Gadgets are popular Christmas presents. Cameras, smartphones, iPads, laptops, software, and other bits of technology find their way under the tree each year. Let’s take a look at some ways to get the most of your toys.
Read the effing manual! Though it may seem like a blow to the ego, reading the manual is an excellent way of learning exactly what your new gadget can do, and figuring out how to make it happen. You may find some of the topics over your head at first, but at least you’ll get an overview of the layout, the buttons, and the features.
Digital cameras in particular come with excellent manuals. They start with the basic modes, and even talk a bit about photography techniques before drilling down to the nitty gritty features and technical options.
Your new smartphone or tablet may not have come with a large printed manual like your camera, but they are out there. On iPhones and iPads, check out the bookmarks in Safari. There is one called iPhone/iPad User Guide and it’s a great resource.
Keep the box your gadget came in if possible, and definitely keep the manual. Give it a browse as you are experimenting and it will be a great resource. If you can’t find the manual, or you chucked it out, nearly every manufacturer posts them to their website. Which brings us to…
Manufacturers usually have decent support sites dedicated to their products. There, you can often find PDF versions of manuals, software downloads, support forums, FAQs, knowledge bases and more. Some even have how-to videos and other features.
[one_third][box]Example Manual Links:
[one_third_last][box]Knowledge Base Examples:
YouTube is your friend. Chances are, someone out there has the same product that you own and has made a video about it. Whether it’s quick unboxings and overviews, short tips, or in-depth tutorials, you’ll find a tonne of help on YouTube. Not only might you find information specific to your make and model of gadget, but you’ll find gobs of videos on broader topics.
You can find a video that describes all the functions of a Canon T3i camera, and then you can watch an overview of exposure, aperture, shutter speed and ISO. If you got some new software for Christmas like, say, Adobe Lightroom, you’ll be treated to lots of lengthy tutorials.
Speaking of software…
Lynda.com (and other tutorial sites like it) are dedicated to helping you learn to master software. It even has some videos on techniques and concepts around photography, design, video, and so forth. Its library is massive, and the tutorials run the gamut from basic overviews to very specific effects.
Searching for Photoshop, you get 276 results. One result is a 1h52m course on selections:
There’s also a 13h50m session called Photoshop CC Essential Training:
So, yeah, if software is your thing, Lynda.com has you covered. You can search to see what they offer and then decide if you want to subscribe. It’s only $25/month (USD), and in a month you could learn a tonne about several pieces of software if you were so inclined. There is a $37.50 option that gives you exercise files, which can come in very handy.
YouTube is a great resource for tutorials, but Lynda.com is worth a look. It can definitely be worth the cost.
The Internet At Large
Regardless of which new gadget you find in your hands, there are websites out there dedicated to helping you use it, fix it, and make the most of it. Start by searching for your make and model, then add modifiers if you are looking for specific information. You might run across some forums dedicated to the topic (like the Photography-On-The-Net forums). You might get YouTube hits. You could get directed to an article on a tech site. You might get linked to the manufacturer’s website. Or you might find some dude’s blog. Either way, the information is out there, you just need to dig a little.
Here’s a great post about learning how to use your first DSLR. Looking for the must-have apps for your new iPad? Here’s one dude’s advice on using a GoPro camera. It’s all out there. Just start looking.
Bribe a Techie
Lastly, there is usually a techie in each family or group of friends. You know the type. They can expertly use their smartphone to do things you didn’t even dream possible. They can troubleshoot a wifi issue in seconds. They’ve built their own computer. They know their stuff. Give them food or beer and they will be glad to help you learn how to get the most out of your new gadget. They may complain that you didn’t buy the one they would have bought, but just smile and nod while they do a brain dump and get you on your way to tech happiness.