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So, you were lucky enough to receive the gift that sat atop your wishlist: your first “real” camera.
I’m not making a personal distinction about what’s a legitimate camera and what isn’t, but when people talk about getting their first real camera they usually mean a mirrorless or DSLR body that can accept different lenses.
The thing about getting your first real camera is that mixed in with all the excitement is a tinge of anxiety — you’re about to step into a new dimension, but you don’t really know what to do with your new camera.
Here are 6 simple things you can do to make sure you get off to a good start with your new camera.
1. Read The Manual
Anyone who knows me will laugh at the fact that I’m suggesting this, seeing as how I hate reading the manual for anything. I’m much more of a trial and error, learn on the fly kind of person (though this approach does have it downsides).
The manual is your launchpad. You’ll learn all the basics of operating the camera, what features are available and how to customize the controls. All this can save you a lot of time by keeping you from having to go through every entry in a menu system that may or may not be very user-friendly.
Just read the manual.
2. Get Extra Batteries
Though the situation is improving, mirrorless camera batteries are generally no match for those found in DSLRs. So, if your new camera happens to be of the mirrorless variety, invest in a couple of extra batteries and be sure to keep them charged.
This is good advice to follow even if your new camera is a DSLR. It would be a shame to have to call it quits on a productive day of shooting just because your battery died.
3. Get A Good Camera Strap
I’ve never liked the straps that come packaged with cameras. Yes, they serve the intended purpose of holding the camera securely around your neck or on your shoulder, but it’s a job that can be done far more comfortably and without making you a walking advertisement.
A good camera strap can run into the hundreds of dollars, but there’s no need to go that route. You can easily find a comfortable, high-quality strap that doesn’t break the bank unless you consider $20 breaking the bank.
The right camera strap can mean the difference between shooting for a couple of hours and shooting all day.
4. Get A Good Camera Bag
You need something to carry all your new gear around in — a backpack, a sling, a shoulder bag, there’s plenty to choose from. And the same principle that applies to camera straps applies here as well: look for a good quality, reasonably priced bag.
While the perfect camera bag doesn’t exist, a camera bag worth your consideration is one that provides adequate protection for your precious gear, has sufficient space for you to bring along the necessary extras, looks good and is well built.
5. Learn To Read The Histogram
I know, cameras have that awesome LCD screen on the back. It really is convenient. And it’s useful. But it’s not always the most accurate method of checking the exposure of an image.
A better way to evaluate exposure accuracy is to look at your camera’s histogram. From left to right, this graph will show you shadow, mid-tone and highlight levels of a shot. For added convenience, most cameras will allow you to set the LCD to display the image preview in conjunction with the histogram.
You’ll need to read the manual to learn how to activate the histogram display.
6. Go Shoot/Final Thoughts
Obviously. The best way to learn how to use something is to actually use it. Manuals are informative, accessories are fun. But if you really want to start making inroads with your new camera, you’ve got to put it to real-world use.
It’s that simple. Now go shoot.