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Know and Forget your Camera Equipment
Your camera doesn't matter! Its not important! For those of you who have just paid a huge bundle of hard-earned cash across to your camera dealer, this may not be what you were hoping to hear. Nevertheless, it still important to remember this fact. The camera itself really doesn't matter, as the camera itself, the lenses, the flashguns, and any other piece of camera equipment are not what photography is all about. Cameras and lenses are just tools to capture photographs for you.
Look at it this way: A hammer is only useful to knock in a nail. A screwdriver is only useful to tighten or loosen a screw. The camera is no different a tool to these; just a little more delicate and a little more expensive! Like a hammer or screwdriver, the camera and lens must be able to do their job properly, and so must be of a required standard to perform in the way that you expect, but that's as far as it goes. The really clever bit is behind the viewfinder: its you, and the way you see the photograph, so that's what we need to concentrate on, not the mechanical objects themselves.
Your camera should be an extension of your mind, your eye, and your fingers. When you pick up a hammer to bang in a nail, you don't have to stop to think how to use it, and your camera should be just as intuitive. During the time you spend wondering which button to press, or how to change a vital setting, that once-in-a-lifetime photograph will have disappeared, the light will have changed, the scene moved on, and the moment lost, never to return. If you have to divert your mind to focus on the mechanics of camera operation then you will lose the attention, the feeling, and the very essence of the photo itself, and thus the end result will not be as good as it might have been.
With this in mind, its easy to realise that the better we know our camera, then the quicker we are able to make changes without thinking. The better we know our camera, then the easier it will be to concentrate on the artistic process of photograph taking. Spend time getting to know your camera properly, and you will then be able to forget it, and just concentrate on taking great photos. Wait a minute, though, I hear you say. Today's cameras are very complicated and have oodles of menus and zillions of settings. How can I remember them all? You can't of course, but by using your camera a lot, you will know which ones you need to change most often, and then remember them. You will also know what all the buttons do, and get an idea where most of the sub-settings can be found.
If you are at home, you can refer to your camera's handbook, and read all of the main sections from time to time to get them fixed in your mind. Do so often, and things will start to sink in. If you are on the road, the last thing you want is yet more weight to carry around, but many manufacturers provide the camera manual as a PDF (Portable Document Format) download these days. Check out their website and see if you can find yours. I always keep a copy on my laptop, and also on my pocket USB key, for when I'm in an Internet Cafe and need to refer to it.
My camera manufacturer, Nikon, also provides a handy leaflet with my D300 that lists all of the major controls and buttons on the camera body. The leaflet is small enough to be slipped into a pocket of my camera bag, and so can be referred to in emergencies. It also makes great reading on long bus journeys.
Read other articles in the Tim's Tips series...
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