Photo by Matt Kloskowski
While in attendance at the last Photoshop World I had the pleasure of speaking on the Peachpit Stage. It was a little intimidating for me, especially since there were some lofty presenters that had preceded me like Joe McNally, David DuChemin, Chris Orwig, Matt Kloskowski just to name a few. The thing that really made me nervous was trying to pick a subject to speak on that would fill my alloted 45 minutes. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any problem with public speaking. In fact I have been told that I sometimes don’t know when to shut up. No, the thing that really bothered me was the actual topic for my presentation. I mean, if you are Joe McNally, you speak about lighting with small flashes or how you scaled the Empire State building to get a shot of a light bulb being changed. Matt could easily fill a day with Lightroom and Photoshop tips and techniques, but what did I really have to say that would be of value. Sure, I have authored 3 books now, the third of which (Canon Rebel T1i: Snapshots to Greatshots) has just shipped to distributors, but how could I translate that into something that would have appeal to folks who might not own one of those cameras.
Truth be told, I hadn’t really figured out what I was going to say until the day before I was scheduled to speak. I thought that maybe I could give some camera tips but seeing as how I have written about both Canon and Nikon books, there probably wasn’t enough there to really help out everyone. So I took some time and just tried to think about what all of these books have in common. Was there a consistent theme that could apply to anyone that owned a DSLR, or any camera for that matter. Then I remembered something that happened to me just the week before. I was using a friends new camera and I took a picture and looked at the rear LCD screen to check out my shot. Almost as quickly as I looked down, the screen went blank. I took another shot and sure enough, it only displayed for a couple of seconds before disappearing. That’s when I asked my buddy if he knew that he could actually change the default setting so that the image would display for a much longer period. In fact there were a lot of things that he could do with his camera to make his shooting work flow better. That’s when it hit me that he hadn’t even read the manual. Just so you know, my friend isn’t some amateur learning photography. Nope, he is a pro who has been shooting for years. And this was probably his downfall. He just assumed that since he knew how to operate the camera’s general functions that he knew everything there was to know. That’s right, he had never read the manual except to maybe learn where to find a particular adjustment or two.
That experience is what inspired the subject of my presentation, which was “Know Your Camera”. Even if you are a seasoned pro, the chances are that you can improve your production by learning every technological nuance that the engineers have given you. Of course this is a harder fact to drive home to the male of the species since we think that instruction manuals are better suited for propping up the short leg on the coffee table. But the reality is that there are so many technological advances in today’s cameras that you are only short-selling yourself by not exploring every feature and tweak that your camera has to offer and this starts by reading your manual. Let’s take the Nikon D5000 for example. Everyone that buys the camera is aware that it shoots video. That’s one of the major selling points. But I wonder how many of them know that there is a built in intervalometer that will let them capture a series of time-lapse images and then process them into a time-lapse movie right in the camera. Pretty darn cool but useless if you don’t know that it exists. For you Canon 40D and 50D owners out there, how many of you have actually learned how to customize the C1 setting on your mode dial? I’m sure some have but there are others that have never even explored the possibilities.
So that was the bulk of my lecture. Your camera is only as good as your knowledge of its capabilities and limitations. Once you equip yourself with that knowledge you can concentrate on leveraging the technology to take your images to a better place.