Things to think about before you start taking photos; Starting with the basics and the very first thing - spare batteries, always have at least one spare battery - you don't want to have spent a long time either trekking up a mountain, hill, or through a national park somewhere to find that your only battery doesn't work, sounds simple, but I've had people turn up to learn how to use their camera only to find that their only battery is dead.....
Next on the list - memory cards - ensure that you have either one large memory card, or if you have smaller ones - several, this means that you wont have to delete images whilst you are out and about due to running out of memory. I always tell people not to delete images whilst they are out and about anyway - wait until you get back and can look on your computer at what you have shot before you get rid of any of your images.
Next - whilst we are talking about memory and this is really something to think about..... do you shoot jpg or RAW, remember that if you set your camera to jpeg you are saving a file that is reduced in size by reducing the picture quality.... something for you to think about...
There are pros and cons to shooting RAW, but if you want to be able to blow your images up larger, or edit them at all then you are better off shooting RAW - it means you can save less images to the memory card, but memory cards are so reasonably priced these days that this is not such a big issue. It does mean that you will need more space on your computer though for storing your images - I have many external hard drives that I save my images too. However, if you are not planning on doing any editing afterwards - or blowing all of your photos up to large sizes then a good quality jpeg will be absolutely fine for you, like i said - it's something to think about, and remember that if you change these settings for different shoots, always remember to change them back if you need to before the next photo shoot.
Let's run through a few of the modes that most cameras have, a lot of people don't want to start using their camera in manual mode it worries them, so they would rather use the presets on their camera - that's fine too - just make sure you use the right one for the right scene, otherwise your photos wont turn out well - and once again, you also need to remember to change the setting when you move to a different scene type as it were.
For instance - your camera will probably have a "sunset" option - this option will ensure that your camera maintains the rich and beautiful colours of the sunset before you - however - if you decide to put a person in front of that sunset remember to add flash to light up the person or they will be a silhouette.
Your camera will also most likely have a macro or close up setting too - often dipicted by a small flower - although it shows a flower, it can of course be used for all kinds of macro subjects - insects, jewellery and other small objects. This camera setting keeps the subject sharp, but throws the background out of focus for you. As you see below it means that the grass behind becomes softer meaning that the viewer of the image will focus on the flower.
If you are going to be shooting macro images you will also want to think about having a tripod with you to keep camera shake at bay. there are various types of tripod available, you can pick up a reasonably priced one on ebay or other such sites for not much money at all, they may be quite lightweight but if you hang a weight - such as your camera bag from the centre of them - there is often a hook - you will find this helps to stabilise them very well - plus if you are still worried about camera shake then you can either use the timer on your camera - meaning that you are not actually touching your camera whilst taking the photo, or get yourself a shutter release cable - these do not cost a lot and are available for most mid cameras upwards.
Wherever you are going with your camera - if you are going alone - make sure you let somebody know where you are going and when you intend to be back - and when i say going alone that doesn't include the dog, your dog wont be able to call somebody for help... well some can, but you know what I mean, dress appropriately and carry water if you're going off the beaten track and ensure that your mobile phone is fully charged.
I'll write more about using your camera and its' different settings later this week, but in the meantime if you would like to have a chat or if you would like to have a 1 to 1 tuition session then please just get in touch, I offer a variety of options from email/project tutoring to out and about sessions with the camera and laptop so we can see your results whilst we're on the move.