Those of you lucky enough to unwrap a new DSLR or ICL camera this holiday season might be feeling a little overwhelmed. Between the included accessories and various instructions for best use that came with the packaging, you might not be sure where to get started. If this is your first foray with a high-end manual digital camera, this guide will help you get your feet wet.
- SD cards: You’ll want a couple to get started, and post-holidays you can put those gift cards and clearance sales to use.
- Bag and strap: Securing your camera is a top priority. Since you’re new to this higher-end genre, you might not be prepared for the amount of care you should exercise with these devices. A bag or carrying case of some kind is necessary, preferably with room for additional lenses and a charger. Nearly every kit comes with a strap but if that’s not the case, make sure you get one of these as well. Gone are the days when you can just stuff the thing in your pocket, purse, or backpack.
- Lenses: If you got your camera as a gift, chances are the basic lens kit was included. But if that’s not the case then you obviously need to take care of this before you start shooting. To get started, we suggest picking up a prime and a telephoto lens. This allows you some versatility without sinking too much money right off the bat. Strapped for cash? Grab a pancake lens for the time being.
Now there are a variety of fun camera accessories on the market, and we suggest you start keeping track of them in order for next year’s wish list. But these are some of the basics you’ll need to get set up and on your way to shooting ASAP.
It’s time to get acquainted with your camera. If you asked for or bought yourself a high-end manual shooter, you’ve likely had time to at least experiment with shooting in manual, whether via a loaner or a point-and-shoot. But things naturally get more complicated from here. Check out the mode dial and slowly work your way up to the “M” (full manual) setting.
We’d suggest starting with shutter or aperture priority because you can pretty much surmise what you have control over from the label. After you feel like you have a good feel for adjusting the exposure and depth of field on your own, check out “P” or program. Like the other two settings, it’s semi-automatic. Here you get to decide the ISO setting, among other things.
Don’t feel like you need to step things up to Manual right away. It’s better to feel entirely comfortable with these introductions than take a frustrating amount of throwaway images immediately. And if these semi-automatic settings are still a little too complicated, put it on full-auto and fiddle with features like white balance and light settings. The best way to improve here: trial and error.
A raw image file is to digital cameras what a film negative was to analog cameras. It’s sort of a representative of what the final photo will look like—it’s what will create the image. You’ll have to convert these files on your computer before being able to view them. So why shoot in raw? When you playback these photos on your camera, you get a much more accurate look at the details of the photos. Exposure, saturation, and white balance are much truer, and you can adjust accordingly while shooting rather than have to deal with the inaccuracies in post-production.
Speaking of post-production, you’re going to need some editing software. If you’re able and willing to shell out for Photoshop, by all means go right ahead. You can also get a 30-day trial, which we suggest doing first.
But if you need something free there are a variety of free photo editors that you should get your hands dirty with before you commit. Also be sure to troll Web app stores for browser-based versions if you prefer that format. You don’t need to get anything fancy, but there are a few minor tweaks you should at least experiment with now that you’ve upped your equipment.
Choose a platform
Now that you’ve got yourself a fancy new camera, you need to decide where you’re going to show off all your professional-grade photos (and attach copyright to). While we’re not saying that some of them should make it to Facebook, flooding your friends with every single one of your images from shoots isn’t advised.
There are a variety of great photo-sharing platforms that welcome every out of your images, from weird experiments with exposure to mistakes that you want advice on how to improve. Trust us, no one on Facebook or Twitter wants to see five pictures of a bench taken at different aperture for comparison’s sake. For that, we’d advise getting a free membership (of course there are premium options as well) with one of the following.
- 500px: This site has a very simple layout and a strong community. And users don’t skimp on the details of each shot. The site’s layout also makes it great to use as a portfolio.
- Flickr: The most obvious place to store and share your photos is Flickr. You can easily copyright your images and keep the prying eyes of the Internet from taking them over, as well as use the site’s various and active discussion boards to ask for help and shooting advice.
- Behance: Another great option for uploading and sharing your work is Behance, although most who use the site are on the more professional side.
- Snapixel: You get 5GB of storage and there’s no maximum file size. You can share photos from the site with Twitter as well and grab site embed codes.
Lock it up
The most important thing you can do after getting a new camera is keeping it safe. You likely know this by now, but these things are expensive as well as breakable. If your new gadget came with any insurance policies or warranties, keep those in a safe and memorable place. Like in your wallet… or next to your passport. You can easily spend thousands of dollars repairing or replacing lost or stolen gear, so consider yourself warned.
If you camera didn’t come with any of the above mentioned items, consider taking precautions. CameraTrace is a service from GadgetTrak that makes sure your camera can be found if lost or stolen. Major manufacturers also sell policies for their devices, as do insurance companies. If you want to take matters into your own hands, be sure to keep a copy of you camera’s serial numbers safe.