How to take your first picture – House of Hacks

Sunday, August 13, 2017

How to take your first picture


Have your first camera? Never taken a picture before? These are all the steps to take your first picture with your mirrorless or DSLR camera. In this episode of House of Hacks, Harley shows all steps to make your very first image with your new removable lens camera.

The Absolute Beginner's Guide to Removable Lens Cameras

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For a written transcript, go to Be creative on your journey

Music under Creative Commons License By Attribution 3.0.
Intro/Exit: "Hot Swing" by Kevin MacLeod at


Today at the House of Hacks we're going to talk about your very first image ever on your brand new camera.

Let's get started.


Hi Makers, Builders and Do-it-yourselfers. Harley here.

Last week we went through unboxing a removable lens camera and all the things that were in the box.

This week we're going to be looking at taking your very first image with that new camera from the very beginning of what you need to do until the very end.

The first thing you need to do is, the battery that comes in the box usually doesn't have a charge on it, or has a very minimal charge, if it has any. So when you first take it out, you want to take the plastic off, put it in the battery charger and put it on the wall so when you're ready to make an image, you have a charged battery.

The next thing you want to do is put the memory card in. Now, there's usually a door on the side of your camera, or on the bottom, depending on your model of the camera. And you want to put the memory in.

The memory doesn't come with the camera. You have to buy it separately. So be sure you get... find out what kind of memory is required and get the right kind. Most of the new cameras use SD memory. Some of the older cameras will use CF cards. The memory just slides into the slot designed for in the camera. Some cameras will have two slots, if that's an option for your particular camera. And then the door just closes up and snaps shut.

The next thing to do is to put the battery in. Take it off the charger and it'll usually only go in one way. It just kind of snaps in. There's usually a little lock that keeps it in and close the door.

The next thing you need to do is remove the body cap from the camera body and then remove the back cover from the lens itself. Then the lens is ready to go on the body.

There's usually either a red or white dot on the camera body, sometimes both. You'll also have either a red or white dot on the lens, depending on the type of lens it is. You want to match up the colored dot on the lens with the same color on your camera body. Slide those together and you'll have a tight fit like that. And then on a Canon you want to turn it clockwise until it locks and you can't turn it back. A Nikon you want to turn it counter-clockwise. I'm not sure on other models which way it turns, but you can figure that out from your user's manual.

The next thing to do is take the lens cap off the front of the lens. There's two buttons on the side. You just push those and it pops right off.

And then you want to put the lens hood on. Now the lens hood also has a red dot on it and a red dot on the lens and you want to line those up. There's usually also a red circle that isn't filled in and you want to be sure to use the solid dot. And line that up with the solid dot on your lens. Again it'll fit in flat against the lens and you want to turn it 90 degrees clockwise until it locks into place. That open circle will lines up with the red dot when it's in the correct location.

Next we want to make sure that AF, or auto-focus, is turned on because for your first image you want the camera to be doing the focusing. If you have the option, you to turn stabilization on. On Canons that's called "stabilization" or "image stabilization." I believe on Nikons it's called VR or "vibration reduction." Whatever it's called on your camera, you want to make sure it's on, if you have that option.

You want to turn off auto-focus in cases where either the auto-focus isn't doing what you want it to do or if you're shooting video, frequently you don't want the video to be focusing on you. You want to have control of that yourself.

Stabilization you want to turn on when you're shooting hand held. You want to turn it off if it's on a tripod or a beanbag or some other stable surface that isn't moving.

The next thing you want to do is put it in program mode. On the mode selector, that usually colored green and that will put the camera in full auto mode so you won't have to think about the exposure or focusing or anything like that, any of the settings on the camera. It's all programmed for you. This is easy for your very first image.

Next we need to turn the camera on. On this particular body, it's on the top left corner and it just switches over. I have other bodies where it is on the back on the bottom left. I know a lot of cameras it's up next to the shutter release button. You have to look in your manual to find where it is on your particular camera.

So, to actually take the image, you want to use the heel of your palm and put that right next to the bottom of the camera. That leaves your fingers free to do things like focusing and zooming and, on some lenses, also the aperture control is right there underneath your fingertips.

Next you want to put your right hand on the grip and the index finger should fall naturally on top of the shutter release button.

You want to put your elbows against your body. This gives you a nice stable position to shoot with. You also want to have your feet about shoulder width apart. This gives you a stable platform to keep vibration down. When you put your camera up next to your face, your forehead can rest right on the edge of the viewfinder and that gives you three points of contact with your camera to give you a good stable surface.

