In early days of photography, the process of taking images was considered a significant advancement of science. Early film cameras were rather primitive and relatively simple to use (if you knew how to operate them). Digital cameras have long since replaced film and the technology in today’s DSLR’s is nothing short of mind-boggling.
Photography is what you make of it and your camera is basically a tool to create a photograph. And that tool you have in your camera bag is far more powerful than you can image and capable of creating amazing images, but only if you learn to use it properly. As we start to go through various photography courses, you need to understand how a camera works and must learn important settings on your camera.
For illustration purposes, we’re going to use the Canon EOS Rebel T6i in our examples.
Camera Resource Library (first step)
Our goal is to teach you how to take great photos. Your first assignment is to build a Resource Library of owners manuals, training videos, and other model-specific materials will help you master your camera inside and out. Regardless of your skill level, building a virtual and hard copy resource library consisting of camera owners manuals, user guides, and bookmarks to product overviews, and tutorials for your specific camera model.
Camera User Manual
Reading a camera owners manual is a painfully arduous, but necessary task. It really is the best place to start. If you lost your manual, see if you can buy a replacement from the manufacturer or possibly on eBay.
Bookmark or download a PDF version of the manual as well. It’s better than carrying a hard copy and you can search for what you’re looking for in a PDF.
Download Canon User Manuals here.
Camera Books (model-specific)
Camera user and owner’s manuals do a respectable job of telling you how to turn on and use various features and settings. But they fall short of telling you when, where, how and why you can or should use specific features.
Camera books written by independent authors bridge the gap between settings and techniques. For example, you should know how to enable Continuous Auto Focus, but it just as important to know under which circumstances you might use this feature. Most books are available in both hard copy an eBook formats.
Camera user manuals are getting smaller and smaller (and are sometimes very difficult to read. Some third party model-specific books come are in full color and include helpful screen captures and illustrations not found in the manufacturers manual.
Camera manufactures, retailers, and independent third party photographers and companies frequently review new cameras (sometimes in extensive detail). These reviews can be very effective because independent reviewers often highlight a camera’s strengths and weaknesses without having to read painfully long reviews. Most of these reviews include examples and illustrations. Search YouTube for your specific model and bookmark the video reviews you find most helpful.
Hands-On Review: Canon | EOS Rebel T6i and T6s (Free Video)
Camera Manufacturer Apps
Most major camera manufacturers offer an app for your smartphone. Some of these apps connect with your camera (if you have wireless), while others give you access to the manual. Either way, it’s helpful to install the app so you have a resource available at all times. CANON CAMERA CONNECT is available on iTunes and Google Play.
Photography Forums and Blogs
There are several photography forums and blogs where both amateur and professional photographers share photos, techniques, and review camera gear. Search blogs and forms for discussions on your camera and read the comments as they can provide helpful insights into your specific model.
Retail Camera Product Reviews
Take time to read reviews left by other owners on Amazon, B&H, BestBuy, and Adorama. Often these unbiased reviews left by users just like you provide valuable time-saving tips, as well as helpful insights into your camera’s strengths and weaknesses.
One way to get a sense of your camera’s capabilities is to check out images on Flickr taken by a specific model. Search for your camera model and you’ll probably see thousands of images taken by both amateur and professional photographers alike. Most photographers will also display EFIX data. Exif data are the settings used on a specific photography. This information is embedded into the file for each image and can be automatically displayed.
This is especially helpful if you see an image you like and want to know what settings the photographer used.
PhotoBert Photo Cheat Sheet’s
Another great tool is a CheatSheet by PhotoBert. These one page laminated quick reference guides are available for digital cameras and some accessories. These guides can help you find the settings you’re looking for without spending precious time searching menus.
Most of these cheat sheets fold up for easy carrying and storage.
We’re going to assume you’re on PhotographyCourse.net because you’re serious about being a good photographer. If you’re brand new to photography or accustomed to using fully automatic settings, the the initial learning curb may seem overwhelming. Having a small library of resources in your toolbox from various sources will help facilitate the learning process.
Lastly, don’t stress out! You don’t have to commit all of cameras advanced features to memory.