What To Do Now That You Have Your New Gear

January 10th, 2011 by Theodore Stark

The holidays are now over. Your naughty/nice tally has been reset and another year is a head of us! Apparently, you were super good because you got that new camera gear you had been asking for. The excitement of getting what you wanted has passed, and now it's time for you to take your new toy and put it into action.

Signs Of My Affection

Many times, this is much easier said than done. Many people get stuck pondering what to do next once they have their new gear.

Never fret (yes folks, some of us still use that word…). We have four tips to make this transition easier. Not all of these suggestions are applicable in all situations so yes, your mileage will vary. Some may seem basic, but you can never underestimate the importance of mastering the basics. Nonetheless, these ideas are better than you engaging in a staring contest with your new and exciting toy. The new gear always wins the staring contest… I promise…

1. Read… The Manual
Regardless of where you are in your photographic journey, it is beneficial to read the manual. You need to be familiar with how to use your new equipment before you take it into the field. The last thing you want is to get the killer moment presented to you in the field only to miss it because you were futzing around with your gear. Your gear are your tools which enable you to make the photographs. If you start reading through the manual and you don’t understand stuff, don’t worry. This is all about learning. Do not let unfamiliarity hinder your quest to understand your gear.

2. Go Out And Shoot
Only way to see how much you truly understand from Step 1 is to go out and shoot. You'll want to go and shoot something familiar.  The intent of this exercise is to test your comprehension of how to use your new gear. If you get some keepers, cool! But, the goal here is to test how much you retained from reading the manual. Nothing more.

3. Re-read the manual
No rolling your eyes… I see you there in the back of the room!… Re-reading the manual will uncover little nuggets you missed the first time around. Now that you have gone out and shot in the field, you will have new areas you need to understand.

4. Go to the Zoo and shoot

I don’t care if you think your house is a zoo. Go to an actual zoo. This is your chance to truly “test” your knowledge of your new gear. You will not know everything by this stage, but you should be able to use your new stuff well enough for a good field test. I suggest the zoo because it provides you opportunities to photograph many different scenes and let you play and experiment. If you shoot 1000 images and have five you want to publish, you’re doing well.

By this time, you should be familiar enough with your new gear to use it in  the field. I always recommend you carry the manuals for your major gear (cameras, lens, and flashes) with you. As questions arise, I would re-read or refer to the manual. Believe it or not, after I am comfortable with my gear, I re-read the manual about every three months. No sense in buying a Ferrari and only leaving it in first gear…

Learning a new piece of gear can be like driving a brand new car. Sure, you can probably make it work based on previous experience. But, to get the most out of your investment, you will need to read, re-read, and then apply the skills and techniques you have learned in the manual to get the most out of the toy.

Happy New Year! Now go and chase the light.

You can check out Ted's work on his website, and follow his comments on Twitter.

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