10 Things to Check When Setting Up Your New DSLR Camera

woman using a dslr camera
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Nothing beats the feeling of getting a new camera. Everything is so fresh, clean and new!

I wrote a blog post a few months ago when I was trying to decide if I needed a new DSLR, after having the same camera for many years.

I ended up buying a Nikon d750 and I love it! Best purchase ever.

Read that post with all the questions I asked myself before I bought here —> 7 Questions to Consider When Buying A New Camera.

But let’s say you’re past the point of wondering what to buy and you’ve already made the purchase. How do you make sure your new camera is set up to take the amazing photos you’ve been dreaming about?

10 Things to Check When Setting Up Your New DSLR Camera

1. Charge batteries

The batteries for your new camera probably won’t be charged when they come in the box, so plug them in first thing! You can’t do much of anything else until this step is complete.

2. Format memory card

Formatting your memory card clears it off, erases the previous data and makes your card ready to be used in this computer. You should do this every time you go out for a photo shoot.

Disclaimer: Make sure you have all the pictures downloaded somewhere else first (computer hard drive, backup hard drive, etc), because the formatting of a card is irreversible.

To find out more about memory cards, check out this blog post by Tbexcon —> Memory Card Best Practices: 15 Things You Should Already Be Doing.

3. Attach camera strap

Whether you use the camera strap that came with the camera, or a more comfortable one you already own, go ahead and attach that strap to the camera while you are waiting for the battery to charge. Instructions vary for each strap, but should he fairly easy to follow.

Nikon d750

4. Adjust diopter

Diopter? What the heck is that? Refer to the image above.

Diopter adjusts the viewfinder to your eye so that you can see better out of it, and therefore make clearer images. Everyone’s eyes see a little differently, so it is important to make this small adjustment.

5. Choose image size and quality

Image size and quality are important to getting the best quality photo out of your camera.

In my Nikon, you can pick from small, medium and large image size. I always choose large to get the most bang for my buck!

And of course, for quality I always choose RAW. The only time I would change to jpeg is if I was shooting pictures from someone else and they wanted them unedited, but that would be a VERY rare occasion.

If you aren’t familiar with shooting in RAW, read this blog post —> 10 Steps to Manual Mode: RAW vs. Jpeg.

6. Add your name & copyright info, date and time

Adding your name and copyright info is a personal preference, but it will help when you go to include meta data in Lightroom or Photoshop.

Entering the date and time lets you keep photos in order when uploading. It also helps keep your photos chronological when combining with other photographers on a project.

What do I mean by this? I was in charge of photography for a church youth group trip that spanned several days. Several other photographers took pictures too, and it was my job to put all of the pictures together as a slideshow when the trip was over.

We synchronized the date and time on our cameras so that when I uploaded the photos to iMovie to make the slideshow, they all fell in place. With over 4000 photos to work with, I would have pulled out my hair if we hadn’t done this one little step!!!

7. Find where the buttons are for favorite settings (use manual)

In this step, I want you to get to know your camera’s buttons that you will be using often when you are shooting in manual. You may need to use your camera manual to find them:

  • Shutter speed
  • Aperture
  • ISO
  • Focus
  • How to change shooting modes
  • Metering
  • Bracketing
  • White balance
  • Histogram
  • Switching from camera to video

These are just a few of the buttons and settings you might want to find on your new camera. Of course, these things take some time to get used to, but you want a basic lay of the land before you start shooting.

If you want to learn more about shooting in manual mode, check out this blog post —> 6 Reasons Why You Should Learn Manual Mode in Photography.

8. Set metering modes

Light metering helps you determine your settings in manual mode depending on how much light your camera is seeing. You can also manipulate this reading with exposure compensation to get you camera to work for your style of shooting.

You should be able to change your metering mode in the menu of your camera.

To find out more about light metering and what the different modes do, check out this blog post —> 10 Steps to Manual Mode: Light Metering Basics.

woman using a dslr camera

9. Set focus mode and back button focus

Focus modes help your camera focus the way you want it to. Auto, single, continuous and manual are the four popular focus modes.

To learn more about focus and which modes I suggest, read this blog post —> 10 Steps to Manual Mode: Focus Basics.

Back button focus is a way to set your camera to get the best focus (in my opinion) possible. It separates the focus from the shutter button, so the two act independently.

I suggest learning how to set up back button focus on your camera and learn how to use it. It’s a game changer!

To figure out how to set up back button focus on your camera, check out this post by Cole’s Classroom —> Back Button Focus Explained: What It Is and Why You Need It!

10. Set color space

Color space is the range of colors that are available to your camera.

RGB stands for the basic colors Red Green Blue. All colors in color space are derived from these three colors.

The default on your camera is probably sRGB. That is what I have mine set on and it works fine.

You can also choose Adobe RGB, which is a bigger color space created by Adobe, which works fine too (you may have to switch back to sRGB in post processing).

Confused yet? I’m not super technical when it comes to this stuff, so let me just say to pick one and move on. Don’t sweat it too much!

If you would like to know more about color space, check out this post at Digital Photography School —> Adobe RGB Versus sRGB Color Space: Which Should You Choose?

Need more help?

If you can’t find these settings in your camera manual, or you want more visual helps, I have a great resource for you!

Jared Polin @ Fro Knows Photo has a great YouTube channel where he does videos of camera reviews and set up for just about every major camera company you can think of. Just type in your camera make and model and you will find a video to help you.

Getting a new camera can be exciting and intimidating. You just have to jump in and get things set up so you can get out there and shoot.

Don’t let that think instruction manual stop you from getting your camera set up properly. Use the tips above and dive in!

What was the most frustrating thing about setting up your new camera? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

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