September 29, 2020

Your New Camera - What You Should Know

I have a camera, Now What?! 

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 You have a nice fancy camera, you’ve pulled it out of the box and you are about to start snapping away!  You may or may not think to yourself, what kind of things should I know before I start using my camera.  Well, lucky for you friend, I’ve have been down this road.  I am happy to share with you all of the things you should know when you have your new camera!

Read Your Manual

Ok, so let’s just say for funsies that you actually read the manual.  There are 500 pages in the manual for my Nikon D750.  There’s no way.  Now, a lot of the information in there is going to be really helpful for someone who has some experience in using a camera. However, a lot of people end up scratching their heads after looking at it for 5 minutes!  What type of person are you?  Do you know what Do you actually know what all that stuff means?  Yeah.  Me neither.  At least not the first thirty times I actually tried to figure it out.   Which just happens to be the whole reason I started my Beginner’s Photography Course.  If you’re not local to the Chesapeake, VA Beach, Norfolk, VA area (aka Hampton Roads) and you’re interested in learning more, I will soon be launching my online workshop!  All you have to do to is pop your email address in here and I’ll send you updates as the launch gets closer.


Setting up your camera for the first time

When you first open up the box, you’re going to do is attach your lens and charge the battery.  Once you pop that battery in there, you want to start with the obvious settings (date/time/region).  Most of the time, you’re prompted to, so there really isn’t any avoiding those.  What else?  Well, you need to put a memory card in to store your photos. (Ok, this is a little Capt. Obvious here, just bear with me…). When you insert a new SD (memory card) into your camera, format it before using it for the first time.  If the card is not a new one, make sure you put the information on the card on your computer or hard drive before formatting.  Doing this will set up the proper folders for your photos and their data to be written on.

Along with those pretty apparent steps, here’s a big one.  Look very closely next to your viewfinder.  Do you see a little wheel there?  That’s called your Diopter.  Rotate the diopter adjustment wheel while you look through the viewfinder until the Auto Focus brackets in the window come into focus.  This will adjust the camera to your set of eyes.  Just be careful not to poke your eye out with your finger while you adjust!

Finally, we’re done with the initial setup.  Next we’re going to scroll through your camera’s menu.

Camera Menus

Depending on what kind of camera you have will determine what and how many menu settings you have to control.  Access the menu by finding the button on the back of your camera.  You will have quite a few options to scroll through and customize to your hearts content.  A few of the options that I always look for are:

  • Playback or Image Review (will show your picture on the screen for a few seconds after taking it)
  • Image Stabilizer, Shake reduction
  • Red Eye Reduction
  • Image Quality (go with JPEG fine or Large.  If you have an option for RAW, wait until you understand the basics first.)
  • Beep (I’m not a huge fan of the beeping, personally)
  • Focusing Mode (I typically use spot or AF-C for taking pictures of moving littles)

Now that we’ve gone over some basic menu settings, let’s look at all the fun things I know you’re going to look at:



Who doesn’t love shopping for accessories when you get a new toy?  I know, right!?  You’re probably looking all around Amazon for camera accessories and they have all this cool stuff that would be awesome to have.  Who cares if you don’t really know how you will use them?  Those are some pretty sweet color filters, but in all reality, you will NEVER use them.  When it comes to accessories for your camera, be sure to remember a couple of things.

  1. Only buy it if you know you will use it.
  2. Buy cheap, buy twice.


When most get into photography, the initial reaction is that you need all this gear to take amazing picture.  This isn’t true at all.  You need your camera.  MAYBE a flash.  Maybe a tripod. Other than that the most important thing you need to do is to learn your camera.  I talk to a lot of photographers new to their journey.  One of the things I hear the most is that think they need to go out and buy xy AND z.  So I put together a quick list of things you might think you need, but in actuality, you can wait for it, and save the money on the higher ticket things you’re going to want down the road.  Trust me.  That down the road comes…HA!

What Accessories You DON’T Need

Accessory Bundles

If you have looked through Amazon, you will know what I mean here.

Color Lens filters

You’ll see them, the ones with all the color filters…they look cool, but in fact, unless you have a purpose for them they will sit in a corner collecting dust.

A cheap tripod

Stay away from anything that reads “lightweight” or  “lightweight aluminum” or something that says use with DSLR, Smartphone, Digital Camera.  These are very flimsy and if you are looking to use it for outdoor use, invest in one with a reputable name

Micro/Macro lens attachments

I actually bought a bundle that included one of each of these in it.  The glass inside is not stable in the casing and can potentially cause your images to come out blurry. Take my word for it.

Lens cap keeper 

This is a little sticky dot attached to an elastic strap which you wrap around your lens.  It sounds good in theory, and I’ve lost some lens caps before.  It gets in the way more than it actually helps though.

Accessory Bundles

Backdrop stands

I can’t stress this enough.  If you have bought a camera in the last 6 months, don’t go out and buy one of those $100 backdrop kits.  Especially if you plan on using it with little kids.  These cannot handle a lot of weight and knock over quite easily.

Cheap Vinyl Backdrops 

First, these are made of a very cheap vinyl material. These typically come folded, and getting the creases out of those things are a pain in the a**.  Like for real.  They are just a big waste of money.  Additionnally, they will be too short in length and width for the lens you have as well as space you want to shoot in. Meaning you have to take your pictures straight on.  Which is fine, but you’ll never get your entire set up in the camera without your backdrop stand showing or whatever is behind and around it.


