camera present 34567

Looking at life through a whole new lens.

Whether it takes photos or videos, and whether it fits in the palm of your hand or has interchangeable lenses, you’ve got a brand new camera to play with. Here’s how to get the most out of your great new gift.

Before you dive right in, here are a few things you should do with your camera first…

  • Format Your Flash Media – We’re going to take a chance and assume that the camera you’re using is Flash-based. Another prediction? It’s probably an SD card, if not the more rare case of CompactFlash. Whatever media you’re using, be sure to format the card in the camera instead of on your computer. If you’re repurposing a card from an old camera, reformat it in the new one. While this might not be necessary to make it work, it’ll help you avoid little problems down the road. As we’ve found, formatting SD cards in your camera is really a best practice regardless of the use.
  • Set the Date and Time (and Other Important Settings) – Your new camera will probably prompt you to set the date and time as soon as you turn it on, but if you’ve already bypassed this request then go into your camera’s settings and set it right now. This may seem trivial, but when you’re organizing your pictures on your computer you’re going to want them to have the right date and time stamp. When you upload them online, the date and time is often included on sharing sites. While it may be fun to post a few photos from the future, ultimately it’ll mean that your memories will be mislabeled and that’s never good. While you’re in your camera’s settings, you might as well take a look around. This is one of the first things I always do with a new camera because there tend to be some hidden features I had no idea existed. Playing around can be a little like a treasure hunt, and it’s a very good way to learn the ins and outs of your camera’s functionality.
  • Attach the Neck or Wrist Strap – Yes, it might make you look dumb or like a tourist, but nothing looks dumber than a person staring down at a broken camera because they didn’t take the necessary precautions. Your hands are prone to drop things. Play it safe and put the strap on. (Keep the jokes to yourselves, please.)

Once you’ve gotten the hang of your new camera, there’s plenty more you can do with it. Check out these awesome hacks for improving your camera’s functionality, DIY projects to create helpful photography tools, and fun things you can do with your new camera:

  • Turn Your Point-and-Shoot into a Super-Camera – If you’re using a consumer grade point-and-shoot Canon digital camera, you’ve got hardware in hand that can support advanced features way beyond what shipped in the box. With the help of a free, open source project called CHDK, you can get features like RAW shooting mode, live RGB histograms, motion-detection, time-lapse, and even games on your existing camera. Let’s transform your point-and-shoot into a super camera just by adding a little special sauce to its firmware.
  • Most Popular Photography Tips, Tricks, and Hacks of 2010 – Whether it’s before, during, or after you shoot, we’ve posted some awesome photography tips, tricks, and hacks this year. Here are the most popular for 2010.
  • Use an 18% Gray Card for Better Color Balance in Your Photos – If you’ve ever relied on your camera’s white balancing algorithms you know how imperfect they can be, but you’re not out of luck. Getting accurate color balance with just about any camera is pretty easy with an 18% gray card.
  • Enhance Your Camera and Photos – If you’re looking for a project this weekend, grab your camera. Here are a bunch of tips, tricks, hacks, and techniques to try out when shooting and editing your photos.
  • How to Create Your Own Photosynths – Photosynths are a 3D-like space from (tons) of your photos. They’re free to create and here’s how to do it.
  • Magic Lantern Boosts Your Canon DSLR’s Video Capabilities – If you love your video-capable Canon DSLR but wish it had more video options, Magic Lantern can help you out. Offering a number of additional features for your camera, it can aid in your ability to shoot some amazing video.
  • Modify an Old Telephoto Lens to Fit Your DSLR Camera – Telephoto lenses aren’t cheap, and there’s no reason to waste money on a new one if you have an older one lying around. With a few modifications, you can fit an old telephoto lens on a new DSLR camera.
  • DIY Shoulder Camera Stabilizer – We’ve featured a few ways to stabilize your DSLR or camcorder, but those might not be ideal for certain kinds of shooting. This cheap, compact shoulder rig will keep your camera stable anywhere you need to go.
  • Build a One-Camera 3D Photography Rig – We’ve mentioned ways to build a 3D photography rig with two cameras, but DIYer countervideo realized that with just a few mirrors, you can do it with one.
  • Turn a Candy Tin into a Cheap DSLR Pinhole Lens – Pinhole photography is fun, but what if you want to avoid the hassle of building a pinhole camera and using film that you have to carefully load and get developed? You can make a pinhole lens for a DSLR camera.
  • Make a DIY Ring Light for Better Macro Shots – If you’ve been experimenting with macro and closeup photography and been hesitant to shell out for an expensive ring flash, this cheap and simple ring light setup is worth checking out.