You’ve got your DSLR – what next?
Below are 12 DSLR Photography Tips for Beginners that I would give, and have given to beginners, so these should get you started:
1. Don’t get out of Auto Mode – Only if you want to…
Everyone says ‘get out of auto mode’, and they’re right! To use the full potential of a DSLR then you do need to use Manual (M), Aperture Priority (AV) and Shutter Priority (TV) modes. So if you don’t try it. And don’t practice it. Then you’ll never understand it and get better at it.
When you’re ready, you don’t have to do it straight away.
If you’re moving from a Point and Shoot, and you want to use the auto modes because they’re familiar. Then do it. If it gives you more confidence and is less overwhelming. Then go ahead and shoot in auto, program, landscape, portrait, sport or macro modes etc… You can always try out the manual modes alongside the auto ones if you like?
Instead, look at and use the rules of composition when shooting, and learn them. Change your perspective for the shot, and look at what’s the focal point of your image – first. Then moving out of auto mode will come more naturally.
2. Shoot, Shoot, Shoot and then Shoot some more….
This is my New Years resolution this year, and most very year! The more you shoot the more comfortable you get with your camera, and all its buttons.
You learn what you like to shoot and find more ways of shooting it. Which means you’re learning composition.
You learn what inspires you, and what type of photography you want to shoot more of. That way you’re not going to get bored of it.
And with digital cameras the sky’s the limit because it’s so cheap to shoot, you just need more memory cards (unlike film back in the day!). So there’s plenty of room to explore and try new things.
If it goes wrong it really doesn’t matter…
3. Have fun!
Enjoy your camera, and enjoy your photography.
Photography is an expensive hobby. And you’ve spent a lot of money on buying a DSLR – so enjoy it!
Get use out of it. Take photos when you want to. And take images of what inspires you, or catches your eye. Look at what you’ve taken, and take more of what you like.
Or challenge yourself and try something new.
Then you’ll know more about what you want to learn, and get better at next…
4. You’re not going to be Ansel Adams over night?
Sorry to burst the bubble but a DSLR is not a magic wand, that can spit out absolutely amazing photographs every time. Oh and by the way just in case you haven’t heard of him, Ansel Adams is a famous photographer. I shouldn’t assume everyone has heard of him…
The camera is just your tool (whichever camera it may be) to take and record images. You’re the one in control. You create the image. And you’re the photographer.
And it’s ok if not every shot is a masterpiece because photography is a journey.
You wont get to where you want to be straight away, and probably not in a straight line.
You’ll take a lot of shots you don’t like, everybody has.
It’s a journey that you should enjoy, it’s not a race. And you’ll learn a lot along the way (about more things than photography). It’s an amazing medium and you’ll get a lot out of it. I know I have.
You see things in a unique way, and that makes you and your photography special.
5. Learn how your camera works
Don’t panic, a little knowledge goes a long way…
I know my eyes glaze over when people start talking physics and prisms etc… and reading a camera manual can be boring.
But if you have a little understanding of how your camera works, and what functions are available to you. Like how it deals with light e.g. shutter, aperture and ISO. Then a lot more shooting opportunities will become available to you. And it’ll let you be more creative with your photography as well. For example, if you were wanting to take photos in low light, or try some night and sport photography, then you’ll have more confidence to give it a go.
Not to mention easing the tension when your camera doesn’t understand exactly what it is you want it to do! Then you can take a photo of a window that you’re happy with, instead of putting your camera through the window!!!
Knowing how the camera sees light and how it records light, will help you to take better photos.
6. Shoot in RAW
Do what now?
RAW is a type of camera file format like a jpeg. But it’s not compressed, and holds a lot more information about the light that your camera has captured. This does make the file size a lot larger than a jpeg, so watch the image count on your memory card.
You can change your settings to shoot in RAW in the quality menu in your camera.
Then you can adjust the way that light is handled yourself (the camera does this automatically with jpegs) using your RAW processing software. You generally get some free with your camera which is a good place to start. Or you can use a software package like Adobe Bridge, Lightroom or Photoshop to do it.
You have a lot more editing options when you shoot in RAW like being able to adjust white balance, contrast, exposure etc… which gives you more creativity and control as a photographer. And if you save the original RAW file then you can go back in the future and still play around with it.
You’re limited with what you can do with a jpeg in post processing. And I wish I had started shooting in RAW earlier, so I could try out some new techniques with some of my older images. So learn from my mistakes!
Hang tight we’ll be looking at this in more depth soon – update: check it out here.
7. Post Processing is not the work of the Devil!
Some photographers hate it and some love it.
For me personally, I think post processing is an extension of, and compliments what we do with a camera. And I think it is part of the creative process of a photographer.
Remember a human eye is a lot more complex than a camera no matter how good they are, they haven’t caught up yet… So you never get exactly what you see in real life.
And at the end of the day the digital darkroom (post processing software) is a modern extension of the original darkroom. And even has some of the old darkroom techniques (or digital versions of) like dodge and burn and unsharp mask included.
It’s just photography tools evolving – just like cameras do.
So getting a good grasp of what you can do with your images. And how you can do it with post processing software, will mean you can create the photo or piece of art that you want to.
8. Share your photos
Don’t let your images sit on your hard drive and gather digital dust.
Get your photographs out there and share them with your family, friends or the world!
Flickr is a great place to start. There’re great communities and groups that you can join on Flickr, and tons of other photographers to talk to and images to look at.
Here’s my flickr page to check out.
There are loads of great photo sharing sites out there besides Flickr. You can try these suggestions if you like, or perhaps Pinterest or Instagram?
9. Check your gear before you go out…
I tell the kids this all the time on the way out to school: have you got your lunch, have you got your PE kit, or where’s your bookbag.
If only I listened to my own advice!
You don’t want to be like me, and realise once you’ve got to where you’re going that you have left your battery, or the spare memory cards on the top in the kitchen. It only happened once – ok maybe twice, but it’s a real pain when it happens!
Always check your gear before you go out. Have you got the spare lens that you want to use, and the memory cards, battery, filters, oh and don’t forget the tripod?
It may be handy to write a checklist – I love lists!
10. Look for inspiration…
Follow the pros and see what they do, try to emulate what they’ve taken to see how the image works. I’ve done this myself and it’s a great way to learn new things. How do the camera settings affect how the image looks?
Hold on a minute (just for the sake of clarity): now I didn’t say go out there and copy people, I said emulate.
Try re-taking an image or idea that you’ve seen and learn from it. But then use what you’ve just learnt in your own images and ideas. Put your stamp, twist, personality and passion into an image.
Look for photography challenges, there’s loads around on the internet. And give them a go.
11. Buy more gear?
It’s half the fun of being a gadget geek…… I mean photographer.
One of the first bits of gear I bought when I started shooting with a DSLR was a 50mm f/1.8 Lens. It’s absolutely fantastic, I love it. It’s the best thing I’ve ever bought when I started out, and cheap as well!
A great starter prime lens for trying out primes lenses (aka zooming with your feet). And you can get some really nice depth of field/bokeh as it goes down to f1.8.
Do a bit of window shopping and see what your next purchase will be.
12. Read the Photographer blog!
You know I had to… If you’ve made it this far then hopefully you’ve found this helpful!
If any of the above has caught your attention, then I’ll be going into it in more depth here soon.
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