I got a camera, now what?

From box to shooting

So, you bought your first DSLR.
Congratulations! You’re on your way to greatness!
But what are some of the first things you should do before you hit that shutter for the first time? In this post, I’ll cover the top 5 things you should do before you start shooting.

Settings to change

Back button focus

Holding the shutter to focus your camera and then shoot might sound simpler and easier but it has a lot of drawbacks. Back button focus decouples the focus button from the shutter allowing you to focus on your subject, recompose your shot and capture it without the camera refocusing somewhere else.

ISO speed

In some hectic situations using Auto-ISO is easier and faster than testing your exposure several times. Changing the range your camera uses when using Auto-ISO will let you limit how high or low it can go. Some cameras have really bad digital grain past a certain ISO number so changing this to what your particular camera can handle will help. You can also change the available ISO to be lower or higher than the default.

Histogram & Copyright

Changing the histogram display to RGB is personal preference but for me it is easier to tell if your colors or exposure is off.

If you don’t plan on adding the copyright information is post-production through Lightroom it is a good idea to set this up in camera. Otherwise, if you don’t watermark your images anyone can just steal them. With copyright info, it writes directly into the Exif file information and anyone can check that on a site like Exif Info. This might not necessarily work on images uploaded on social media. Many sites state that the images uploaded are theirs to use as they please in their terms of use.

Settings to turn off

Some settings are better if they are off, even though they are on by default.

  • Beep
  • Noise reduction
    • Long exposure NR
    • High ISO speed NR
  • Lens aberration correction
    • Peripheral illumination
    • Chromatic aberration
    • Distortion
  • Release shutter without card
  • Red eye reduction
  • Mirror lockup
  • Auto power off

The beep can annoy people. Noise reduction in camera is worse than post-production noise reduction in Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop and the same for lens aberration correction and red eye reduction.

Release shutter without card prevent shooting without an SD card, a good way to remember to put one in before shooting. Mirror lockup reduces vibration but makes it difficult to shoot without a tripod as you lose your viewfinder view prior to the shot and need to turn it on and off between shots.

Some of these can also be personal preference, like auto power off.

Settings to turn on

Several useful settings are disabled by default. This may also vary by manufacturer.

  • Viewfinder display
    • VF level
    • VF grid display
    • Other options are by personal preference
  • Highlight alert
  • AF point display
  • Exposure simulation
  • Grid display 3×3

Last but not least … format those cards

Don’t forget to format your memory cards before shooting. Many cameras use different formatting systems even from the same manufacturer. Please be aware that formatting a card will erase all content on the card so always backup your data before formatting.

Let me know if this helped you in your photography journey! Feel free to suggest what you’d like to see next on this blog.

Now get shooting!


Works cited

All images except those cited below are the property of Alexander Lewis and Alex Lewis Media and Alexander Lewis Photography, All Rights Reserved.


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