Buying a new camera is exciting. But it can also be a real nuisance as you have to go through the process of setting up all the functions and setting all over again. But fear not here is a quick guide for setting up your new camera so that you can be ready to shoot straight away.

Adjust your diopter

The first thing that everyone has to adjust on a new camera is the diopter. This is a must for all digital and optical viewfinders otherwise when you look through the viewfinder you may find that the image isn’t sharp. So look at something static through the viewfinder and turn the small dial next to it so that it is adjusted to your eyes.

In fact, this is a worthwhile check to make over the years as your eyesight may change.

Adjust your diopter

Set your image quality

The next essential camera setup is to make sure you have selected the right image quality and format for what you need. For example, full-frame DSLR and mirrorless cameras often have different options for the output files. They will all include RAW files and JPEGs of different size and quality.

Ultimately what you choose will be up to you. But I would recommend nothing other than shooting in RAW files at the best quality and biggest file size possible.

Set your image quality

Select your AF Points

Most new high-end digital SLR cameras and mirrorless camera have a variety of different AF points that you can use for focusing when you look through the viewfinder. This isn’t about setting the actual AF point but rather how the AF point will be selected.

For example, you may choose to set your camera up for a single AF point focus. This means that whichever AF point you select, whatever that particular point is focusing on will be where your camera will focus.

Granted this might change for different scenarios but most of the time it can remain on whatever you are most comfortable with.

Select your AF Points

Select your focus mode

Your focus is another important aspect of making sure your photos look great. The default for most cameras including compact cameras is the autofocus system. Most of the time you won’t want to change this but there are times that you will need to use manual focus. But if you are a macro photographer for example you may want to set this to manual focus straightway.

Either way, it is worth knowing how to change your focus mode for when you need to. The other thing to be aware of is how to change your focus mode from single shot to continuous focus which useful when photographing moving subjects.

Select your focus mode

Know where the essentials are

Whether you have bought an entry-level DSLR or an expensive high-end model, it is imperative to know where some of the most important settings are and how to change them. Unless you set your camera to automatic mode – which I don’t recommend you do, on every shoot you are likely to have to adjust the exposure triangle settings (i.e. shutter speed, aperture and ISO). So, make sure you know where and how the buttons are to do this.

It’s also worth knowing where the different shooting modes are on your camera. Most cameras will have defined settings for different scenarios. You may not use these, but I can guarantee that the three modes that you will use at some point will be aperture priority, shutter priority and full manual mode. So, make sure you know how to do this.

Know where the essentials are

Turn off unnecessary functions

Cameras have lots of different functions and settings. While most of these will be useful in certain scenarios, some you will rarely ever want to use.

For example, your camera might as a default have noise reduction enabled. This will mean that it takes longer for your images to be displayed on the LCD. So you may wish to turn this off and add any noise reduction in editing software yourself.

Only you will know which functions you will need and which you won’t. So scroll through the menu and turn off those that you don’t.

Setting Up Your New Camera

Personalise your image review

All digital cameras these days come with an LCD that allows you to review your images. It’s a good idea to personalise the way that your camera shows your images when you buy a new camera. For example, you may be able to change the length of time that the image is shown, or whether it is just an image or the screen includes information like the settings and histogram.

You can also adjust the brightness of your LCD screen and whether you want vertical images you take to be rotated when shown on the screen. All these will ensure that your camera is set up just right for you.

Setting Up Your New Camera

Set up Wi-Fi / GPS

Some cameras will have wi-fi and GPS capabilities. These are useful for things like remote triggering your camera using wi-fi for when you may not be close to your camera. Like for example if you want to put yourself in the shot.

GPS is also incredibly useful as it will allow the camera to set the coordinates of where the photo was taken. This has been a game-changer for editorial and stock travel photographers who need to know the location of the shots. You may not need these settings so can ignore this step, but if you do it’s worth setting them up right away.

Set up Wi-Fi / GPS

The best tip for setting up your new camera…

You probably knew this was coming but your camera manual really is the best way to get to know your camera inside out. I can understand why people may not want to read through 500 pages when there is a shiny new camera to play around with. So my advice would be to use your camera for a while then come back and read the manual. You will find some really interesting functions that might help you with your photography.

camera manual

Whether you have bought a Canon DSLR camera or a Nikon DSLR (or any other brand), these are essential things for setting up your new camera before you start shooting. They won’t take long and for many of them, you won’t need to change them for a while.

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Kav Dadfar is a writer and photographer who has written over 500 articles on photography. He is also a judge on the Wanderlust Travel Photography of the Year competition and a speaker at camera clubs and events. He has years of experience shooting assignments with his images having been used by some of the biggest brands in the world.

This guide on how to set up your mirrorless or DSLR camera for beginners article is subject to copyright. Words and photos by Kav Dadfar (That Wild Idea) or otherwise recognized. Copying or reposting of photos or article elsewhere is strictly forbidden.

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