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Camera instruction manuals have gone from being short with lots of white space—to being long and dense.

They've gone from being like a Dr. Seuss book to being like War and Peace.

However, the hieroglyphics and gibberish of most manuals will become clear quickly.

Jump in with these assignments.

The water—your instruction manual—isn't as cold as it seems.

Four Tips

#1 - Read Up

The assignments assume you have a rudimentary understanding of the topics.

If not, read the appropriate sections.

Go to the Beecher's Handouts Menu.

#2 - Enlarge

Enlarge the schematics (drawings) of your camera, located at the beginning of the manual, with a photocopier.

The schematics will be easier to read.

Use search instead of the index, which are often poor.

And, you’ll have space to jot down notes about the knobs and buttons.

You may want to do the same with the drawings of your camera's menus.

Pack these enlargements in your camera bag.

#3 - PDF Version

Your camera manufacturer may offer a PDF version of the instruction manual.

It may be easier to read, with more space for notes.

Print it out on 3-hole paper and put it in a notebook.

#4 - Don't Skip Ahead

Learn how your camera changes its settings.

Don't dip into the manual in the middle, until you've gained an overview of how changes are made with your camera.

Look for the section describing how to change the camera's settings.

Here's a brief description of how settings are changed.

Changing the Settings

There are three methods for changing settings.

1 - Exposure Mode Dial

Exposure Mode Dial

Cameras often have an exposure mode dial for changing exposure related settings.

Look for a dial that has the letters P, A, S, M (Nikon and others) or P, Av, Tv, M (Canon).

The knobs also have icons that set the camera for different situations.

For more, go to letters and icons.

2 - Buttons

There may be buttons for changing settings.

Commons buttons include flash, ISO, white balance (WB), and exposure compensation (+/-).

For example, press and hold the ISO button, and turn a knob to change this setting.

3 - Menus

Cameras also have menus for settings that are changed less often.


You need not start at the first instruction manual assignment.

You can use the assignments in any order.

#1 - Flash

#2 - ISO

#3 - Shutter Speed

#4 - Lens Opening

#5 - White Balance

#6 - Autoexposure Lock (AEL)

#7 - Exposure Compensation

#8 - Focal Length