I guess the next logical question to address (that I get ALL the time) is how do you learn how to use your new dSLR that seems so overwhelming and intimidating?
I’m assuming I’m not the only one who felt completely lost when picking up a dSLR for the first time. I wanted so badly to shoot in manual mode but didn’t know where to start.
First, let me say I am SO glad you’re deciding to actually learn how to use your camera in manual. It makes me sad when people spend a bunch of money or use a big fancy camera and then leave it on auto.
It’s like going to an amazing restaurant with an inventive chef and variety of ingredients and just eating a side salad.
The short answer :
You can learn to use your camera the same way you would learn anything else. It’s different for each person, depending on how you learn best.
When I was learning to use my dSLR back in 2007 it was hard for me, because I thought I’d have to memorize all the different combinations of numbers (fstop+ISO+shutterspeed) that were possible …
It was frustrating and I put off even trying because it seemed too intimidating. I’m not a numbers person.
And then one day, Andrew and I went to Disneyland and I just MADE myself try manual.
***I learn by doing, so this really helped me. ***
It was a whole day of shooting manual, and at Disneyland there are ALL kinds of different lighting situations (from sunny outside of the castle to the dark dark interior of Haunted Mansion to the Main Street displays at dusk).
Turns out you don’t have to memorize anything. Just trial and error, checking out the image and histogram on the back of the camera. It’s not like I was shooting a paid gig that I could screw up (and I had been to Disneyland many many times before).
Your (digital) camera will have plenty of sensors to help you along the way … and the more you do it, the more you get a sense of what settings you’ll need in what lighting.
It really really helped to just make myself do it. Because I learn best by DOING.
It was like a crash course, and I can’t shoot on auto anymore. I only shoot manual.
So think about how you learn best: by doing? by reading a book? by instructor-led classes?
THAT will be the best place to start learning about your camera – and with the magic of the internet you should be able to find any of these without much trouble.
(sidenote: you can always take a short cut and learn to use aperture-priority setting, but to me if I’m gonna learn that much I want to do all of it and shoot totally manual)
I will say I leave my focus on auto most of the time because it is good enough, especially for being ready at any moment. But even then, there are more camera settings I could learn …
Other resources and suggestions:
- Join a Flickr group. There’s a ton ton out there and always other photographers willing to check out your images (you can decide if you just want cheerleaders or real hard criticism. There are both kind of people, for sure).
- Take an online class. If you need the instructions and the specific guidance, especially.
- Give yourself a challenge. Take a self-portrait every day. Or a food portrait every day. Something that will present you with different lighting/background scenario to learn from.
But, again. I learn by doing. So FORCING myself to just do it made me learn.
And, of course, wanting to learn is totally the first step!