Install the Full Stop guides in your smartphone, so you can easily access crucial information about your camera

Full Stop guides: use this downtime to get to know your camera

Camera manuals are boring to read, but cameras are complex to master. If you can’t remember or don’t know how to use a specific function, the manual or a guide are good to have close by. Full Stop eBooks for Canon, Nikon and Sony will help you to discover everything about your camera.

The pandemic changed 2020 in ways we never imagined, and forced many people to a time of reduced activity or inactivity. The situation has already affected many people’s livelihoods, and no one knows exactly how the future will be, as we all wait for the good news of a vaccine or some form of treatment that makes it safe to return to what was once “normal” life.

This is the time, if you’ve the chance, to try different things. If you’re a creative artist, maybe it is time to learn new techniques, from photo or video editing to force yourself to use some of the lenses that you usually always leave on the shelf. This is a time better used for learning, and it does not matter if you’re just starting or are a professional with many years of experience. There is always something new to try! Or maybe it is time to learn more about the gear you use. You will be surprised by the many other things your camera can do, besides those functions you use on a daily basis.

During a recent phone conversation with a friend, we discussed how crucial it is to understand the essential functions of any equipment used, and the importance of the RTFM notion. Many believe this is not important… and will be caught unprepared at the worst moment, while in the field. We advocate it is essential to understand the equipment, to better be able to use it. Believe me, it will not only contribute to your a sense of accomplishment but also to better results.

Carry your camera manual with you

A camera — let’s talk cameras, because they’re a key piece of the process — is like a car: if you want to use it proficiently, you need to read the manual, to understand essential aspects regarding operation and safety. You should know anything from how to activate fog lights to the correct tire pressure or what the different dashboard lights mean. Knowing the year, make and model also helps. Having the manual with you in the car is important. I keep mine in the glove compartment, all the time. It’s no different with a camera, so maybe you should have the manual with you, to browse through if you’ve a doubt in the field, and need to clear it.

Fortunately we’ve manuals in pdf, so you can always carry your camera manual in your smartphone or tablet. I’ve not only the manual — and guide — for my camera, but also the flash manual and the remote triggers — flash and camera — used, because if I need a function I am less familiar with while in the field I can read all I need to know in a few minutes. That, sometimes, means the difference between getting a a shot or giving up.

I’ve had the experience of people not having their camera’s manual with them for a workshop, and not being able to use a certain function or simply adjust the camera for easier use of certain parameters, because they don’t know their camera well and don’t have the manual with them. As different brands have different interface configurations — sometimes with variation within models — with complicated menus and terms not everybody is familiar with (for example, what is Grading, used in Olympus cameras?) it is difficult to help those photographers.

My first advice: read the manual

For nearly three decades, until around 2010, as I used to test camera models from different brands, it was easy to help others, but now it is hard to keep up with all the interface changes on new models, also due to the fact that they’ve become more complex as more functions are added to cameras. Even some new Canon models, the brand I use, feel strange to me, although Canon has kept its menus logic almost unchanged for decades.

Just before the pandemic told us to “stay home”, I received a request for a series of private workshops from someone that wanted to take photography as an hobby. I told that person that the best path forward was simple: get to know your camera, an advanced mirrorless model from Sony that I do not know much about. As I know that manuals can be boring, I suggested a guide written by a photographer as the best and quickest way to get a grasp of the essential functions, at which point we could move on to the photography lessons. I’ve not heard from the potential client, I don’t know if because of the pandemic, or because of my suggestion to get a guide and do some essential reading. In fact, many people continue to refuse to read about their cameras!

This introduction gives you, I hope, the desire to get to know your camera. While we may be on the way to loosen the quarantine rules and return to social activities, nothing stops you from using all the tools available to learn more about your camera, in the safety of your home. That’s, in fact, the first step you should do if you want to explore the wonderful world of imaging, either with stills or video. If you’re a newcomer, eager to discover how it all works, or a professional in need of a refresh course of your camera, a guide in the form of an eBook is your best bet.

A good camera guide is your best teacher

For a decade now, I’ve suggested people the guides published by photographer Douglas J. Klostermann. They may not be from a publishing house you know, they may not be the most flashy books or eBooks around, but the guides from Full Stop get the job done, and will help anyone, from complete beginners to advanced amateurs and professionals, get more out of their cameras. These guides, with between 200 and 400 pages, explain everything about each model covered, and do it in a language photographers understand, something one cannot always say about manuals.

After years creating guides for DSLR models from Canon and Nikon, Douglas J. Klostermann has followed the times, and introduced guides for mirrorless cameras, as even seasoned photographers using Canon and Nikon DSLRs will have to read some form of manual when picking a mirrorless camera. The author also covers, within mirrorless, the Sony brand, with three eBooks already available: “Sony Alpha a7 III Quick-Start Menu Setup Guide” and “Sony Alpha a7R III Quick-Start Menu Setup Guide”, both smaller guides, with 167 illustrated pages each, priced at $5.99. The “Sony a7R IV Menu Setup Guide” with 185 pages and a price of $8.99 is also available.

The Full Stop series of guides also includes the “Nikon Z 7 / Z 6 Experience — The Still Photography Guide to Operation and Image Creation with the Nikon Z 7 and Z 6 Mirrorless”, a 422 pages, illustrated guide priced at $14.99, and the “Canon EOS R Experience — The Still Photography Guide to Operation and Image Creation with the Canon EOS R Mirrorless Camera” priced similarly and also with more than 400 pages.

Coming in July, the “Nikon D780 Experience — The Still Photography Guide to Operation and Image Creation with the Nikon D780” continues the expanding series. With 380 pages, illustrated, and a price of $14.99, it’s a new eBook appearing the year in which Full Stop celebrates a decade of publishing concise guides to help photographers control their cameras and get better photos.

So, here are some buying suggestions if you really want to know about models from Canon, Nikon and Sony. Even if your camera is not included in the series of guides available from Full Stop, picking one for a camera similar to yours is a good option, as it will give you a better understanding of the functions available, offering you a better reading experience than the manual that comes with the camera.

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Jose Antunes

Jose Antunes

I am a writer and photographer based on the West coast of continental Europe, a place to see the Sun die on the Sea, every day.