So you got yourself a brand spanking new DSLR. What do you do now?
Many photo enthusiasts who get their first upgrade from the â€œpoint and shootâ€ into the world of digital single lens reflex cameras, or DSLRs, often opt to shoot in Program mode, the mode that allows the sophisticated camera to make all the decisions and produce what it computes to be the best image given the circumstances.
But it doesnâ€™t have to be that way. Why relegate all the fun decisions you could make to your camera? Isnâ€™t the camera a tool? You might ask, where do I start? How do I start making great photos with this nifty new camera?
There are so many resources you could use to speed up your growth as a photo enthusiast, and a great number of these resources are free. Here are some things to do with free online resources that will help you get your photography where you want it to be, and say goodbye to the Program mode!
1. Know your equipment, and maximize use.
Your DSLR kit comes with a manual. Read it, and try out the different functions. If you want summaries from other photographers about what your camera can do, Phot.net has excellent information about a wide range of camera equipment. People who belong to this forum are usually very helpful. If youâ€™ve got a specific question, participate in the online forum. Meet new photography friends, and gain a whole world of information at your fingertips.
2. Learn about the exposure triangle.
Exposure is the result of how much light reflects back from the subject into your lens, and is recorded as an image by your camera. How to properly expose
an image is crucial to learn because it also gives you the dynamic range of your photographâ€”this is the gradation of light from the whitest part of the photo (the most reflected light) to the darkest part of the photo (the least light reflected), and everything in between. The more detail you have in your photo, the better your exposure. You can learn about how to make good exposures at this excellent discussion at Digital Photography School, one of my favorite resources online. They even have a newsletter you can subscribe to for free, that you get in your mailbox weekly.
3. Learn composition, and make art.
Composition is what makes a photograph attractive or unique. Centuries of art have taught us what the human brain is attracted to in a visual sense, so there are some simple â€œrulesâ€ you can learn to get you started in making some compelling images.
Good composition can be learned, so why not learn right away how to make your images distinct and stylish? A great place to read a lot about composition is photoinf.com.
4. Learn about white balance and control color.
White balance is the way the camera records color, depending on the temperature of the light that it captures. If the light is â€œcoolâ€ it has a bluish tinge, and the camera records that. If the light is â€œwarmerâ€ it has more yellow in it, so the people might come out with a yellowish cast over them. Digital Photography School has a concise primer on white balance, and some other suggested information below the article. It pays to learn about white balance, to control the color in your shots, and to get â€œtrueâ€ skin tones for the people in your images.
Most cameras have white balance pre-settings, and your manual can tell you which icon means which white balance. Learn about white balance, and you avoid photos that have blue people or yellow people in them. Unless you are photographing Smurfs or Mr. Smileys, that is.
5. Know your cameraâ€™s â€œmodes.â€
DSLRs come with modes that are ways you can tell the camera the circumstances you are shooting in, and help the cameraâ€™s computer make decisions for the best shot you could possibly get. Some modes include portrait, nightshot, or sport. In portrait mode, a camera tries to isolate the subject by blurring the background, giving the portrait a soft, creamy look. Nightshot mode tells the camera to open the lens opening (called the â€œapertureâ€) and let more light in to record the dark scene. Sport speeds up the shutter, so that motion can be frozen and not blurry. There are other modes you can use on most DSLRs, and there is a great resource with photos at Photonhead that can help you get acquainted with your cameraâ€™s modes.
6. Get started on some photo projects.
Photo projects can get your creativity flowing, and there are a lot of sites out there that help you to focus your creativity and learn as you complete your project. Everyone knows Flickr, of course, where you can join a group and shoot specific subjects, have great discussions with like minded hobbyists, and be inspired by the thousands of photos uploaded every minute.
A great resource is this article by a Flickr member titled â€œ7 Photo Projects to Jumpstart Your Creativity.â€
7. Photoshop is your friend.
There are â€œpuristsâ€ who say that using Photoshop or other processing software on your digital images ruin the integrity of the photographs and so makes it no longer â€œphotography.â€ These folks have their point of view, and we should respect that.
But the 21st Century is the digital age, and eschewing Photoshop when we are capturing digital photographs seems to be limiting when Photoshop can help us create images that are unique and beautiful. How much post-processing you do on your images is entirely up to you. You can go crazy or you can do what great makeup artists doâ€”make a lot of makeup look like none at all. Itâ€™s up to you.
If youâ€™re like a lot of new photographers, who want to use software to enhance their digital photographs, there are some basic tutorials to start the fun at Mashable.
8. Flash is also your friend.
Most semi-pro and entry level camera bodies include a pop-up flash. Pressing a button on the side of the pop up unit releases it and gives you instant source of light in very dark or very glary conditions.
It can be confusing to learn how to decide when to use flash, but the rule of thumb is that you â€œfillâ€ the areas that are dark in your photo with the flashâ€™s burst of light. The amount of light your flash gives you along with the exposure you want tell you how much flash you need. You can learn the basics of using flash at Brighthub.
9. Take a course.
There are some excellent online places where you can pay for guidance from a professional. Betterphoto.com is one of the sites I have tried, and the course I took from there really helped me get to know exposure. Betterphoto also has courses on many other topics, including an interesting one on composition and creativity.
MatadorU also has an excellent course I would recommend. MatadorUâ€™s photography course is geared toward becoming a travel photographer, but it addresses many of the topics I have mentioned here, in greater detail. The best things about MatadorU is that you get wonderful feedback from your tutor, and you get access to a lifetime of tips on a wide range of topic from equipment to using social media to gain an audience for your work.
Online, there are a few sites that offer basic photography courses. A good place to start is the appropriately named Photographycourses.net.
10. Join a camera club.
Itâ€™s fun to learn with other people! We learn this in school, and we never seem to outgrow it. Learning with others helps you to maximize your learning and enjoyment, and you gain new friendships this way. There is probably a photo club in your city. Talk to some other enthusiasts, join a forum that is run by a photographer in your city or nearby, and arrange to join some of the photo walks or excursions arranged by the photo club.
Getting started with your new DSLR is not as challenging as you think. These links are just a few resources of the plethora of sites out there. Letâ€™s help to grow our photography community and post more resources in our comments!
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