Cameras have a lot of buttons, functions and features and the manuals for them are about the size of a phone book these days. It can take a while to get comfortable using your gear and remembering where all the settings are, how the menu system works and remembering what features are there to utilize. Sometimes though, moments unfold right in front of you and you need to react quickly to capture the shot. Knowing your gear and how to use and adjust it is as important as the subjects matter you shoot.
Doing these 7 things on your camera without looking will make you a more efficient and productive photographer so you can focus on shooting, not setting up for the shot. Put your camera in your hands, close your eyes and try to do the following things.
Turn the camera on. Simple and basic, you should know how to turn your camera on without looking for the button.
Turn auto focus off on your lens. Auto focus is a wonderful thing but sometimes it doesn't work as well as you want it to. Knowing where the AF / MF switch is on your lens and being able to flick it on and off without looking can save time and boost your efficiency.
Select auto focus points. Sometimes manual focus isn't an option and you really need to auto focus, but at a specific part of the frame. Most DSLR cameras are set to auto focus on what it thinks you want to be focused on, but choosing the specific auto focus point should be something you feel comfortable controlling. Doing this while looking through the viewfinder is essential, specially in action and sports shots.
Change your ISO. The digital equivalent to film's ISO has given photographers an unbelievable ability to shoot in lighting conditions with far less noise and better tonal range then ever before. The ISO options are also ten-fold compared to what was available from film. Knowing how to quickly adjust ISO could mean the difference between a good shot and a great shot.
Adjust aperture and shutter speeds. In manual mode, these two features are what controls how much light comes into your camera and for how long, and creates depth of field. You should be able adjust both while looking through the viewfinder at your subject and not looking at the camera itself.
Control exposure compensation. Exposure compensation is used when shooting in aperture priority, shutter priority or sometimes in program mode on DSLR cameras. Properly adjusting your exposure compensation on the fly, without looking enables you to really take better, more dramatic photographs.
Hold your camera properly. If you look like an amateur when you hold your camera, chances are good you don't have proper control over your gear which could lead to camera shake, resulting in blurry photos. Utilize the grip with your right hand and support the lens with your left hand.
Technology has advanced so much in the last few years that the bells and whistles on cameras far exceed what was available for film shooters or even early digital adopters. Being efficient with your gear isn't about bragging rights, it's about using the tools you have as efficiently as possible so you can focus on shooting, not fumbling with settings. Spend some time to re-read your manual, pick up a Magic Lantern guide for your camera