One mistake I had the misfortune of learning, not once but twice, was from buying a cheap off camera flash.  *Cue the violins*. I bought a flash from – well – I won’t disparage the company, let’s just say I spent less than $100 for it.  After using it a few times, I noticed that the hot shoe (where the flash attaches to the camera) felt like it was coming loose.  I made sure that it was always screwed in tightly.  What I did not know, was that the pins on the bottom were falling out.  Soon after, my flash actually broke away from the hot shoe.  I subsequently made the mistake of buying the same flash again!    Low and behold, the same thing happens and I consequently relearn lesson 2 (See above).

Now, I am all about not spending money where you don’t need to. I would not try to sell you an igloo if you only had space for a few trays of ice.  My experience in the early stages of my journey would be much different if I knew then what I know now ?.  That being said, here are the things that I think you do need and will be worth investing in.

What you WILL need

A Fast SD Card

When you go to buy a memory card for your camera, get a couple with a fast write speed.   You want one with a speed of at least 95/mbs.  This is the speed that your camera will record the data to the card.  You want your camera, as well as the memory card, to keep up with how fast it takes pictures. Also, you don’t need one with 128G of space.  Something with 32G or 64G will be completely sufficient.  I typically but the SanDisk Extreme Pro, but the Extreme listed here on Amazon is a really good one too 

Lens cleaner kit

Your lens will get dust in it.  It’s inevitable.  Get you a cleaning kit that has the spray cleaner, a brush, a lens pen, and cleaning cloths.  Something like this. 


I love my MeFoto Backpacker Carbon Fiber Tripod.  Additional reputable brands include  Manfrotto, Benro, Vanguard. Look for one with a ball head mount.

Maybe a flash

At the moment, you really don’t need one.  However, If you decide that you want one, brands I would recommend would include Godox, Yongnuo,  and any camera branded flash (namely Sony, Nikon, Canon, etc.). I currently have 2 of the Godox V850II Li-ion Camera Flash and I have no regrets with those.

Camera Bag

This is completely up to you – find something that you will find comfortable carrying around, as well as one that one that fits your style.  There are so many options out there.  Are you a leather or a cloth person?  Can you stand carrying a huge backpack during the day, or will a shoulder bag work for you?  One thing I will tell you in fact is that comfort will be key here.  Your gear will get heavy on you.

Caring for Your Camera

Caring for your camera is a necessary part of owning one.  Here are a few quick tips for general cleaning and care of your camera

Cleaning your lens/keeping it clean

First part of this is to always make sure the lens caps are on your lens when you are not using them.  Meaning if you are on vacation and you have your camera, but the camera is hanging from your neck, the cap should be on it.  Only take the caps off while you are actively taking pictures.  Why, you ask?  Well, not only will you see dust and environmental debris in your pictures, but after time it will get into your lens.  Eventually, dust will travel behind the glass and will be forever stuck inside.   There are multiple elements of glass inside your lens, and you will not be able to remove dust from inside.  Take good care and protect your lens from the environment.

Equally as important to keeping the lens cap on, is to clean your lens before you go out and use the camera.  Begin with using the blower and brush to remove the loose dusk.  Then you may need to use a tiny bit of spray and a soft microfiber cloth specific to camera lenses for any hard to remove spots.  Finally, you can use the lens pen to remove any smudges or accidental finger prints.

Never, Ever EVER touch the lens with your fingers.  Couple of reasons behind that.  One, you have oils on your hands.  These oils will eventually deteriorate the protective lens coating as well as leave a smudges on a lens, leading to blurry pictures.  Two, you could have micro dirt on your fingers and scratch the lens. (yes, really.)

Also, don’t use your t-shirt to clean the lens either. Or a Paper towel.  They will leave micro scratches and diminish the quality of your pictures.  Just don’t do it.


Here is another big one.  Please don’t ever touch your cameras sensor.  Most DSLR cameras have a self cleaning sensor function.  If you find that you need to have your sensor cleaned, take it to a local camera shop or contact the place you bought it from.  Trying to clean the sensor yourself will void the warranty on it, and you can potentially ruin your camera.

Organizing Your Photos

Now you’ve been out taking pictures, and you need to take the pictures off your camera and put them on your computer.  Most families have some kind of external hard drive these days.  My recommendation is to put a folder in there just for the pictures you take on your camera.  Personally, I organize my files by year, then by date as well as a brief description.  This is what it looks like Organizing your photos

Yes, my drive is called Mom ???

I have tried organizing my files in several different ways, but in the end, this is the most efficient way for me to find exactly what I am looking for in the fastest way possible.

Finally,  the BIGGEST and MOST important thing you should know.  You want to start your journey on the right foot.  I am a huge believer in the term “Work Smarter, Not Harder”.   Take the time to learn the important things to know about your camera, it’s settings, and what they all do.  You may end up downloading Photoshop and Lightroom, and while those will be tools you use more in the future, now is the time to focus on getting it right in camera.  Without any fancy editing.

Work Smarter, Not Harder


Have any questions for me? Drop them below!

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