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20 tips for DSLR beginners

For newcomers to the world of DSLRs (Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras), everything from the choosing the camera to dealing with the many settings can be an intimidating task. Below are 20 DSLR tips guaranteed to point a newbie in the right direction.

1 – Do your homework!

When choosing camera equipment for the first time, it is a good idea to be sure that the equipment fits the person and the use. Someone with extra-large hands may find a smaller than average camera uncomfortable. A budding photographer who lives in the desert may not care about how water-resistant the digital camera is, but someone planning to use the camera in the tropics would be well advised to consider it.


2 – Start small.

A brand new photographer may be well advised to consider a budget DSLR. Much of the price difference between a budget DSLR and a top end DSLR is due to extra computer functions. Beginning with a basic setup and coming up with your own list of desirable features makes wading through the many options much easier if you feel the need to upgrade later.

3 – Know your equipment.

A point and shoot digital camera is ultra simple – if you can figure out how to put in batteries and the memory card, you can take pictures. An SLR is designed to be able to do far more than take snapshots. Read the manual and learn which settings are right for which situations.

4 – Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

For an SLR, the lens is its eye. The most immediately apparent difference between an SLR and a point and shoot camera is the ability to change lenses to get the perfect shot. Invest in quality lenses for a variety of ranges and fields of vision to get the perfect shot. The fact that these lenses will work with any future SLR camera you may get means this investment will pay dividends for as long as you shoot photos.

5 – If one is good, two is better.

Be sure to carry extra supplies. There are few things more frustrating than being faced with the perfect photo opportunity only to realize that the memory card is full or the batteries are dead.

6 – You can take it with you.

No camera, no photo. Photography is about capturing a moment in life. Taking the camera along whenever possible vastly multiplies the opportunity to do so. Some of the greatest photos in the world exist only because someone happened to have a camera handy.

7 – Be smart, use protection.

Since you will be taking the camera with you, be sure to get a quality case to protect it from the elements and being banged around. A good case also ensures that all your supplies are together and easy to find.

8 – Be trigger happy.

One of the greatest strengths of digital cameras over a film camera is that no film is wasted on bad shots. This gives a photographer the freedom to shoot everything and figure out first hand what works best.

9 – Don’t let your tripod be the boss of you!

A tripod is a wonderful tool. It allows a photographer to take time to achieve the perfect shot and take it from a steady platform. The problem many photographers have, though, is that they become married to the first spot they set the tripod and forget to look at different locations. Obviously, you are going to place the tripod in the position you think is best, initially. Don’t be afraid to move around and check if there was an even better spot you overlooked.

10 – Make a resolution.

Most newbie photographers make the mistake of choosing low resolution shots to be able to store more photos on a memory card. This is great if quality photos is not your goal. Higher resolution allows the photo to be blown up without becoming blurry, so a gorgeous photo can become a gorgeous poster.

11 – Think about extra accessories.

Many photos are better taken from a low angle. A pair of knee pads can make this process far less painful. On the other hand, a pole to mount the camera can help produce stunning bird’s eye shots.

12 – Become a profiler.

Many photography snobs turn their noses up at preset profiles programmed into a camera. These exist for a reason – they allow the photographer to quickly adapt to varying conditions to get the perfect shot.

13 – Are you on the level?

Even a perfect photo subject can be ruined by a camera tilted at an angle. Pay special attention to whether the camera is level to avoid introducing unintended weirdness to the shot.

14 – See through the illusion.

The image in the LCD viewfinder is sometimes smaller than the actual image that will appear in the photo. To get perfect framing for a subject, check the direct lens viewfinder.

15 – Play the angles.

The camera’s height from the ground can have a profound impact on whether the eye is drawn to the foreground or the background. A lower position usually focuses more on the foreground.

16 – The need for speed.

Learn what shutter speeds are best for moving subjects. This is the difference between a child making the winning goal frozen in time and a poor shot of a blur in front of a net.

17 – One shot, several zooms.

A closeup telephoto shot of a bird on a tree can be a beautiful study of wildlife, but a mid range shot of the same bird in the same spot could summon more emotional impact. Take the same shot repeatedly with different zoom levels to get a better chance of finding the one that speaks the most profoundly.

18 – One shot, several filters.

The filter settings on a camera can create very subtle differences that change the character of a shot. Like zoom level, the use of varying settings to take the same photo could result in a shot with a far different character.

19 – Rapid fire for the win!

Take advantage of burst settings on your DSLR. We have all seen a photo where the end result was ruined because someone blinked or sneezed. A millisecond earlier or later and the image would have been perfect. Avoid this by using the burst setting to take several shots quickly so the best one can be chosen.

20 – Experiment with settings.

Photography is as much art as science. Finding your voice is as much about creating a distinct feel through the camera settings as your choice of subject.


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