How to Start with Your New DSLR in 5 Easy Steps

Congratulations, you have bought a new DSLR camera! This is an exciting news for the whole family. Finally, you will take some amazing images of your family and share those on social media. You will print a dozen of beautiful coffee table books to show off to your friends. And then you've looked at the LCD of your expensive new camera you thought “I wish I knew how to use this thing better”. Sounds familiar?

I've been there and needed all of that. I was feeling overwhelmed by all of those features on my camera. I wished I could truly “own” my camera, so that I could capture all those precious fleeting moments.

If you are anything like me, you just wanted to take lovely pictures of your kiddos and share them with your family and friends. Well, I'd like to tell you that it's definitely possible and if you practice the techniques continually you will start seeing your images in a different way.

In this blog post I am providing you with a few tips on how to get started with your new camera.

1. Let's talk about gear.

If you haven't purchased a DSLR yet I highly recommend to buy the DSLR body and a separate prime lens. Here is why, just a few reasons to name:

  • Prime lenses perform better in dim conditions. They can get gorgeous pictures in low light without having to lower the shutter speed and risk motion blur or camera shake.
  • Prime lenses are smaller and lighter.
  • Prime lenses give sharper images.

I invested in my first DSRL camera Nikon D60 when my husband and I were about to get married, it was the perfect time to get one! But it took me a long time though before I opened a user manual and really knew how to use it properly. Once I decided to learn photography and build strong relationship with my camera my go-to lens was the 35mm f/1.8. Always remember that your camera is just a tool, the same as a pen or a brush. Exploring its possibilities and experimenting is a natural part of the creation process. Making first steps and learning the basics is tough, but you don't have to try everything. My greatest advise to you is to get to know your camera to be able to take control of it.

This is what I mean, the first image I took before I was shooting in manual and the second image is when I've just started to learn shooting in manual mode:

You don't need a very expensive camera to take beautiful image but you should cover enough of the basics to get you in control of your camera.

2. Understand the exposure triangle

Understanding the relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO is crucial to being able to shoot in manual mode. A change in one of the settings will impact the other two. Aperture, shutter speed and ISO are all part of the ‘exposure triangle’.

Aperture allows you to have those blurry backgrounds. The lower the number, the blurrier the photo gets. The higher the number, the more of your frame is in focus.

Shutter speed will determine the amount of motion that you allow into the frame. The lower the bottom number the more light reaches the camera sensor, but if your shutter speed is too low, such as 1/40, then camera shake may affect the sharpness of your photograph.

ISO refers to the sensitivity of the sensor to the light.

They all control either the amount of light entering the camera (aperture, shutter speed) or the amount of light required by the camera (ISO) for a given exposure.

3. Using your camera's meter.

Once you've got a decent understanding of the exposure triangle it's time to do some real practice. Set your camera to manual mode,  look through your view finder and you should see a line graph with some hashmarks through it at the bottom. This is your camera's meter. By adjusting your aperture, shutter speed and ISO you're moving the ticker back and forth in your light meter. Play around with your light meter.It is important to understand how YOUR camera meters, because the specifics will differ from brand to brand.

4. Learn about white balance

The white balance can significantly impact color tone of your photographs. Be aware that the quality and color of the light will change according to the time of day, season and weather. That means that different kinds of natural light will make the same scene look different.

  • At high noon on a sunny day the light is the most neutral.
  • The color temperature of light in the shade is always blue because the light source is the blue sky.
  • The light can appear white or grey on an overcast day if the cloud cover is thick and the sun is higher in the sky.
  • When the sun is lower in the sky at sunrise or sunset the light passes through a thicker layer of atmosphere which filters the blue light leaving the red color.

Digital cameras need help to compensate for different types of lighting and render a white object white. The white balance setting helps to get the colors on your images as accurate as possible. While many cameras have an easy to access button to adjust white balance, I recommend reading your camera manual to clarify.

5. Keep learning and practice a lot.

If you ask any photographer how she learned to take great photos, you are going to hear the same phrase over and over again "Switch your camera to manual mode and practice, practice, practice!" Have your camera in you bag wherever you go, connect with other photographers so you could support, encourage and inspire each other to make daily shooting possible. Get involved in photography projects, such as a photo a day, or 365 project, or the 52 project, or any other project that will keep you busy and shooting.

You can create an Instagram account and follow photography accounts to stay motivated and inspired, here is just a few educational IG accounts that I really love to follow: Clickin Moms, CreativeLive, Camera Mama, The Candid Class.

To really take your photography to the next level I highly recommend that you invest in a in-person photography workshop or an online class.

Bring your vision to life and start creating expressive portraits to stand out a greater test of time!

Join me in a Breakout session that will help you to create emotive, yet simple, portraits using natural lighting techniques. You’ll get an inside look at how I brings my vision to life– you’ll see how I set scenes, capture the images and edit with the printed photograph in mind. Throughout the Breakout, I share my process for creating emotive portraits, shooting with Lensbaby lenses, understanding and using color management, as well as making shooting and post-production decisions.

Regardless of what your level of experience is or what type of DSLR camera you use, this eBook is designed to provide you with everything you need to take your photography skills to the next level. I have poured my heart and soul into preparing it and I want to teach you how to create beautiful photos that you'll be proud to share with your family and friends.