Alright, it's a brand new year and I know I promised some tips on cropping photos you've already taken, after you download your camera. In fact, I have two different versions of the Parting Shot from 2009, cropped and on file, ready to show you. But, something more urgent came along (twice) in the past week and gave me a wake-up call. People around the world are having problems with their brand new cameras and emailing me with questions. Others, just don't know what's causing problems with their digital shooters and think something on their brand new Xmas present is broken. So, this URGENT post is on behalf of those who are concerned enough to email me but, may contain some information that even us hardened, old-timers need to review, once in awhile. Five quick rules to make life for you and your camera easier.

IMGP6707 Mike LynchManual
Every make and model's camera manual is different and loaded with information, some of it, you'll never use, but the first few weeks or months don't leave home without it. If your camera bag is not large enough to carry the manual, copy the pages for the features you want to learn and have them handy even if you have to stuff them in your pocket. It'll make learning much easier.

Photo Size and Quality
Most new digital cameras let you choose photo size (3,5,6,8,10 or higher Megapixels). My recommendation is always use the largest size you can. You'll see, more clearly why, when I demonstrate cropping in your computer, later. Quality, sometimes called Resolution or Compression on your camera Menu, can be confusing. What you want is the highest quality, the highest resolution if you intend to print your photos. Low or No Compression gives you the best photos for printing. Compressing photo files and Lowering Resolution is what you do for emailing or internet posting-purposes; it speeds up sending the files and at the same time makes the photos pretty much worthless for printing anything larger than, maybe a 4×6" print.

Power Switch
In case your camera manual fails to mention it: ALWAYS make sure the power is turned OFF when removing or inserting your MEMORY CARD. You don't have to worry about getting a 50,000 volt shock or anything like that, it's just a thing called an electronic flash that can ruin your memory card and destroy any photos you may have had on it. If your Menu gives you the option of turning off the Power after a certain period of inactivity, I recommend using it. All my cameras are set to turn OFF automatically after 5 minutes if I'm not tweaking something on them. I've had a few more senior moments than I can recall and my camera's brains saved me.

Look for this in your manual and on your camera's menu. It's very critical to the life of your memory cards. Sometimes, I think the camera manufacturers own stock in the SD Card businesses because a lot of them fail to mention this. When you download your card into a computer and either delete the files from there or delete them with your camera, the photos are gone. But, your card is not empty; it stores all kinds of digital junk from the photos you just deleted. After awhile, the card becomes (What the digital scientists call) corrupted and I saw it happen to someone's SD Card, just this week. A 2 Gigabyte SD Card took only 5 pictures and it was FULL-OUT OF MEMORY ! The solution is simple FORMAT your cards every time you download. If you can't find it in your camera's menu, right click on the card while it's still installed in your computer (after downloading) and hit FORMAT, letting your computer do it for you. Your camera and the card will show their appreciation by running much smoother.

Keep your lens clean and dust-free. The manual should give you some cleaning tips. It's not a good idea to use normal tissue paper on your lens and you should never touch the lens with your fingers. Camera cleaning kits with brushes, bulbs (for dust removal) cleaning solvent plus lens tissue are very inexpensive. Myself, I am guilty of never using my lens caps when a lens is installed on the camera. I prefer to use my lens hood (shade) to keep my lens protected and camera ready to shoot instantaneously. Lenses off my camera are always capped on both ends.

A bit longer than my usual post but, I hope one that gives readers some information worth printing and tucking in their camera bags. We'll get back to manipulating your photos on your monitor next week.
Have a Happy and Prosperous 2010 and until next time, Happy Shooting !

mikelynch200A wildlife photographer living in Okinawa, Japan, Mike has been published in Apogee Photo Magazine, Boots N all, Brave New Traveler, Go Nomad, Matador Abroad and Trips, The Nihon Sun, Travel Thru History, The Okinawan , Wend Magazine and Photo Guide Japan. He has recently joined the ranks of travel writers, capturing Nature, Festivals, Castles and Cultural shots of the Ryukyu Islands to share with the world.