So we look through the viewfinder and compose our image. Get our zoom level the way we want and then we press down half-way on the shutter release. When we do this, the camera does a number of things. It checks for exposure. It does focusing. In fact if you listen... [beep]... You hear that beep? That tells us that we have focus. In this particular case I'm in a low lighting situation and so the on-board flash pops up.

So we press down half-way.

We've got our elbows tucked in.

And when we're ready to take the picture we push the shutter release the rest of the way down.

And we hear the click.

Congratulations! You've just taken your first image.

Now the good side about auto mode is it takes care of everything for you. The bad thing is sometimes you don't want everything taken care of for your. In this particular case, I'm taking a picture in a mirror and the flash washes out the image. It reflects back at me and it doesn't make the image look the way I want.

So the second most important setting for the very beginning photographer is the "P" mode on this camera. The camera will do everything for you with a few things that you can override. You can override the exposure compensation, which is something that we won't get into today, but again you can look in your manual to find out more about that. And also it won't automatically pop up the light for flashes. You have to manually pop up the light if you want a flash.

So in this case I put it in "P" mode and take another picture and now we don't have the flash, but we still have a nice image because the camera has compensated for not having the flash.

And so now that you've taken your first image, now what?

There's a whole range of things that you can do with your images after you've taken your pictures. I know some people will just leave the images on their camera and pull their camera out when they want to look at them. When they fill up the card, they go back and delete old ones.

This is certainly fine if that's what you want but a lot of the reason that you take images is to save them and to send them to family and friends and post them online and things of this nature. So you want to get them off your camera.

The easiest way is usually the cameras can be plugged directly into your computer or you can get a card reader that will plug into your computer and when you plug the memory card directly into it and then you can use special programs like Lightroom or Bridge or programs that come with your camera to copy the images off. I generally use Windows Explorer on a PC or the Mac Finder on Mac operating systems to just copy them over. The memory cards just look disks to the computer so you can just copy them off using standard file manipulation programs.

So once you have it on the computer, you need some sort of program to manipulate them. GIMP is a free software that you can get that is kind of equivalent to Photoshop. It works differently but it does the same type of image manipulation. Photoshop is the other big gorilla in the photography world. Lightroom is another Adobe product that a lot of photographers use. You can use Lightroom and Photoshop in conjunction with each other. A lot of people that. They use Lightroom for kind of global changes and then Photoshop to go in and do specific changes in certain areas of the images.

But that's a whole world in and of itself. There's channels dedicated to doing nothing but that. One that I've find really valuable is called Phlearn. I'll leave a link to that down in the description or up in the card. It's a great resource for Photoshop tutorials and I highly recommend them. I have no affiliation with them. I just find them a good resource.

And finally, the camera in auto mode will save images in jpeg. Jpeg is a great image [format]. It's ubiquitous across the web. Every program that wants images, wants a jpeg image. The problem with jpeg's is every time you save them, the image quality degrades just slightly. The first couple times you won't notice the image change but over time, if you continue to save the images, you will see quality go down on the image.

The best way if you're going to be doing image manipulation is is to shoot in raw. This is a native format to the camera. It's different from one manufacturer to another so you need the manufacturer's software to convert from the raw file to a format that programs like Photoshop and GIMP can use. But you can convert them to a format that's lossless and so you don't have image quality problems.

The problem with raw files is usually they're a little bit flat. They don't... they're not highly saturated. Sometimes they're not quite as sharp as a jpeg would be. Your camera does a lot of processing when it saves jpeg images to make them look good. And so one thing that's great for beginners as an exercise is to configure your camera to shoot both raw and jpeg files. This will give you a jpeg that looks really good but it'll also give you a raw file that has all the information coming off the sensor that you can use for manipulation in Photoshop. And so a good first exercise is to load those both on your computer and learn how to manipulate the raw image until it looks like the jpeg image. This will give you exposure to using curves, adjusting saturation, doing sharpening. Some of the really basic fundamental things that you need to know when you're doing image manipulation in programs like Photoshop. So that's a great first introductory exercise to post-processing.

Next week I'm going to be doing "10 tips to better photos" on the Sunday episode.

Until next time, thanks for joining me on this creative journey that we're all on.

Go make something.

Perfection's not required. Fun is!