Was Santa kind to you? Did he bring you that brand new camera you've been drooling over for months? Before you run out and start shooting with it, here are 10 things you should do.
1. Read the Manual
I know I sound like Alex Cooke, supreme commander of the land of no fun, but don't worry, I'm not saying you should grab that 400-page behemoth and pore over every last detail. Rather, it's important to remember that today's cameras are little technological wonders, full of features and quirks. Reading the manual can work to your advantage in two ways. First, it's likely you'll find some little feature of the camera that you didn't even know it had. Second, it helps you get a feel for the quirks and operational tendencies of that specific camera. For example, when I first got my 1D X Mark II, my in-focus rate was much lower than I knew it should have been, so I pulled out the autofocus manual (the AF system on the 1D X is so crazy that it comes wth its own separate manual), and after learning a few things and making some adjustments, my keeper rate went way up. Spend an hour or so at least skimming the manual.
2. Customize the Controls
Most modern cameras have a ton of customization capabilities, and it's worth taking the time to set up custom functions with the controls to make your shooting life more enjoyable and efficient. For example, I shoot a lot of classical music, so instead of digging into the menus to turn on the silent shutter, I mapped it to the C2 button on my Sony a7R III. I can also access any AF settings I need without ever jumping into the menus via my custom functions, and that's crucial to keeping me shooting as quickly as possible and not missing shots.
3. Check and Migrate Your Settings
For some reason (likely to do with the old days of smaller memory cards), a lot of new cameras come with some strange default settings, like shooting small JPEGs. Make sure you click it over to raw and give all the settings a once over to make sure nothing funky is going to mess up your images. I also like to do things like turn off the focus confirmation beep. Make sure that the time is synced between your new body and old cameras.
In a similar vein, you've probably customized your old camera to how you shoot and the specific situations in which you shoot. Sit down with both cameras side by side, and go through the menus of your old camera, then find the corresponding item on the new camera and set it accordingly. While this sounds overly methodical, you may have come to rely on some very specific parameters — limitations of auto ISO, autofocus settings, back-button autofocus, etc. — the sorts of things that can cause you to miss shots if they don't behave the way you've trained yourself to expect.
4. Warranty and Insurance
If you have gear insurance, don't forget to add your fancy new camera to your policy. In a similar vein, be sure to register the warranty. Take note of the serial number of all your equipment. I always do all of this right away, because I know I'll forget otherwise.
5. Check if You Need an Autofocus Microadjustment (AFMA)
If you got a new DSLR, remember that every DSLR and camera might have slight sample variation differences between them, and if you shoot a lot with wide aperture glass for portraiture or low-light situations, it's a good idea to perform an AFMA with your new camera and any such lenses. Doing so will increase your keeper rate. If you need to learn how to perform an AFMA, check out this article.
6. Get Spare Batteries and Memory Cards
With higher resolutions and faster frame rates, cameras move more data than ever nowadays. If you haven't upgraded in a few years, your old memory cards might not be able to keep up. Check the write speed specs on your memory cards and if you need to, grab a few new cards. Similarly, if your new camera doesn't use the same batteries as your old, be sure you have at least one spare battery. No one likes running out of power when they're shooting with their fancy new camera.
7. Get Some Cleaning Supplies
Be sure to keep your new gear in tip-top shape. A good blower, brush, microfiber cloths, cleaning solution, and wipes won't set you back too much, but will ensure that you're keeping things like dust off your camera sensor.
For a guide on how to safely clean your gear, check out this article.
8. Consider a New Strap
Manufacturer straps are rarely the most comfortable things, and on top of that, manufacturers typically emblazon them with bright colors and the camera's brand and model — basically, all things that scream: "look at this expensive thing hanging off my neck!" A nice third-party strap can make your camera a bit more inconspicuous, and it can make you a lot more comfortable, as such straps typically have more padding, breathable fabric, and stretchable components to absorb shocks. Many also have quick release connections that make them more convenient.
9. Get a Proper Bag
No matter how rugged a manufacturer claims their camera is, it doesn't change the fact that they're all just collections of delicate circuitry and glass. Get a bag that offers good protection and fits your camera snugly.
10. Get Out and Shoot!
While it's important to read up on your new camera and make sure you understand all its functions and features, nothing can replace the intuitive feel you'll get for it by simply going out and shooting with it. Even if you don't have any shoots coming up, slap a lens on the front of your new camera and go out and simply shoot for joy of it.
What do you do when you first receive a new camera? Let us know in the comments!