Still afraid of your camera? Are you intimidated by all the things it can do? That was me a few of years ago when I went digital.
My journey into the world of photography started when I graduated from grammar school and was given a point and shoot film camera for my graduation. Luckily, it came a few rolls of film. Back then, having a camera was great but it had its downside too. You had to pay for film and then pay for processing (developing) of the film later. Even if you had a darkroom to develop film at home, all the chemicals and paper cost money! This meant that when I took a picture, I had to really think about what I was doing so I didn’t “waste” film.
Today, the photography world has changed in so many ways. You can take a photo with your phone, pad, or camera. A camera can be mounted on your helmut or a phone to a drone to take aerial shots. This article is not about those types of “cameras”. It is only related to the DSLR.
I have been shooting images for, well, a half a century and am still learning. That is the key; keep learning. The DSLR camera today certainly does a lot of the work for the photographer. Its advantage over the old SLR is that it saves money on film and in Auto Mode (almost always) correctly reads light, distance and speed. All one has to do is focus on the subject matter. For most people who shoot photos, this is great. No need to figure out f/stops, speed, or ISO settings to capture that smile, the deer in the field, or the setting sun.
So, the simple answer to gaining confidence is to just take out your camera and use it on the auto mode all the time. But, that doesn’t always capture the image you are looking for. It’s “brain” is limited to what it is programmed to do and doesn’t always adjust correctly for lighting (person in foreground comes out perfect but the background does not), for the many variations of light the eye perceives and adjusts to automatically, or even what you want in focus.
A bit more complicated answer to gaining confidence with your camera is to do the tiresome, boring, and any other blah word you can think of and read the manual. It is filled with magical stuff if you can get through it!
In the past, only four things really mattered with the SLR: focus, light (ISO), shutter speed, and depth of field (f/stop). Get those right and you had a good chance your roll of film had some great images on it . Today, the DSLR cameras do so much more in-camera. Colors come out vibrant, black and white as well as color can both be shot at the same time, sepia shots are done in camera, different modes to shoot in, and the list goes on. But most importantly, you can shoot and delete as much as you want without the “money penalty”, i.e., film development! We’ve come a long way from the Box camera.
My first DSLR made me crazy trying to figure out all the different icons on the piece of equipment. Then add to that, taking the information the camera gave me on the back screen and attempting to use my knowledge of SLRs (single lens reflex cameras of old) to get the image I wanted from it! Very frustrating and I seriously thought of just staying with film. Of course, in the long run, doing that would become very expensive. My confidence was at its lowest and I found I really didn’t want to pick up my DSLR at all and so it collected dust for a while. I really had no confidence that I would be able to use a DSLR (digital single lens reflex) as I had my older film cameras. I even spent money on classes to hopefully improve my ability to use DSLRs. Frustration abounded.
Then a lightbulb when off and I now share this “brilliant” idea with you! Read the manual. But break it down into small pieces and absorb small portions. Keep that manual in your camera bag. Don’t be ashamed to pull it out when you are out shooting. I have… many times, and still do. Who can remember everything in that manual?
Boost your confidence by taking time to learn how to shoot in the different modes. It does work. As I am a “hands on” type of personality and reading how to use my camera was extremely painful. I only managed to get through the first few pages before I gave up. So, I finally followed the method below and found it worked for me. My confidence grew rapidly after that. Use both your camera and manual for each step.
Use the “auto” mode for about a week. See how it works. The next week, go to the Aperture mode (you set the f/stop and the camera does the rest). The following week, switch to changing the shutter speed (Tv on Canon and S on Nikon). Once you have learned the basics on how to use these three modes, try a week of the programmable mode. The last one to try for a week is the manual mode. By the time you get to this one, you will understand how your camera works and how each change you make in camera impacts the image you produce. Manual mode gives you control over everything. It’s not for everyone, but I use it with certain types of light because it gives me complete control over the image.
Your camera may not have all the modes I mentioned above, but working with your camera the same way by going through whatever modes it does have, will accomplish the same thing. You will “know” your camera and your confidence with grow with that knowledge.
Technology is constantly changing. What is new today is old tomorrow. Learn the basics of photography, i.e., shutter speed, f/stop, ISO, and focus, and how each interacts with each other. Confidence is grown by practice and then by continuing to learn. Grab your camera and go!