So, Santa just brought you a brand new DSLR .  You’ve unpacked it and of course, can’t wait to take you first picture, Call it coincidental, but you can’t use your camera until the battery is charged first, so while the battery is charging, you have a chance to examine the camera and read the manual –at least the “getting started” section that contains safety information and basics such as how to safely handle the media card

I hear more complaints about camera manuals than I care to repeat.  People become overwhelmed with all the content, all the camera settings, and in more extreme cases,  simply stop using the camera because “it doesn’t work right.”, or fault the camera and settle for less than adequate  photos.

Camera manuals were not designed to be read cover to cover like a college text or a novel.   To first get started, go to the quick start section.  Every manual is set up so that you can start taking pictures as soon as the battery is charged.  All the critical information is covered in that section and you should follow the instructions.  After you’ve fulfilled your need to play with the camera and have taken enough pictures,  start the exploration of your camera with manual in hand.


Most likely, you’ll start shooting your pictures in Program or Auto mode where the camera sets the best combination of aperture, shutter speed, and iso.  Leave your camera in that mode and locate the section in your manual that deals with “auto focus”.  As you read the differences in the C, S, and M modes, use your camera at each of those settings.  Snap several photos to get a feel for the differences.  Reread if you don’t see a difference.  Once you feel confident with that, look up focus areas and do the same. Practice changing the focus areas.  One of the most important elements in photography is focus.  It does no good to have a fantastically lit subject and outstanding composition of a stunning scene if the photo is out of focus.


You set the f-stop and the camera selects the shutter speed.   Use your manual to find out how to set your camera on aperture mode and which dial/button to use for changing the aperture.  Remember that the larger the number, the smaller the aperture.  So on most cameras, f/22 or f/32 is the smallest, and f/2.8 would be the larger.  Select a subject and fire several shots at various f-stops, going from smallest to largest,  and notice the change in shutter speeds.  Also, notice any changes in the photo.  Be sure your focus is tack sharp, and preferably, focus on the same object through this sequence.  As you practice this, try to predict the shutter speed.


In this mode, you set the shutter speed, and the camera selects the aperture.  Check your camera manual to learn how to change the shutter speed.  For this exercise, it’s more effective to use a moving subject.  Follow the same steps as in #2 above, but changing the shutter speed instead of aperture.


These are the basic controls for taking charge of your camera.  Once you feel  comfortable with these, explore the rest of the buttons and dials on your camera by reading the description in the manual while working the control.

By reading the manual in short spurts and applying what you learn as you read, you’re learn everything about it and accurate setting will become second nature to you.

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