Readers, friends and family alike always ask questions about what they’re doing wrong with their camera that is making it not perform to their satisfaction. Some of these things are almost common-sensical with regards to electronics but others may not seem that easy to figure out. Here’s a couple of things to keep in mind so that the new camera you get for the holidays will last you a bit longer.
1. Don’t Leave it in the Car
Besides the simple reason that your camera may get stolen, if you leave your camera in the car the electronics inside will get fried or frozen. Inside of your camera is an imaging sensor that can overheat or freeze up. Allowing this by keeping it in the car (the equivalent of a icebox or a sauna) you expose all the electronics to nature’s fury. This will cause the LCD to not work, the sensor to malfunction and a host of other problems. Don’t do it, no matter what.
2. Take It Off Auto White Balance
If you ever take a photo and it comes out too blue or too orange, it could be because you’re shooting with auto white balance. While in auto white balance mode, the camera does its best decide the color temperature, otherwise known as white balance. To avoid this, take it out of auto white balance and change up the settings a bit. Consider the type of light you are in and use one of the camera’s presets.
Indoor tungsten lighting is the worst for auto white balance. Cameras really have a tough time getting it right, so set the white balance to the little bulb to make that very orange light a little closer to white. Most cameras’ white balance presets can get you pretty close to the right color balance. If you want to get precise though, you can use a custom white balance tool like ColorRight or Expodisc.
3. Don’t Turn it On and Off (Let it Go to Sleep)
Turning your camera on and off will essentially kill the battery. The reason for this is because activating the electronics, the LCD, the sensor cleaning system and moving the lens all requires the most power from your camera’s little battery. As efficient as it claims to be, this will quickly kill it. Instead, let the camera go to sleep on its own. Check out this list of tips on how to conserve your battery life.
4. Don’t Shoot One-Handed
This is possibly the biggest reason I’ve seen for out of focus/blurry photos and the most occurrences of dropped cameras ever. Always hold your camera with two hands no matter what. If you want a picture of yourself and someone else, give the camera to someone so that it will get in focus, not be blurry and it won’t fall out of your hands.
5. Calibrate Your Viewfinder
We all don’t see the same, this goes for wearers of glasses and those that see perfectly clear. I know this as a blind photographer. The reason why your images aren’t coming out in focus when you’re manually focusing (or you aren’t seeing clearly when autofocusing) is because you probably haven’t calibrated your viewfinder perfectly. Use the diopter and keep focusing. Adjust the diopter until you finally achieve perfect focus while manually moving the focusing wheel on your camera.
6. Don’t Keep Your Camera Out Around Alcoholic Beverages
Back in college, the most common problem I saw with cameras was being dropped in the cup that was just used for beer pong, or dropped on a hard floor as a result of excessive consumption. If you’re feeling a bit tipsy, keep that camera away. Chances are that it will end up to be as much of a mess as you will at the end of the night. The tougher cameras can take the abuse a bit better, but they will only take so much.
7. Don’t Use Gimmick Modes
When I took photo classes, the women around me were ecstatic to be able to shoot in black and white mode vs having to do it on their computer. Unless you’re shooting RAW + JPEG, this is unacceptable as it doesn’t allow you to get the best shot you possibly can. Similarly, other modes like portrait and sports should only be used until you learn how to use aperture priority and shutter priority modes. (To learn how to use those modes, take a look in your camera’s manual or check out the excellent book by Bryan Peterson, Understanding Exposure.) Further, digital zoom will always mess your photos up by reducing the resolution.
Practice good habits and don’t make bad ones. What tips do you have to add?