We're still in the midst of the holiday season. If you're like me, you may have not even brought all your gift boxes to the recycle bin (trust me, it's happening this week. I promise).
Maybe you've been spending this week playing with some of your new gifts. Was one of your gifts that DSLR that you've had your eye on for awhile? If so, yay! I'm so happy for you! You probably want to take awesome photos of your kids, your family, your pets, or the world around you. You might be confused by your new camera. There are lots of buttons and dials. Which mode do you choose? What does this button do? Why does the damn camera phone take better photos than this expensive camera you've been wanting?!
Trust me, you can and will take incredible photos. It takes just a bit of practice and know how, but if you follow some key tips, you will be well on your way to mastering your new DSLR. Read below for these tips that will put you on the way to photographic success.
1. Get to know your camera. Really well.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but it's an important step that so many people skip. A lot of people will say "just read your camera manual!" I'm not one of those people because (secret!) I've never read a camera manual (or the manual to much else) in my life. I'm much more of a hmm, I'll pick it up, touch it, play with it, and figure out what it does kind of person. Hands-on. That doesn't mean you shouldn't read your manual if that's how you learn best. It just means that you should choose to learn your camera however you learn, whether it's hands-on, the manual, Youtube, a third-party book about your camera, or a class.
2. Get to know exposure. Really well.
Exposure is the key to photography, and the key to taking photographs the way you want them to be. Knowing the exposure triangle is one of the most important things about photography. You don't have to shoot in manual all the time, but knowing how to do so will help get you on your way. The book below (click on the link to check it out or buy on Amazon!) explains all the concepts really, really well. I think you'll love it.
The kit lenses that come with entry-level DSLRs get a bad rap. They are great for learning photography on and can produce very good photos. That said, at some point you may want to upgrade your lens/lenses. Lenses are where you should put your money before ever upgrading a body. (I say this as someone who has invested the GDP of a small country in lenses..). Always, always choose good lenses over a body upgrade. They don't even have to be "pro" lenses; relatively budget-friendly prime lenses like 50mm 1.8 or 85mm 1.8 will open new doors for you. But I'm here for you if you ever are considering a bit more pricey lens upgrade, too. I'll even help you test them.
4. Crop vs. full frame
Entry-level DSLRs are "crop sensor" bodies while most pro bodies are "full-frame". There are pros and cons to both and there is nothing wrong with crop sensor cameras. In online photo forums I often see people pushed to upgrade to full-frame cameras. One of the reasons given is that the image quality of full frame is just so amazingly better. News flash: I shoot both a crop and full frame body, I have for a long time, and the image quality comes from the lenses and most importantly the photographer. Below are a few random photos from my vacation to Puerto Rico last January. I took both bodies with me. Can you tell which photos are from a crop body and which are from full frame? Yeah, me neither. Rock your crop sensor camera.
5. The Internet
The internet is a wonderful place where you can learn so much about photography. There is a ton of good information. And a ton of wrong information. Don't be afraid to ask questions, and don't be afraid to try things and question things.
6. Shoot what you love
You don't have to take photos of people. If you love landscapes, animals, water droplets, macro, still lifes, vegetables (guilty), cats (also guilty)...photograph those things! There are endless opportunities for you with what is available to photograph. Shoot as much as you can. Every day, or every week, or whenever is possible.
7. You are getting better every second. I promise.
No matter how frustrated you get, don't compare yourself to anyone other than yourself. Yourself last year, last month, or even last week. On those days when you think you are the worst photographer ever, those comparisons will show you that you are improving with every click. The little girl below is the same girl over a period of a few years. I think I learned some things, even though many days it felt like I wasn't. You are learning new things, too. Keep shooting. I know you love it.