Three insignificant letters: RTM. They make up 11 percent of the alphabet. RTM—on their own they have no meaning. RTM—grouped together they can stand for many different things. RTM—in relation to photography, their meaning is narrowed. RTM—“Do I have to?” I’m often asked. RTM—“Yes,” I respond. RTM: Read The Manual! Some people would rather endure a root canal than toil through the pages of their little white book. But if you’re missing out on many of your camera’s features because you blow it off, why did you spend all that money on that great body? RTM.
You just got a new camera. Yes, it’s intimidating. You bravely take it out of the box, charge the battery, insert a memory card and press the shutter. Up pops the image on the LCD—voila, it works. You experiment using different program modes; the exposures are perfect. You set the camera to aperture priority and make another photo. Everything looks fine. But then the thought of pressing the Menu button enters your mind and beads of sweat form on your forehead. That’s why the manual is included! The following are a few scenarios of image capture where reading the manual enables you to take your photography to the next level.
Time to Get Creative: You always wanted to make double exposures. This is a primary reason you bought your new body. By simply referencing the index under Multiple Exposures, you’re directed to the pages that instruct the process. You read through that section and begin to think to yourself, “Now that wasn’t so bad!” Hopefully, it’s enough motivation to get you through the next chapter. The way I made the accompanying image was to use a feature called Image Overlay—a variation of the multiple exposure technique found in the same section of my manual. Had I not read it, I would have never known it existed. Let the words resonate: RTM.
Nail The Exposure: The metering systems in today’s cameras are extraordinary. They provide excellent exposures in difficult situations. But even the best technology can be fooled if the light throws it a low, outside curve. You look at the LCD and the image is either too bright or too dark. You then check the histogram and it’s confirmed. Rather than walk away frustrated, you remember back to the section in the manual that discussed Exposure Compensation. You hold down the button with the little plus and minus sign and adjust the exposure by spinning the command wheel. The result is an image with a perfect exposure. All of a sudden, the manual is your best friend. You get so excited, you run home and read it from cover to cover. Let the words resonate: RTM.
All Those Autofocus Settings: The number of autofocus settings leaves the casual photographer scratching his or her head why there are so many. After all, the camera is only going to be used to make some really nice snapshots of the kids on vacation or maybe at a local weekend event. Given the fact that it requires time to learn all those settings and the camera will be used casually, why bother learning them? So the next weekend soccer game arrives and, finally, little Billy plays lead forward and you want to capture all the action. Here’s where reading the manual would have been good. You would have switched the camera to Continuous mode, set the switch on the back to Dynamic, changed the number of focus points, raised the ISO setting, turned on the image stabilization, etc. In other words, knowing what should be done to increase the number of keepers would have been beneficial. Let the words resonate: RTM.
The moral of the story is that reading the manual is a good thing. You’ll never find it on Oprah’s recommended reads, but then again, if you don’t read it, you may not get the shot that could appear on the front cover of your favorite magazine. Let the words resonate: RTM.
Visit www.russburdenphotography.com for information about his nature photography tours and safari to Tanzania.