Back to Basics

By Roger (20 Feb 2014)

It's been a while since we blogged with some basic tips, and it's easy to get caught up in certain aspects of photography and forget or disregard them. Going back to the basics can often help you fix problems you're having. So, here are a few basics to keep in mind.

First and foremost, read your owner's manual. You might think this is a no-brainer, but many photographers blow right by this step. You should know how your camera works. Period. Most camera companies have apps that make it possible for you to carry a copy of their manual on your phone or tablet. I'm not going to tell you I sit around reading my manual on Friday nights for some light entertainment, but I review it frequently, especially the capabilities that I don't use all the time.

Unless you're four years old, there is no excuse for not reading the camera manual before you go out.

Unless you're four years old, there is no excuse for not reading the camera manual before you go out.

Once you've read the manual, learn all the buttons and dials on your camera. You should be able to find all of them with your eyes closed. When your muscle memory handles the settings, you can concentrate your effort on creativity, instead of taking your eyes away from your subject to figure out which way to turn your dials. This can make the difference in getting the shot or missing it.

When the green flag flies, you have to know how your camera works.

When the green flag flies, you have to know how your camera works.

Now, that you've got the camera figured out, it's time to learn your menu system. You can fine tune your camera's features in there. Set your custom white balance; photo resolution; and, how your memory cards will operate. Remember, there is a small computer inside your digital cameras. Have you got the latest firmware installed? Check your manufacture's website and verify your version in the menu.

I always set my cameras on the highest resolution available (Raw for me). I see no reason to do any of the lower resolutions since I can export my files at lower resolutions as needed. My camera has two memory cards, so I set the second card as a backup. I've never had a card go bad on me, but that doesn't mean I should get careless. I would rather have a backup than use the second card for more photos.

Don't forget your camera's comfort features. Those photographers with imperfect eyesight should set the diopters in your viewfinder to avoid using glasses. In my menus, I use the option to insert my name into the metadata of every photo I take. If your menu system has the option of setting up a favorites page, do it. I use this for my most frequently changed options, so I don't have to go through several different menu pages to get where I want to be. I keep my camera's clock on this page. I want to ensure my watch and camera clock are synchronized. When I'm shooting people I don't know, I give them a card with the time from my watch, so they can request a copy of the photo. Not everyone asks for one, but, if they do, I can easily find their file in my photo stream.

If any of these guys had slowed down and asked for a copy of the photo, I could have given them my card with a synchronized time.  ;-)

If any of these guys had slowed down and asked for a copy of the photo, I could have given them my card with a synchronized time.  ;-)

As I said earlier, with everything in its place, I don't worry about the camera anymore. If I miss a shot, it almost always means I can see the problem when I look in the mirror. Man, I hate it when that happens. So, get your basics down, and go have some fun making photographs.