SAN FRANCISCO, 17 JANUARY 2011 - Did you get a new camera over the holidays? I did. I am quite excited about my new Nikon D7000, which was my "big present" on Christmas morning. If, like me, you have a shiny new camera to play with, here are some things you can do to get the most out of it. And while you're preparing to get the most out of digital photography this new year, be sure to read about five photo editing techniques you should definitely explore this year.
Read the Manual
This one should be obvious--so why do so few people read the user guide that comes with their camera? There's nothing wrong with experimenting with your camera and figuring stuff out on our own, but at some point in your first month with the camera, I highly encourage you to read the manual. There's a right way and a wrong way to do that, though, and I daresay most people don't get as much out of the manual as they should. Here's my recommended approach.
Block out some distraction-free time and sit down with a cup of hot chocolate, the camera, a pen, and the user guide. Scan the guide page by page. You don't have to read every word--in fact, reading it too meticulously will put you to sleep. As you start each section, quickly get a sense of whether you know how to use the feature being discussed. If yes, move on. If not, read about it and then immediately pick up the camera and try it out. If you actually try the feature with your own hands, you'll stand a much better chance of understanding it and remembering it when you need it.
When you encounter a new feature you didn't know how to use, write notes on the inside cover of the user guide. That's your cheat sheet, so you don't have to scan the whole book to look up how to format a memory card or change the metering pattern. Heck, you might even want to make notes about why you'd use an interesting-but-obscure-sounding feature like "flash compensation." And enjoy your hot chocolate.
Upgrade the Lens
If you are the proud owner of a new digital SLR, I encourage you to think about expanding your lens collection. One of the biggest benefits of using an SLR is the interchangeable lens system that lets you switch focal lengths to suit the situation. I have three lenses: A 105mm macro lens for close-up nature photography, an all-purpose 18-200mm "walking around lens," and a 400mm telephoto for situations in which I need to pull in distant objects.
Take a good look at the lens that came with your SLR, generally known as a "kit lens" (because it comes in the box with your SLR body, as part of a kit). It's probably not a bad lens, but nor is it especially great. You can expand your photographic possibilities by buying a faster lens. Your kit's fastest aperture is probably between f3/5 and f/5.6, which really limits your options when shooting indoors or in low light. Look for an f/2 lens instead. Be sure to read "Demystifying Lenses" and, for more tips, check out "Understanding Camera Lens Model Numbers."
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