On the odd joyous occasion, you may find yourself fortunate enough to be in the possession of a new camera. Great! Now what? Here’s a short list of the 8 things I suggest you do when you find yourself sitting pretty in this position.
Adjust Your Camera’s Diopter
The dioptre is a small round dial, usually found near the viewfinder. When you look through your lens, a correctly adjusted diopter will ensure that the image you see is sharp. It has no effect on your camera’s autofocus but instead assists you in viewing the image correctly. Think of it like glasses, some of us need them and some don’t. They don’t actually affect our environment; they just allow us to see it correctly. That’s the job of the diopter.
Adjusting the diopter is a very simple affair. If you wear glasses, you should first take these off, unless you plan to always look through your viewfinder wearing them, which I do not recommend. Glasses off, point your camera at a white wall or fairly bright surface, then adjust the diopter while looking at all the info surrounding your frame (you may need to half press the shutter to bring this info up). Experiment for a minute and eventually you’ll find a setting where the text appears most sharp. You’re done. Keep in mind, it’s good to re-check this on important shoots as it can shift a little in a bag.
Make Sure All Your Lenses Are Calibrated To Your New Camera
Our lenses are not perfect; even new ones you’ve just taken out of the box. It’s a bold statement, but I have never received a lens that required zero calibration; Every time I get a new lens, new camera, or the lens has some kind of knock (almost never), I check that the lens is focusing accurately and adjust it using a setting in camera. Each manufacturer seems to have a slightly different term for this. Nikon calls it AF Fine Tune, Canon refer to it is Micro Focus Adjustment, and all the others have their own chosen distinction.
There are various methods available to calibrate your lenses. I’m not going to go into detail as we’ve already covered this topic in other articles which can be found here, and here, but however you choose to do it, do it! There’s no point in dropping thousands on nice glass and a new camera only to be missing focus all the time. It’s also a great test for your new camera. If you’re getting weird results across multiple lenses, then there could be something wrong with your new baby.
*NOTE* – If you’re lucky enough to be adding a second camera to your photographic arsenal, then perhaps you’re thinking “I did this for my other camera, I’ll just copy the settings”. WRONG. Every camera is different, even if they are the same model, and it must be done again. Sorry
Get A Screen Protector
I couldn’t care less about having UV filters on my lenses. I have insurance and don’t see the point in putting more glass in front of my lens. However, I am a bit precious when it comes to my screens. While I could easily put in an insurance claim for a scratch on my lens, it would be tough to justify the same for a scratch to your LCD.
This may just be me, but screen protectors are essential. I get a nice tempered glass one and it goes on immediately. If not, my heart will begin to race every time the camera comes out and I’ll be in danger of having a mild heart attack (That may be a slight exaggeration).
Take Your New Baby For A Test Run
The purpose of this test run is not simply to strut past groups of people, hoping for someone to throw you a distant gaze filled with longing; let’s be honest, that’s not going to happen. No, this test run has purpose. Firstly, we’re testing out the camera and checking that every function works as it should. This may sound like overkill and may be one of the last remnants of my time in the film industry, constantly testing cameras prior to a shoot, but I still see it as essential. Yes, the likelihood of you finding an issue is low, but I’d prefer to know before a shoot rather than during.
I used to have an obsession with photographing the deer in my local park, and wrote loads of articles talking about it; find them here. I still have this obsession but sadly am rarely able to find the time to go out and shoot. The point of this is that those deer were easily accessible subjects for me to practice on. I learned photography by shooting them, and whenever I get a new piece of gear, I learn it by photographing the deer. I think it’s useful for any photographer to find a subject like this, one you can always practice on with consistency which also helps for comparison.
Time For The Fun Part
Nope, I’m lying. This bit isn’t fun either. Much of what you do before using your new kit is not fun. You’re testing it and preparing it. That way, once you do have need for it, your confident in its operation and limitations. That’s why my next step is “do some research online”.
There are so many things that modern cameras can do these days. Someone is bound to have some amazing feature which, without some research, may have taken you months or even years to stumble across. Occasionally you’ll even find entire articles which cover how someone adjusts all of their settings for their style of shooting. It’s important to note that those kinds of articles are essentially opinion pieces on how that photographer likes his camera set up, but they can serve as great starting point for you.
Another important reason to do your research is to weed out any manufacturer defects you would not have known about otherwise. For example, my Nikon D750 was purchased on the gray market. Had I bought it from an official dealer, perhaps they would have notified me of the flare issue but my seller certainly did not. Now, I already knew about the issue but had I not, I could have gone on shooting for a long time before it reared its ugly head.
Optimize Your Camera Settings
Taking all that knowledge you just gained from the step above, and from your test run, it’s time to optimize your camera settings. As I already mentioned, cameras are so complex these days that there are a ton of settings you may never use. Then again, there are a ton that you MUST learn about. Once you have, you’ll find that you can adjust your camera to suit your style, and the subject your shooting.
Three settings I always adjust are: Switching Image quality to RAW; Assigning a button for back button focus, and the Image Review options. Whatever settings you choose to adjust, make sure you take a look at every single one. You never know, you might find your favorite feature.
It’s Dull, But Read The Manual
If you’ve had loads of cameras from the same manufacturer and you’ve done all your research online, AND you know all the additional features of this new model, perhaps then, you do not need to read the manual. Other than that, I would always suggest taking some time to have a leaf through. I can’t pretend that it will be an enjoyable experience but, especially if it’s your first camera, you’ll gain a far better understanding of its capabilities.
Get Some Inspiration And Go Out And Shoot
OK. This is the fun bit now, I promise. Once everything is set up, tested, and calibrated, you’re ready to take some photos. My advice at this point, whether pro or amateur, find some photography you admire, find something that you cannot do, and attempt to emulate it. Push your boundaries and the boundaries of your new kit. The shot above was taken from a recent article of mine in which I spoke about just this; pushing yourself. If you’d like to know how that shot was achieved, click here.
Bonus Tip And Summary
I’ve never wanted to take photos which were “normal”. It’s always been my desire to go beyond that and create something a little more out of the ordinary. To do so, you do not need the best kit available. Once you have your new camera set up and ready to go, stop thinking about gear and start thinking about photography. Photography is not gear.
Pye just wrote an article where he talks about a focus on gear having been a block on his development (check it out here), but the title message was, prioritize education over gear and your photography will improve dramatically. Be sure to take a look at all the educational content we have on site and in the SLR Lounge Store, there’s bound to be something for you.
So, in summary, getting a new camera is fantastic, just remember to always keep in mind that this new camera is a tool, nothing more. It’s a tool which you can use to produce imagery you never knew you were capable of.
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