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So You Got A New Camera…Now What?

You got a fancy new camera for Christmas, great!  You’re ready to step up from your old Point & Shoot (P&S), right?  Maybe you’ve even taken pictures with your new rig, and the frustrating part is that the photos may not seem much better than what you were able to do with that little P&S.

All of those settings can seem intimidating at first.  Having an understanding of what they do can really improve your photography.  However, in the end, the camera is just a tool.  The real image is created by you, your vision, how you see the world.  That doesn’t mean that the camera is completely unimportant, it definitely has a role to play.  Learning how to use it properly allows you to focus on your image and gets the camera out of the way.

There’s all kinds of well meaning advice out there, including this post.  I’m not going to say that my way is the only way or the best.  It’s taken me many years of learning, trying, and making mistakes to get when I am.  And where I am is on the path of learning, trying, and making mistakes!  That’s one of the things I love about photography, there is so much to learn, and it never gets old, at least for me.

So where do you start?  Read the manual, take a class, trail and error, all of the above?  Yes, all of the above!  Here is my advice – take it with a grain of salt because your results may vary from mine:

RTFM (read the &%$#ing manual).  This is a good place to start.  Learn where everything is on your camera.  Make it second nature so that when you’re busy making that image, you aren’t fumbling with nobs and dials.

Take a class.  There are plenty of on-line courses that you can pay for, and a lot of free information too.  Years ago in my film camera days, I took a course with the New York Institute of Photography.  Click on the link and check it out.  It wasn’t cheap, but I got a lot out of it, and proudly display my diploma!

Another good website offering on-line courses is  I know some folks that have taken their courses, and watched as their photography went from snapshots to great-shots!

I mentioned free information and here are a couple of places for you to go for that:

B&H Photo/Video – The equipment Superstore!  They also have some great free information.  Click on this link and you’ll find a great article on “Getting the Most From Your New DSLR”.

Adorama – The next equipment Superstore (and where I get most of my stuff).  Adorama has a great learning center.  I’ve really enjoyed their video presentations on all subjects related to photography.  Click on this link to their “Beginner” series of information.

Here are a few things I’ve picked up along the way:

  • Keep it simple.  Determine not only what to include in your image, but what not to include.  Be sure to look up, back, and down.  Many photographers only photograph the obvious.
  • If you want your work to stand out from the crowd, don’t be afraid to try something different (low or high point of view, unique angle, etc…).
  • There are times when it’s ok to just have fun and take snapshots!
  • There are many forms of photography.  Find a couple that really interest you and learn all about them.  Examples – portraits, pets, black & white, landscapes, babies, HDR, and many more.  Once you find your niche, dig in and have fun!

My final piece of advice – don’t be afraid to push that shutter button!  You have to practice, and the wonderful thing about digital photography is there’s no extra cost for developing your photos.  Take your camera with you wherever you go, and take pictures.  Look them over, even the bad ones.  You can learn a lot from your mistakes.

I’ll leave you with this quote, “A true work of art is the creation of love, love for the subject first and for the medium second”.
~ Elliot Porter

Got questions?  Don’t be afraid to post them here and I’ll do my best to answer!

Until next time – Happy Shooting!