Digital Camera Tips for Beginners Part 1

 

beginners camera tips
Client: Tru Talen Agency, 
Photo ©Heather Shimmin

PART ONE: PRE-PRODUCTION

 

This is the first of three articles on digital camera tips and techniques for beginners to help you learn more about your digital camera, understand it better, and ultimately take better images. I’ve broken down this vast topic into the three phases of the photographic process: pre-production, production, and post-production.  

THE PRE-PRODUCTION INTRODUCTION

Pre-production is the term professional photographers use for the time spent in preparation before a shoot. Whether that be a day or a month, the more prepared you are for the shoot, the better your chances of it being successful. Pre-production is more than a simple checklist of items to put into your camera bag. It is also entails research and brainstorming, but that’s a different topic altogether. For now, let’s just focus on techniques rather than concepts.

KNOW YOUR EQUIPMENT

The most important bit of advice I can give regarding cameras and equipment is read the instruction manual your item came with.  Every camera is different, with slight variations and nuances. There are an ocean of settings and buttons on your camera, which can make navigation difficult when sailing these unfamiliar waters. Understanding what buttons do what, which settings are best for certain situations, and knowing why you want to use shutter-priority over aperture-priority will dramatically reduce your frustrations when shooting and actually let you focus on the fun part – taking photos. I actually take my manual with me on every shoot for reference in case I need to remind myself how to record a voice memo or stitch together a panoramic image –  things I do only occasionally. Your images will not improve if you are constantly fumbling with your camera or are too lazy to take it off automatic mode.

KEEP THE CAMERA CLEAN

Cleaning and maintenance is vital with any camera. Always keep your camera in a case and never leave it in a hot car. Extreme hot and cold temperatures can damage your camera and ruin the battery life. If you have an DSLR, clean the sensor (NEVER use compressed air) before every shoot. This will remove the tiny specs of dust and dirt on the CCD which appear as grey spots on your images, which are not only annoying but time consuming to remove later in Photoshop. Many of the latest models will automatically clean the sensor when the camera is turned on, which is fantastic. However, if your model does not have that feature, you will have to do it manually.  Refer to your camera’s instruction manual on how to clean your sensor.

HAVE A SPARE BATTERY

Before every shoot, charge the battery. You also should have an extra battery (charged) in case the other runs out of juice, gets wet, or malfunctions. Don’t get stuck with a dead battery and no backup.

BUY SEVERAL MEMORY CARDS

After every shoot, you should download your memory card(s) to your computer. This frees up space on the card and makes editing and organizing less overwhelming (I’ll talk more about this is part three). With memory cards so ridiculously cheap nowadays, you have no excuse for not having more than one. As with batteries, so it is with memory cards – never leave for a shoot without a backup. Cards get full and sometimes misbehave, leaving you in a pickle with a camera and no “film.”  On more than one occasion my camera could not read or write to my memory card. The only remedy is to reformat and erase all the data on the card. 

Being prepared is 90% of shooting. When you are familiar with your equipment, have a spare battery and memory cards, you can spend your energies really focusing at the task at hand – capturing the moment.

“BEFORE YOU LEAVE FOR A SHOOT” CHECKLIST

1. Camera (duh)

2. Camera bag

3. Clean sensor (DSLRs) and viewing screen

4. Charged battery + spare

5. Extra memory cards

6. Instruction Manual

Some other things you may need:  

7.  Model and/or property releases

8.  Tripod  

9.  On-camera flash and/or portable strobes

10.  Reflectors

11.  Filters
BOOKS ON PHOTOGRAPHY I RECOMMEND:

 

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