palatable style.  I recommend our local photowalk buddy, Jeff Revell, has written several of the "From Snapshots to Great Shots" series of books.  Here is his blog; he has links to the books there.  There are multiple solutions to this problem; use all of them until you know your camera.

This weekend, reread your manual, and learn about some features you have forgotten or never learned.  Check your menu options and camera settings, and make sure you understand them.  If you don't understand them, figure them out.  The more familiar you are with your equipment, the more options you'll have to improve your photographs with the equipment you already own. 

Here is a recent shot of a family friend, shot for her godfather.  They grow up quickly; take lots of photos to record the change.  Have fun.