If you’ve had your camera for five days or five years I encourage you to sit and play with it when you’re not in the field. Downtime can be great for building proficiency with your camera. The last thing you want is to be out taking pictures and miss the shot because you didn’t know how something works. I recently learned this the hard way.
In the living room. The front porch. Backyard. Wherever. Oh and grab the manual, too. I know, I know…the manual? Yup. RTFM. Lots of detail in there and by working with your camera and manual together, you’ll get more complete information and maybe learn faster and remember things better. Even if the differences between your new camera and your old one are slight, I bet there’s stuff the new one does that you’ve never used before.
Start with the outside of the body (and lens) – the buttons, dials and switches – do you know what they all do? Look at the different modes on the dial. Shooting scenes like action or snow/beach, Artistic filter effects, custom settings for metering or focus. Bracketing. 4k and 6k burst capture. Check them out. Take a bunch of shots and see what the camera does with those. Then decide what you can do with them. Can they break you out of a rut? Cause you to see things differently? Make things easier? Have more fun? Be in the moment? My old E-30 had a snow scene setting that was a dream. I wish I had it on my current camera. I’d shoot with it all winter if I did.
And speaking of scene modes…there’s a monochrome setting on the new rig that’s fun to slide from sepia to cold tone. Mmmm…monochrome.
Dip into the menu. Call up something you’ve never explored before, like the settings for taking movies and check them out. Discovery is key here. Recently I discovered Minimum Shutter Speed and applied it to my handheld custom mode. I think it will help keep shots crisp. I experimented with the electronic teleconverter for days when I need extra reach.
Remember there are no mistakes. There’s nothing critical here, nothing on the line. And when it is, knowing your gear can save your butt. Plus it’s fun. Something that really helps me with my G9 is to put functions I want to explore into the custom menu settings. The next time you’re out give yourself an assignment to use one of these. Bring a little notebook and take notes if you want. Or use the PDF version of your manual on a tablet or phone and take notes there.
Familiarity doesn’t breed contempt. It breeds competence. One day you’ll probably want to do something with a feature you don’t use often and learning about it in the field is not the best place. The weather could change. You could lose the light or the subject. Or your mind. Not good.
Another benefit of (re)discovering your camera is that it may save you from buying a new camera that you might not need. In my opinion it’s very hard to totally outgrow a modern camera. Technology improvements are mostly just that – improvements, by themselves they almost never make you better. Getting to know your equipment and your craft always does.
So instead of playing solitaire or watching one more YouTube video, get your camera and dive in. You’ll be glad you did and who knows, you might just find your favorite “new” feature!
How did people ever take decent pictures with old film cameras that had nothing but basic aperture and shutter speed controls.
How indeed. I shot with an OM-1N for over a decade. Batteries not required. I miss the camera from a tactile standpoint (my OM-3 was even sexier to handle), but I don’t miss the ways of color film…the delays…the lack of control in processing for the most part. Cameras are like cars these days…lots of options and tech and it’s better to know it well than make mistakes. I still like the way my 21 year old BMW feels though. 😁
Thanks for the pep talk, Kristen. One nice thing about the pre-digital cameras was that you could pick up any one of them and know how to use them. I bought a new camera nearly 3 years ago, I think. It’s probably great, but I haven’t taken the time to learn how to use it. Having a 250-page user manual is pretty daunting, but I should do exactly what you suggest. With a previous camera I did exactly that when I had a car problem and was stuck in a motel on a rainy day and needed something to entertain myself.
You’re welcome, Pat. When I buy a new camera, which is rare, I feel guilty if I don’t take advantage of the new stuff it does. Especially if some of those new things were reasons I bought it. Even though some features may be esoteric, basic function is pretty familiar. You know that P, M, A and S work the same in all digital cameras so that’s pretty safe. I hope you spend some time getting to know your gear and having even more fun with it.
Very sage advice – there are plenty of functions on my 40D that I probably don’t know much about.
Thanks Stuart. I don’t think anyone’s called me a sage before, lol. The time I have sat around just fiddling with my G9 has been super fun. I love how my brain lights up in that photographer way it does whenever I figure something out or discover something new.
lol! Sounds like me – and the best way to learn how to use anything is top play around with it.