New Year, New Hobby, New Camera: A Beginner's Camera Guide

Learn how to care for and maintain your would-be constant travel companion: your new camera.

By Joy Jesena-Barcelon
January 11, 2011

Professional photographer Joy Jesena-Barcelon provides some tips on how to care for and maintain your new camera as you travel. She also shares some basic shooting guidelines for documenting your trip.

Caring For Your Camera on the Road

Whether it's a point-and-shoot or DSLR (digital single lens reflex), a camera can be a lot of fun, but with it comes the responsibility of keeping it safe and clean. Here are a few tips on maintenance and caring for your camera:

Do not read the manual.
Cover to cover, that is. Reading it is a guaranteed way to make you doze off or throw it across the room in sheer exasperation. Read it on a per need basis prior to your trip, and just locate from the table of contents or index the specific part you want to learn about, for example, flash. Read the chapter on that topic and apply at once.

Do not keep all cords in the camera bag.
That means the TV output cord (it has yellow, red and white plugs), the charging cord (including the charger), and the computer-to-camera cable. They'll weigh you down and tire you easily so that when you get to the destination, you'll be too tired to shoot well. Keep the cords in a separate and secure place at home. The same goes for the warranty documentation.


Always keep a cleaning kit in your camera bag.
This should be composed of a pen brush for the point-and-shoot and a set of blow brush, Q-tips and cleaning cloth for the DSLR. If your camera gets exposed to water (particularly salt water) and dust (think soccer field, beach sand dunes), wipe your camera body with a slightly damp cloth and leave to dry in the shade. Moisture, dust and heat are a camera's prime enemies. A hot car is its deathbed.

Keep your hands clean.
Always wipe or wash your hands after handling sun tan lotion, anti-mosquito lotion and oily fried chicken, before handling your camera.

Always wear the strap diagonally.
Wear your camera strap over your neck and one arm. A snatcher will have a more difficult time running away with it. If all you have is a wrist strap, wear it as well.

Refrain from deleting images in the camera.
This is the fastest way to corrupt your memory card. First store images the in your computer then format the camera to start with a clean slate, so to speak.

Keep an identification card or calling card inside your camera case or bag.
If it gets lost or stolen, there is a chance that the finder will be wracked by his conscience to return it.

Shooting Guide

Now that the boring part is over, here comes the creative fun part: taking pictures!

Take pictures of anything and everything.
There's so much memory available anyway--a 2 gigabyte memory card will store 2,000 medium sized photos.

Know that you can shoot vertically also (that is, you hold your camera on its side), not just the traditional standard horizontal way.
You don't want traditional standard ordinary photos, do you?


Take photos of ordinary things.
You'd be surprised how fascinating your keyboard can be up close.

You need not call people's attention when you take their photos.
Candid shots, especially of young children, are very appealing. Zoom in and shoot close-up.

Shoot a scene through a window, door, arch or framed by low branches.
Or position your portrait subject looking out a window, leaning on a doorjamb. You'd be surprised what the extra element of framing can do to your composition.

Shoot from an extremely high or extremely low position - any other height except from your normal standard standing height.
Either shoot from the second floor looking down or jump on a low wall, chair or stool to get a higher point of view. Or do the opposite - kneel, squat or even grovel to get that perfect worm's-eye-view shot.

Shoot objects up close, much much closer than what you are used to-as much as an inch away.
Most point-and-shoot cameras are capable of shooting flowers, coins and rings from an inch away. Discover the wonderful world of macro photography.

Shoot with and without flash. See the difference.

Keep an eye out and shoot interesting patterns, texture, light and shadow.
Fill up your whole frame when shooting. Shoot reflections, shadows, and silhouettes.

Don't be afraid to experiment--explore the other functions of the camera by studying the buttons and icons.

Check the instruction manual constantly.

And above all, have fun!

For more tips on shooting, see gallery below.