Dad’s Photos Lessons Part 1: Know Your Gear

As many of you who follow my blog are aware, I learned most of what I know about photography from my dad.

I have owned a camera for as long as I can remember and for just as long I have been learning the art of photography from my dad.

I can remember as far back as being six having just returned from Brownie camp all excited about the photos I had taken.  Once they were developed (yes I know I’m dating myself, but back then you had to wait patiently to find out if your photos had turned out or not) I remember being disappointed with how some of the images had turned out.  Blurry, over exposed, under exposed.  You name it.  I was the poster child for bad photos.  It was then that my lessons began.  Over the years my dad has patiently and sometimes not so patiently shared his knowledge and suggestions with an apt and sometimes exasperated and impatient pupil.

It is these lessons that I thought I would share with you in a weekly blog post.  I invite you to follow along as I share Dad’s Photo Lessons.

Know Your Gear

This may not be word for word, but this is the gist of a conversation I had with my dad about five years ago.

Me: “I don’t understand.  Sometimes my pictures look great and other times they look like crap.”

Dad: “How well do you know your camera?”

Me: “Ummmmmm. (insert inward sigh because I know what’s coming) Pretty well….pause….I guess.

Dad: “Did you read the manual.”

Me: No.

Dad: “You’ve had the camera for a year and haven’t read the manual.  Do you know what all the knobs and buttons do yet?

Me: (Dang it – busted) No.

Dad: Read the manual or not but you have to figure out how your camera works before you will consistently take better photos.

You would think that I would have remembered this lesson.  In my teens, I spent countless hours with an old Nikon figuring out what all of the dials and knobs were for.  In the end, I could make adjustments without really having to look.

Somewhere in becoming an adult, having children and then picking up photography again I had forgotten this first lesson.  I was just happy to have a fancy, shiny new camera.  For a year I had been happily snapping away never taking the time to figure out how the dang thing really worked.  In fact I will even go so far as to admit that even after this conversation, I halfheartedly took his advice and really only figured out enough to take marginally better photos.

DSC_0002 wp copy

Pug 2008 – Apparently I had no idea where my camera focused?

DSC_0262 wb copy

Carnations 2008 – I didn’t want to use the flash, but didn’t bother to figure out how to change the setting to adjust the exposure

Then one day, I decided if I really wanted to take better photos I truly did have to read the stinkin’ manual.  Problem was I didn’t even know where it was anymore.

I did find it online, AND I did read it but truth be told the book that helped me the most was Digital SLR Photography for Dummies.  That book, coupled with good old-fashioned trial and error was my golden ticket to better photos.

oreo in the snow wb


Lesson Summary: Whether you are shooting with a DSLR, point and shoot or iPhone this will always hold true.  You must take the time to know your camera.  You should know how to change your settings, where the sweet spot on your lens is and what all the functions of the menu are for.  

Bottom line, if you don’t know the functions of your camera or lenses how can you expect it take the photos you want?

Dad’s Advice – Read the Stinkin’ Manual!

Next Week’s Lesson – Understanding Exposure


11 thoughts on “Dad’s Photos Lessons Part 1: Know Your Gear

  1. Pingback: Dad’s Photo Lessons Part 2 – Understanding Exposure | Print-Sense Photography & Design

  2. Great idea to spread Dad’s photo lessons.
    Knowing your camera is something we all know we should do, but we’re too lazy to actually do…

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