Getting a new camera is always fun. Who doesn’t like NEW things! But you’re now asking yourself, “How do I take advantage of the wonderful technology?” Have no fear, I’m going to go over a few of the frequent questions I get when people ask me.
READ THE MANUAL! The manual will have a quick start section. It covers battery charging, card formatting, and other basic information. If you’re in a hurry you can skip to the section that frustrates you the most. I like to head to the chapter that covers buttons and what they do. Then I head to the chapter on in-camera menus.
If this is your first DSLR camera head to the section that shows you where the basic controls are. You’ll need to know how to change aperture and shutter speed. It will show you the location of the button to adjust white balance and ISO sensitivity. It’s also a good idea to go over the troubleshooting chapter. This way you can get a good feel for what can go wrong, and how to fix the problem before you get frustrated.
Once you know how to charge your battery, format your memory card and remove your lens go to the next step.
I’m going to cover some best practices in Step 2. These are things that can help extend the life of your cards, batteries, lenses and camera bodies.
First up is your memory cards. ALWAYS, ALWAYS format your memory cards in the camera ALWAYS. Always upload your files to a computer or hard drive with a card reader * [affiliate]. Connecting your camera to the computer using a cable will slow down your transfer speed and you risk file and card corruption.
Next are a few settings on your camera that we can adjust. I like to have my camera write files to both memory cards when I’m shooting, this way I have a backup in case one card goes bad. If you have dual card slots you can choose to have one card backup the first or you can have one card as extra memory. This is up to you and what you may be shooting. If you only have one card slot you can ignore this part, play it safe with your cards and formatting.
Another menu item to tweak is to lock the ability to fire the shutter if the card slots are empty. Doing this will help you remember to put your cards back in. And you won’t have wasted effort, time, and money taking photos that don’t exist. The LCD screen on top of my camera will let me know if I have both cards in, whether one is a backup or not. If both cards are out, my camera will not fire the shutter.
Now we move on to lenses. My biggest reminder with lenses is not to lose the caps. You’ll have a cap for the camera body when the lens is off. You’ll have two caps for the lens, one for the front and one for the back. If you only have one or two lenses you can stash the body cap somewhere safe. I like to keep one lens on my camera body. Then I don’t have to worry about more rear lens caps if I have more than one lens along. Front lens caps are like wandering toddlers. Be prepared to pat yourself down to try to remember which pocket or bra cup you put the front cap in. I’ve been trying to keep the habit of tossing my front lens cap in my camera bag so I don’t have to remember its location. Another lens component to use is your lens hood. I like to always use a lens hood, it gives me a layer of protection for the front end of the lens. If you lose any caps or hoods you can find them at B&H, Adorama or Amazon*. [affiliate]
What about batteries? I’m no expert in battery tech but the way I take care of my batteries is to charge them up if I used them at all. I will let a charged battery sit in its charger but not for more than a day or overnight usually. As batteries age, they hold a less of a charge and lose power faster. I like to keep track of the age of batteries and mark them so I can tell them apart. I also try not to let the battery get too low. Sometimes it’s unavoidable but I don’t want a battery to go dead in my camera before I charge it. Always have extras along if someone is paying you money to photograph for them.
Ok, you’ve shot for a while and now you have a card full of photos. What do you do next? To take full advantage of your impressive bit of technology, photo-editing is your next step. The first thing to do is to get your files from your memory card and to your computer and into backup storage. As I said earlier ALWAYS use a card reader to transfer files.
Your card is out of the camera and in a reader now what do you do? You need an organized place to store your files with good file management. Make a new folder on your hard drive and name it the current year. Inside the year folder make another new folder and name it a name that makes sense to you. I like to use YYYY-MM-DD shootName as my folder name. If I have photos from more than one day or shoot on my card I will separate them as I upload them. I also change the file names to shootName when I upload so I don’t end up with a million img_0987 type file names.
Once you have your files on your computer now is the time to do a bit of backup. Just like you may have two card slots in your camera and use one for backup, you need to do the same for your files on the computer. This is where the 3-2-1 rule of file storage and backup comes in. There should be three copies of your files. Two different types of storage, internal hard drive, and removable or cloud storage. One of those copies should be off-site. You can create your backup copies before or after you delete the photos that are blurry or have other imperfections. Culling your photos is a skill so be brutal. So after you have your backup copies made and safe. Now is the time to safely eject your card from its reader and put it back in the camera for formatting. And you’ll be ready for your next photography adventure.
To make editing photos easier on the wallet get Photoshop Elements*. [affiliate] Think of it as Photoshop lite. It’s missing few parts of regular Photoshop (like Bridge) but it will get what you need doing done. And for a reasonable and non-subscription based price. When I copy my photos from my memory cards I use Adobe Bridge. I convert my RAW Nikon files, which have the NEF extension at the end into Adobe digital negative files or DNGs. These are still RAW files but not camera specific. DNG files are a bit smaller than RAW files. I like DNG files because I use a couple different computers and cameras and versions of ACR. It makes it easier to switch between things, plus the XMP data file embeds in the file. So I don’t have to worry about two files for one photo. All that to say when I’m putting my files on the computer I check a little box in the dialog window that says convert to DNG.
Now to back-up a bit, you’re asking what RAW files are. RAW files are proprietary files that each camera maker uses to record the sensor information about your photo. It’s not an image file like a JPEG or PNG. Sony, Nikon, Canon all use different extensions for their RAW files so it can be a confusing at first. Programs that can edit and process RAW files are RAW processors. Lightroom and ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) are RAW processors. Think of these programs as developing your film. If you don’t convert your RAW files into DNGs all the edits you make to your files are recorded in a small sidecar XMP file. So don’t be alarmed if you see two files with the same name.
Now that you have your files in their folders and have converted them to DNGs, or not, it’s time to do something with them. If you use Photoshop or Photoshop Elements and you open a RAW file, Adobe Camera Raw will open first. Photoshop works with image files so we have to give Photoshop instructions on how to display the file. ACR and Lightroom are very similar in how they work and the sliders they have. So what you do in one program can translate over to the other usually, depending on the version of each program. In ACR you can not touch a thing and open the file straight to Photoshop or you can do the RAW processing and then open up in Photoshop. In ACR and Lightroom, you can adjust the white balance, exposure, contrast and add fun things like split toning and vignettes. Play around and see what you get, there are MANY MANY places to learn how to edit photos with Photoshop. Look for community education classes if you like in-person learning, YouTube for tutorials that you can follow along and pause, or membership sites that will have classes that you can purchase and learn.
This is a lot of information!
I’m going hit the publish button for this post as it has become very long. I may split things up in the future or add even more!