What to do after the unboxing

It’s the new year and you may have gotten an DSLR camera as a Christmas gift or went out an bought one for yourself as part of a New Year’s resolution. Now what are you going to do?

(3/31/11) A Nikon D3s DSLR camera with an image on its 3″ monitor. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

If it’s your first DSLR, you probably got the camera because you’re upgrading from a point-and-shoot camera or your cellphone. The first thing you should do after the unboxing is to read the manual. I know that it’s boring reading and that your first impulse is to take the camera out and play with it, but knowing where all the buttons and switches are and what they’re for will help you a lot.

(7/4/16) Robin Denny takes a picture of a 1949 Cadillac at the Fourth of July Car Show at The Bridge at Stockton. Proceeds from the 40 entries went to benefit Community Outreach and Food Bank Ministries of The Bridge at Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Next thing is very simple but also very vital. Attach the camera strap. All to often I have seen cameras being dropped (a few times right in front of me) because the camera didn’t have a camera strap or if it did, it’s operator wan’t using it. Save yourself some costly repairs and use the strap.

(4/12/15) Gurpreet Singh of Richmond, takes a picture of the Stockton Gurdwara’s annual parade in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

If you just set your camera on an automatic mode then I think you may have made an unwise investment. The point and shoot and cellphone camera, from exposure to focusing, are all automatic in their operation. If you use your DSLR in auto-everything, you’ll come away with okay photos for the most part but nothing much different than from those other devices.

(2/4/08) 16-year-old Lincoln High student Lulu Skafi, right, takes advantage of the sunny day to take a picture of her sister Shereen Skafi, 21, for a photo class project at Buckley Cove Park in Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Learn how to use the camera in manual mode. I know it can be difficult, especially at first, but once you do, you’ll have creative control over it. That control means that you’re not a slave to the camera, but rather, the camera works for you.

(3/21/07) Jim Cooper of Pleasant Hill takes a photo of the Quick Step Innergetic team’s bikes before the start of the Amgen Tour of California bicycle race at the Weber Point Event Center in downtown Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Say there’s a situation that’s mostly white, the camera will read it as being too bright, then underexpose the photo and vice versa. There are times where you may want a lot or very little depth of field (the amount of what’s in focus from front to back). The camera is just a machine and doesn’t know what you want. Having control lets you choose.

(3/3/17) Yi-Fang Chang takes advantage of the sunny day to take some scenic photographs at Buckley Cove Park in Stockton for a photography class at school.[CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Now you can learn these things yourself but it can be a bit daunting to learn all the techniques and technical aspects of photography. I suggest taking a class or joining some sort of photography group. I took photography at Sacramento City College which still offers an excellent photo program and Delta College has great classes as well. The Stockton Camera Club is open to newcomers and it’s members have a great wealth of experience and knowledge and are eager to help beginners.

(11/4/18) Jennifer Sila of Florida takes pictures of sandhill cranes during sunset at the Isenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve west of Lodi. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

The most important thing you can do with your new camera is to take pictures, a lot of them and often. It will get you used to using the camera. Carry it around with you as much as you can. A friend’s wife called his camera “the baby” because he took it with him everywhere, all the time. At first, most of your pictures won’t be very good. That’s OK, don’t be discouraged and put the new camera back in its box. The famed photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson said: “your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” At times it may not seem you’re improving and you may even take some steps backwards, but keep taking pictures and you’ll see improvement over time and make getting that new camera really worth it.

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