So You Got A Fancy New DSLR Camera… Now What?!

jeshoots-com-219059You have probably been thinking about getting a DSLR camera for a while now. Maybe you want to capture special moments in your family’s lives. Maybe you have always had a photographer’s eye and want to improve your skills. For whatever reason, you have made the investment in a beautiful new DSLR camera and now… you have no idea what to do with it. There are so many dials and functions and your owner’s manual seems like its written in a different language. Does this sound familiar?

Before you shove the manual in a box, set your camera to “Auto,” we have some tips for getting started with your new DSLR camera.

So if you just got your DSLR and are not completely sure what to do to start making the most of your investment, then you need to follow these steps!

  1. Get the right memory card for your camera

Most cameras do not come with built in storage so you will definitely want to save all of the incredible photos you take with your new camera! DSLRs can accept Compact Flash (CF) and Secure Digital (SD) cards. There are several versions of SD Cards: SD, SDHC and SDXC. SDHC stands for High Capacity, usually between 2 and 32 Gigabytes. The SDXC has an even higher storage capacity, up to 2 terabytes. CF cards are bigger in physical size and they use flash memory to record data. You can find CF cards with storage space from 2 GB to 128GB. You will want to check your manual to find the right memory card for your camera.

You will want to pay attention to the storage space of your memory card as well. Be sure to consider the amount of data a memory card can hold. DSLRs typically produce images that have larger file sizes than point and shoot cameras so you want to make sure your card can store your images. As you can see above, you have plenty of options when it comes to the size of your memory card. Determine how often you are going to use your camera and how much space you really need.

Finally you want to look at the speed and class of the memory card. Class ratings determine how fast data can be written to your card. Classes range from 2-10, with 10 being the fastest. A Class 10 card can write at least 10MB/second, while Class 4 card can write 4MB/second. The speed is important because the faster your can write data, the more photos you can take in a row. Sports photographers usually need faster speed memory card because of the fast pace of the action.

2. Understand the difference between RAW and JPEG photos

DSLRs can save images in two different formats: RAW and JPEG. JPEG photos are processed and compressed in the camera.  The processing means that the camera automatically adjusts for contrast, brightness, noise reduction and sharpness.These files are finished and can be printed immediately after the shot. and RAW photos are unprocessed or uncompressed and therefore not ready for print immediately. RAW photos will usually look flat and dark when they are taken. They need to be processed by software. RAW photos are usually bigger file sizes and take up more space but if you prefer to do editing in Lightroom or Photoshop, RAW is usually a better option for your photos. Whether you choose to use RAW or JPG files, it’s up to you. That all depends on how much editing you prefer to do. However, it is important to note that if you are using your camera for sports photography and shooting burst sequences, you will be able to shoot more photos with the JPEG format.

3. Practice with your manual setting.

The dials and settings can feel overwhelming in a DSLR but they will help you to shoot better photos. It can be really easy to just set your camera on automatic mode and start shooting but we can guarantee you will have a higher quality of photos and feel more experienced as a photographer if you take the time to learn about manual settings. You will want to understand aperture, shutter speed and ISO to help you shoot better photos (We wrote a blog post explaining your camera settings here!)

4. Read the manual (or at least skim it)

We know that the manual to your camera is not the most entertaining thing to read and it is much less fun than actually using your camera. However, the manual will explain the technical parts of your camera to you so you can understand its full capabilities.

5. Experiment without using the flash

We recommend not using the internal flash on your DSLR. They often take unflattering photos and don’t always achieve the look you were going for. If you are using your camera for sports photography, you absolutely should not use your flash as it’s distracting to athletes. Luckily camera manufacturers have been improving cameras so that you can take better photos in low light. You can experiment with increasing your ISO and shooting without the flash to learn how to capture sharp and well-exposed photos without the internal flash.

6. Shoot lots of different subjects and shoot often

You can learn a lot about photography and your own personal interests by experimenting with different types of photos. Maybe you purchased your camera to capture fantastic landscape photos for an upcoming vacation. You can improve your skills by experimenting with shooting events or action photos. Or if you purchased your camera to shoot your children’s athletics, you can experiment with shooting portraits. Shoot often and shoot a variety of subjects. This will help you get more comfortable with your camera!

Most importantly, have fun! You probably purchased a new DSLR camera because you enjoy photography and you want to improve your skills. You don’t need to feel like a pro overnight. Take time to just have fun using your camera and enjoying learning a new skill!

Are you in the DC area and interested in taking your photography skills to the next level? Learn about our interactive sports photography classes! 

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