It’s Christmas Eve, and all around the world, people and searching through their homes, trying to remember where they stored their camera bags.
When they finally find the bag, the next thought is… “How do I set this thing?”
Of course, you’re much more organized than that. You know exactly where your DSLR camera is and how to use it. But, just in case you need a little refresher, here are five quick tips to get you started.
- If the battery has a charge left in it, turn on your camera and check the date and time. You meant to change it last month, but, just in case, it’s good to be sure. You’ll find the Date/Time setting in the Menu. Canons list it in a wrench menu. If it’s only a matter of updating your camera to Standard Time, there may be a Time Zone menu option, too.
- Be sure your Image Stabilization or Vibration Reduction is turned on. It will be either on the lens or on the camera itself. This will help you avoid blurry photos due to camera shake.
- Be sure your Auto Focus is turned on, on the lens.
- Push the Playback button to see if you have photos on the memory card. If you do, download them to your computer. Then, when you are sure you’ve got copies of the photos on the computer, format the card in your camera. On Canons, you find Format Card in a wrench menu. Now you’ll be starting fresh with an empty card.
- Turn off the camera and charge the battery!
If you’re wondering how I’ll be setting my camera, here are the details. I’ll be shooting with my Canon 5D Mark III, with my Canon 24-105 lens. I’ll start by doing all of the steps listed above. I’ll check the menu to be sure that I’m shooting in highest quality RAW. (Highest quality JPG is fine if you’re not planning to post-process your photos in Lightroom or other Raw processing software.) Then, I’ll set my camera to Aperture mode (A or Av) and choose an aperture of f/4. That’s the widest aperture for this particular lens. I do this to let in as much light as possible, so my camera can choose a faster shutter speed. I’ll be sure that my ISO is set to Auto, so that the camera can increase the ISO if the light is low. I’ll set my camera to use only one focus point that I choose myself. I can decide whether to use the center point and “focus and recompose” or to use one of the other points, by moving the focus point as I compose. I will not be using a flash.
It always helps to remember why you are shooting. Christmas photos tend to be quick shots of fleeting moments. No one wants to rewrap and unwrap the same gift until the camera (photographer…) gets it right! So, using Aperture mode and Auto ISO are great ways to get good shots with a minimum of hassle. Tripods will generally be in the way, too, so save them for a picture of the tree with it’s lights on. You can get that one tonight, right after the battery finishes charging!
I hope these hints will help get you started. If it all seems confusing, why not join one of my photography workshops in January? There’s no time like the new year for learning how to use your camera!