If you are like the legions of people around the world that woke up to a new camera on Christmas morning, congratulations! You are probably filled with a mix of excitement, confusion, and more as you flip through the 23 accessories and plastic baggies that came with your new toy. I thought I would write this article to give you some tips on how to get the most out of your new camera over the coming days and weeks. Whether you are completely new to photography or have been shooting for a while, new gear is always fun and exciting. Here are some tips to get started:
1. Don't throw away anything. Put all of the packaging inside the original box, and store it somewhere, at least for the first few months. New cameras today rarely have problems, but when they do it's good to have all the original packaging to exchange it or return it. Some stores/online sites will require that packaging as well.
2. Start with the Green Box setting on the camera. It's the fully-automatic mode, and it will make all the harsh, cruel decisions for you that you might have to make otherwise. While you are shooting in this mode, don't judge the image quality too harshly. This is because the camera is making its best guess for you as to what's important in the picture. Eventually (if you learn about the different camera modes), you can get better results by changing these settings yourself.
3. After you've played with the green box mode for awhile, figure out how to turn off the flash (if your camera has one), and keep taking pictures. Direct-from-the-camera flash shots hardly ever look good, and you can get great results without using it (depending on your camera and the lighting situation). Eventually you'll discover that flash has its place, and you'll learn when it will work best.
4. Don't keep everything. It's easy to feel like you need to keep every picture you take. Become critical of your work. Shoot a ton of images, and keep the very best.
5. Keep a list of your favorite photographers bookmarked in your browser, including their blogs (if they have one). My list rotates often, but here's my current list of favs.
6. Backup your work. Once you start to take a lot of pictures, you'll need to either burn copies on dvd, copy them off to an external hard drive, or (preferably) both. Don't keep your images on one computer. Every hard-drive and dvd will eventually fail, so it's a good idea to start developing your 'backup mindset' now!
7. Realize that it's not the camera that takes great pictures, but you. While there are definitely reasons to lust after the latest gear, what you have in your hands today is much better than the pros had a few years ago. Learn the ins and outs of your camera, but also search out photographers online and study their work. Look at shot angles, lighting/time of day, expressions, shapes, etc. Pick aspects that you like of other photographers and combine them with your own to create something unique!
Give these tips a try, and above all - enjoy your new toy and take some great pictures!!