Beginner Tutorial 5
Literally getting to grips with a new camera involves finding where the controls are positioned as well as becoming used to holding it for shooting with the key buttons to hand. These, along with charging and loading a memory card, are the first steps to embarking on your hobby of photography.
Finding your way around a camera
The first four tutorials in this module should have armed you with all the knowledge you need to choose the type of camera that is right for you.
If you have now purchased an interchangeable lens system camera, this and the following tutorials will help you through the next steps in order that you gain the most from your exciting new purchase.
How to hold your camera
It seems obvious, but one basic essential is learning how to handle your camera safely and how to hold it for shooting. The first thing to do is fit a neck strap; keep the strap round your neck to prevent you accidentally dropping the camera as you get to grips with it.
Larger interchangeable lens models usually have a finger grip or bulge on the right-hand side. This enables a good grip with your right hand and leaves your left free to support the camera or control the lens.
When shooting, a firm hold and a solid stance are essential. So whenever possible, use both hands on the camera to improve stability and help avoid blurred pictures caused by camera shake.
Digital cameras that offer a viewfinder as well as a viewing screen require different shooting styles, which are highlighted below.
Shooting with a viewfinder
Face your subject and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Grip the camera with your right hand and steady it by supporting the lens with your left. The forefinger and thumb on your left hand can be used to control the focus or zoom ring on the lens barrel.
The forefinger on your right hand is used to press the shutter button and your right thumb changes settings with the rear buttons or thumb-wheel.
Bring the camera up to your face and target your subject through the viewfinder.
Hold your elbows in close to your body for added stability and gently press the shutter button while standing perfectly still.
Initially, only half press, to enable the camera’s auto focus. Once the focus indicator lights up green in the viewfinder, fully press the shutter button and the picture will be taken.
Shooting with an LCD screen
Use the same stance and grip, but instead of bringing the viewfinder to your eye hold the camera a short distance away, and compose your shot using the screen. Keep your arms bent and elbows in close to your body. When shooting directly in front of you, do not hold the camera at arm’s length – this makes it more difficult to keep it still.
If your camera model has a free-angle screen, you will find it a lot easier to take low- or high-angle shots. Angle the screen towards you and hold the camera at arm’s length, above your head.
In this position, you may find it easier to hold and angle the screen with your left thumb and forefinger. You should still be able to reach the shutter button with your right index finger.
For low-angle shots, stand or crouch with the camera at waist level (or lower for extremely low shots) and angle the screen upwards toward you. You should still be able to hold and angle the screen with your left hand. Hold the camera as still as possible and take the shot with your right thumb when down low or with your left thumb you could use the touch shutter feature of the LCD screen.
Safe handling of the camera and lens
The most delicate part of a camera is its image sensor. Although it is mounted inside the body, it does become exposed when the lens is not fitted and the protective body cap is removed. Never allow fingers or other objects to come into contact with the sensor and protect it from dust and other airborne elements by pointing the camera down when fitting lenses. Do so quickly and never leave the camera without either a lens or the body cap fitted.
The next most vulnerable element is the lens itself. The front glass will of course be exposed to the elements and therefore should be regularly checked for dust, finger or water marks, or scratches. When handling it, avoid anything other than a soft cloth coming into contact with the glass.
Fitting the lens hood not only keeps strong sunlight off the lens, but also adds an element of protection against rain drops and knocks from the front end.
The front lens is very expensive to replace should it get scratched, so a good tip is to fit an MC (multi-coated) or UV (ultra-violet) lens protection filter. These are slim and colourless, and screw onto the front thread. If a filter gets damaged, this is much cheaper to replace than the front lens element.
Of course, the best protection – supplied with the lens – are its lens caps. Make sure you keep these fitted whenever a lens is not in use.
The front glass is not the only part that needs special care. The rear glass and contact terminals are also exposed when fitting or changing. Before storing a lens, always re-fit the screw-on rear cap.
When fitting the lens, align the red dot on the barrel of the lens itself with the dot on the lens mount (about the 10 o’clock position).
Gently insert the lens barrel into the mount and twist clockwise until the red dot is at the twelve o’clock position.
The lens will click securely into place when fitted correctly.
When swapping lenses, remove the rear cap of the lens you want to fit. Remove the existing lens from the camera by pressing the ‘lens release’ button. Fit the new lens, and finally fit the rear cap to the lens you just took off. Following this method ensures the sensor is exposed to the elements for the minimal amount of time.
The controls and buttons
Now let’s take a look around the camera at the various buttons or controls.
The example camera we are using for illustration is the LUMIX DMC-G6. Although the positioning of the controls may differ from one manufacturer to another, the functions are common to most interchangeable lens system cameras.
- Display screen for monitoring Live View and Playback
- Live View switch between Viewfinder and Display Screen or Programmable Function Button
- Pop-up Flash Release
- Diopter Control – Adjusts viewfinder focus for glasses wearers
- Eye Sensor
- Quick Menu Display or Programmable Function Button
- Focus/Exposure Lock or Programmable Function Button
- Thumb Control Wheel for Manual Exposure adjustment
- Playback Button for Reviewing Images
- Mode Button for Selecting Display Information
- (Outer Ring) – Matrix Control for Up/Down/Left/Right Selection also Quick
Access to Focus/ISO/White Balance/Burst Shooting and Timer Modes
- Wi-Fi or Programmable Function Button
- Main Menu and Set Button
- Delete/Return or Programmable Function Button
- Hot Shoe for fixing External Flash/Accessories
- Built-in Microphone for recording Video Sound
- Built-in Speaker for Video Sound Playback
- Lens Focal Length/Zoom Ring
- Lens Manual Focus Ring
- Protective Lens Cap
- Shutter Release Button
- Manual Function Lever
- Holder Loop for Carry Strap
- Video Record Button
- Intelligent Auto Button – engages ‘Full Auto’ Shooting Mode
- Power On/Off Switch
- Shooting Mode Dial
- Electronic Terminals for Lens Control
- Finger Grip
- Auto Focus Assist Lamp – be careful not to cover this when shooting in low light
- Lens Alignment Indicator – Line up with red dot on the lens
- Electronic Image Sensor
- Lens Release Button
- Lens Fixing Mount
In addition to the controls and buttons you can see, there are flaps and hidden compartments containing connectors and interfaces, though most of these will not be required in the early stages while you are familiarising yourself with your new camera.
There will be a USB and HDMI socket, an A/V output and possibly an external microphone socket; these will all be useful at a later stage. But initially, the ports you need to find to get started are the battery compartment and the memory card slot.
So, charge up your battery, insert your memory card and learn your way around the controls. Before you know it, you’ll be ready to start shooting.
The LUMIX Advantage
LUMIX G cameras offer a number of function buttons that can be programmed to operate your most often used features. If there is a function in the menu that you would rather have assigned to a readily available control, simply assign it to one of these function buttons. This facility means you are free to customise your camera so that your preferred features are always instantly to hand.
In the next tutorial in this module we will take a look at your camera’s factory settings and how you might want to set things up for your first shoot…
Not sure what something means? Read our glossary