With Christmas just passed, I’m guessing a lot of you received a shiny, new DSLR camera from Santa! Being the gadget freak that I am, I can imagine how much excitement this may have caused you! If you’re upgrading from a point-and-shoot, then this blog post is just for you. Here are a few suggestions for getting the most joy out of your new toy!
The first thing I always do with a new camera is take it straight out of the box and shoot. A new piece of gear calls my name so strongly I can hardly resist the urge. So, take it out of the box, assemble the lens, insert the memory card, and shoot. I must warn you to not throw any pieces away. The first SLR camera I got, I threw away all the lens caps. Once the lens was on the camera, I thought I’d never need them again. As your taking these maiden shots, familiarize yourself with the buttons, dials, lights, and switches. This will help when you proceed to step #2.
2. Read the manual.
Now that you’ve knocked a little dust of the camea, it’s time to do some formal self-instruction. Your manual has answers to most of the technical questions that you may wonder about later. As you read, follow along on the camera to make sure you understand what controls the settings and how to change those settings. Want to know how to turn off the focus beep? Want to know how to shoot in rapid burst mode? Want to know how to delete the unwanted pictures? It’s all in the manual. Even if this isn’t your first digital camera, it never hurts to flip through the manual. The better you know your camera, the quicker you can make decisions about what settings to use when taking pictures. This translates to better pictures.
3. Create a filing system.
Just a few days ago, one of my high school buddies posted a picture of her husband’s receipts he’d collected throughout 2012 for his tax return. Literally, they were wadded up pieces of paper placed in one of four “storage bins”—three ball caps and an aluminum pan. This is not the approach you should take to storing and organizing your photos. I create very specific folders for the events I capture. For instance, the file path may look something like this: C:/mydocs/pictures/2012/New Year’s Eve. I file by each year and then by each specific event so I can find things easily. I also use a tagging sytem so that on a whim, I can collect images of a specific person without the hassle of navigating through each and every folder. You can add tags to photos simply by using either Windows Explorer or Windows Photo Gallery Picture Viewer. Though time consuming, it is very helpful in the long run.
4. Use all the shooting modes.
Without knowing what an fstop is or iso is, it’s really impossible to take a quality photograph in the manual mode. But, you can learn. When it’s play time with your camera, turn the dial off of automatic. Refer back to your manual to know what mode P or S or AV refers to. In these modes, play with the camera’s settings to see how they affect the image. However, when you’re documenting something important, remember to put the camera back in the mode you’re most comfortable with. If you learn to make all the decisions for the camera, your images will be tons better. You can even use this simulator to experiment!
Take multiple photos of one object. Each time you take a picture, change the iso. Start with 100, 200, 320, 400… work your way up to 3200. See how this setting affects your photo. Now, place your iso back to 100, and begin changing your fstop or aperature. Start with 2.8 (or your lowest setting), then work your way to up f4, f11, f20 and so on, stopping on each fstop to see how this changes your image. Do the same thing with the shutter speed. Experiments, such as this, will help you gain an understanding what the settings do. Eventually, you will be able to make calculated and deliberate settings to creatively enhance your images.
6. Take your camera everywhere!
Going to the grocery store? Take your camera. Taking the kids to the park? Take your camera. Car wash, road trip, hunting? Take your camera. Put your camera in your purse, or your glove box, and take it with you. Once you get to know your camera better, all that’s left to do is shoot. Document whatever happens. Don’t worry about taking too many pictures… it’s a digital age! You can delete what you don’t want to keep.
7. Post process.
Discover the art of post processing. It’s amazing what only straightening and cropping can do to improve your images. I Heart Faces hosts a weekly Fix it Friday where they supply an image for you to post process. Not only can you practice your skills, you can compare them to other photographers who are editing the exact same image. Some of them also detail each step taken to reach the end result. This is a GREAT place to learn!
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I started Ata-Girl Photography Co. in 2010 and I am a San Antonio based wedding photographer who is available for destination weddings. In addition to wedding photography, I also specialize in San Antonio senior portraits and senior portraits for high school seniors in the surrounding areas. I am a professional photographer who enjoys documenting the important milestones and captivating moments in people’s lives. I firmly believe that the unique set of circumstances I have faced in life has prepared me to take a personal and genuine interest in my photography clients. When I’m not photographing a wedding, family or high school senior, I enjoy watching my daughter play softball, hiking, cycling and listening to Elvis!