Photography Tips

How to Get the Best Start With Your New DSLR Camera

Welcome back to the Truprint blog. Today we have a guest post from Caroline Hooper; blogger and photography enthusiast from My Family Ties. She is a 40-year old mum to two daughters, and loves taking pictures with both her iPhone and her Canon camera. She lives in Northamptonshire with her girls and her fiancee of fifteen years.

I have been interested in photography for years, especially since I had my daughter’s, as it is such a wonderful way to have a visual record of their progress and growth. When I decided to upgrade from my point and shoot camera to a DSLR, it was a scary transition as I had no idea just how to control the camera itself. This has taken me on a journey that has captivated me and really ignited my passion for photography.

Choosing your camera

Choosing your camera is a very personal decision; price is a consideration of course, but do spend time to go into a camera shop and try as many as you need to out for yourself.

Another great way to decide is to go to a photography show, where all the different types and makes of camera will be available for you to try out. This will really help you to make an informed choice about the right camera for YOU.

I chose my camera based on a range of factors:

  • Price,
  • Professional recommendations, and
  • Comfort (it has to feel ‘right’ in your hands as you will spend a lot of time holding the camera!),
  • Portability and weight.

All these are very valid aspects to consider when you are thinking about which camera is right for you.

Think about your budget and which lenses you will need to buy, as well as the camera body. If you are a novice, as I was, a DSLR with easy to use scene modes is a great place to start your education and discover the different settings you need for many different situations.

Once you have familiarised yourself with the scene modes, it will become second nature to switch between them to achieve the capture you are looking for. This will help you progress to using these settings and controls and to venture into the manual modes and become more in control of every scene.

Get to know your camera

Firstly, get to know your new camera.

Take it with you everyday, and give yourself the time to practice and really get a feel for all the settings.

Becoming more in control of your camera and it’s settings is key to you having the full creative control of your photographs with confidence.

Taking your camera with you everyday can mean you will capture the most unexpected and wonderful moments; don’t be afraid to take your time, and make mistakes as these are the times you will learn the most.

When I first started to take my camera with me, I felt really unsure as I didn’t feel in control of it at all, and felt quite inhibited taking photo’s everywhere I went. Previously I had always taken photo’s in my comfort zone…..so….

Be Brave

Don’t be afraid, even if at first you feel a little silly. It takes practice to make it feel natural, and by taking photos at these impromptu moments, you will not only become a more confident photographer, but also capture some great shots.

Breaking away from your comfort zone is really liberating.

Challenge Yourself

You will feel very empowered as new perspectives and places will give you so many fresh opportunities to get creative.

A top tip to include in your camera bag when out and about, is a spare fully charged battery. There is nothing worse than when you are all set up and ready to shoot when you realise your battery is dead!

Look for the Light

Light seems such a simple component, but so important when you are composing your shot. Your lighting will effect the overall look of the image, and a slight change can make the most dramatic effect.

Lighting is the most important aspect to consider when you are composing your capture.You will have to think about:

  • Light quality
  • Light direction, and
  • Light intensity. For example, you might need to add some artificial light to the scene, or if shooting outdoors, you may need to reposition the subject and yourself to a more shady area.

Natural lighting provides us with a readily available variable lighting that changes though the day, from sunlight to moonlight.

A great way to explore the changing natural light is to take photo’s during the day, and keep a note of the times and where in the house you have taken them. This may seem odd, but it will give you a sense of where the best light is at what time, and you may be surprised when you find that a certain room has the perfect lighting at 10am. Keeping a written record of this experiment will help you to pin point the best rooms to photograph in, and give you the freedom to be able to take captures with more confidence by following the light.

Camera Kit

Once you have chosen your camera body, you will of course need a lens. The first lens I bought that has really helped me (and that I still use regularly), is the 50mm 1.8 Canon fixed focal lens. This lens is priced really well and will set you back between £80 – £100. As it is a fixed focal lens, you will have to move toward your subjects, which is a great starting point to learn about Aperture Priority, and also to do the leg work yourself instead of relying on a zoom lens. I have found that this has helped me no end in the beginning of learning about my DSLR. This is a good lens to start with both for price and reliability.

Another great bit of kit that has really helped me get the sharp shots I was looking for, is to invest in a tripod. You have spent good money on a camera body and lens or lenses, so you need a sturdy tripod to hold these up safely so you can get those wonderful captures you are looking for.

It is worth looking around and finding the right one for you. Take into account the weight of your combined camera body and lens, and also don’t forget that if you have an tripod arm, you will need a weight to counter balance. I have discovered that a tripod arm can give you those wonderful arial shots, without the need to balance precariously on a stool!

A memory card is a must to have in your kit bag, and it is a good idea to carry one in your camera bag as well as having one in your camera body. This mean that if you take more photos than you anticipate while you are out, you have the back up of the second. Just ensure you format the memory card when you insert it into the camera.

I have found that having a reflector in my kit bag is so useful at bouncing back available natural light onto my subject. It’s very portable and folds neatly into itself. You can pick a reflector up very cheaply, and this will quite often transform a capture adding light where you need it.

Of course these are just a few suggestions, as you will find out when you start investigating. There are so many photography accessories to add to your kit, the choices are endless!

Your Journey

I hope this has given you some inspiration for your journey into DSLR photography. If you start as you mean to go on, and keep practicing and learning, you will find your style evolves and your photography will change the more confident you become.

It is great practice to critique your work and find out why you do or don’t like certain captures, and keep a record of your findings and feelings about your progress. When you look back it will really help you to know for the next time you take a similar capture how to enhance your next shot.

Photography Project

Finally I would encourage you to pick a photography project to prompt yourself to keep capturing those gorgeous shots. There are plenty out there, and you can share and join in on social media using the relevant hashtags. Truprint have collating some of the best photo challenges on Instagram on a previous post.

In addition, Project 365 is a great start, as this will get your creative juices flowing as you will be thinking about the process of what to photograph for today, and for this week etc.

There are many others to join in on, and if the Project 365 is too daunting why not break it down and do your own Project 30 and take it from there?

You could even think of a theme to work on each week , and for that week photograph daily from different angles and perspectives. Topics to choose from could be:

  • Hands
  • Windows
  • Street Photography
  • Pets
  • Food
  • Flowers
  • Black and White
  • Books
  • Profiles
  • Night photography
  • Colours
  • Alphabet
  • Numbers
  • Seasons

The list is endless, and you will find that when you start your week you will search for interesting and new ways to capture your theme. This will expand your knowledge and confidence as you do.

There is no time like the present to get started, so get kitted out and pick a photography project and go!

Thanks so much for reading, I really hope you find this useful,

Caroline