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Lifestyle Why you shouldn’t read the manual first

So Santa has been generous and brought you a shiny new camera for Christmas. Perhaps you’re an experienced photographer, who will quickly get to grips with this new piece of advanced technology: in which case you can probably stop reading here and we’ll wish you a Happy New Year!

On the other hand, perhaps this is your first more advanced camera, and you’re feeling a bit perplexed. If that sounds like you, then we’ve got one or two tips that might help.

Firstly, don’t try to read and digest the whole manual (which, by the way, you might have to download) in one go. If you’re not familiar with the terminology, you’ll end up bewildered and disheartened, and feeling that you’ll never understand. Do read as far as charging and inserting the battery and putting the memory card in your new camera, or you won’t be able to do anything.

We’d then suggest that once you’ve done that, you find out what the automatic setting is on the dial. On a Canon, it will probably be a green rectangle, with an A or ‘Auto in it or next to it. On a Nikon, it’s a green picture of a camera, on a Panasonic it’s called i-auto and so-on. Check the manual if you’re not sure, but it should be fairly obvious. Warning – it’s not the same as a plain white ‘A’ , which we’ll come to shortly. Then take some photos! Nothing will motivate you more to understand your camera than seeing some images and thinking about what you’d like to improve – or indeed whether you’re quite happy with them as they are.

Now back them up! It’s a good discipline to get into, backing every image up onto your computer, an external hard drive, or the Cloud – or all three. There’s lots of advice on-line if you’re not sure about how to do it, but it’s a true saying that that there are two types of people – those who back up and those who wish they had. We’ve heard too many stories of irreplaceable photographs being lost when a card gets lost or a hard drive fails.

After a while taking ‘auto’ shots, you’re ready to dive into a bit more detail. You could read the manual at this stage, but we’d suggest you dip into YouTube first, to see what other people are doing with, and saying about, your particular model. When you get to something you don’t understand, or when you feel you want a bit more detail, then have a look at the manual. That way you will get to read the bits of the manual you need, but you won’t be overwhelmed by trying to get your head around it all in one go. Like the dial in the picture (a Canon) your dial will have some modes like close-up (the flower), sport (runner), portrait (heads) etc, and that’s a good place to go next. Try them all and see what they do – again checking with the manual to make sure you understand.

For lots of people, that’s as far as they want to go, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, you might come to the point where the photograph you’ve taken using one of the pre-set modes isn’t quite what you wanted or hoped for. That’s where you need to take more control of your camera, and that’s what we’ll talk about next time, starting with A for Aperture!

Meanwhile, happy snapping! Robert and Lisa


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