What to do with your new camera

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Becoming a better image creator

You've just purchased a new DSLR or mirrorless camera. If you've upgraded from a point-and-shoot camera, there could be many features that you aren't really sure about. Here are my top 10 tips about how to go about using your new equipment: -

Read Read Read
Read the manual. I can't emphasise this enough. If you are unfamiliar with a lot of camera terminology, what the features are or how to change settings, then your new camera experience will be frustrating. These days camera manuals generally come in a condensed pocket sized version with the full version available online.

The most important piece of information I can provide is that you are never going to use all of the features. Professional photographers don't even do that. Focus on what you are familiar with and then gradually explore new ones.

File Settings

Check the file type settings and adjust them accordingly. Will you be shooting in RAW or Jpeg? If you're not sure what the difference is, then I would recommend you initially go with a medium sized Jpeg.

Where will you be storing your images? More than likely you will initially download them directly onto your computer. To be on the safe side, make a back-up on a portable hard drive or a cloud based storage provider.

Cleaning Equipment
Your camera and lenses will get dirty, so invest a few extra dollars in cleaning equipment such as a blower, brush, cleaning solution and a micro-firbe cloth. Don't go breathing on them and using part of your clothing to wipe it off. It will only make it worse.

Camera Bag
Get a decent camera bag. New cameras don't usually come with a bag, so make sure you purchase one that can accomodate everything. There are plenty on the market, and I prefer Lowepro, Manfrotto or Crumpler.

Battery & Memory Card
Make sure you carry an additional battery and memory card. The last thing you want is for your battery to run out, or the memory card to become full while you're out and about photographing.

Viewfinder not LCD
If your camera has a viewfinder, use it instead of the LCD screen. This may sound foreign to a lot of people as nowadays we are used to taking a photograph by looking at the screen. Using the screen has two major drawbacks: 1/it uses a lot of battery power & 2/it can be difficult to see when in sunlight.

Insurance & Warranty
Does your home insurance cover your camera when it's being used outside of your home? Check your policy and make changes if you feel you need this extra cover. The camera warranty will only cover defects with the camera, not any damage caused by you or someone else. I've learnt the hard way; camera's come off second best when dropped on concrete. Also, if purchasing your camera from an overseas online store, make sure the manufacturers warranty has a worldwide cover as sometimes they don't. There are also cheap imitations out there so if the price sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

Use it
The more you photograph, the better your images will become. Henri-Cartier Bresson, the French photographer and one of the founders of Magnum photos once said "your first 10,000 photographs are your worst".

Michael Christofas is a professional freelance photographer based in Melbourne. He is accredited with the AIPP; the Australian Institute of Professional Photography.