Photo Basics

Getting Started with your DSLR

So you got a new DSLR camera or you have decided to dust off the camera that has been sitting around and you have no idea where to start.  I know exactly how you are feeling, I have been there! Your camera can be very overwhelming when you are first starting out. I found that focusing on one aspect of the camera at a time made learning a lot easier.  So where to start?

Here are are my recommendations for Getting Started with your DSLR:

1) Move your Subject Closer to the Light

Photography means “light-writing” so in order to create pretty pictures the first step is to move your subject closer to the LIGHT! I suggest natural light. 

If you are shooting indoors move your subject closer to a window or a door.  To keep things simple for now, the easiest way to take a picture is to have your subject face into the light.  This means you, as the photographer, will have the window at your back and your subject will be facing you. This will give you a nice, simple, even light on your subject that is flattering for everyone and is easy to work with. 

You can even stage this by moving your child’s favorite toy closer to a window or door and inviting them to play. Be sure to position yourself so that your back is to the window. This will ensure that your child is facing you and the window. They will, therefore, have even light across their face.

using window light

2) Turn off your flash

Now that you have light on your subject, you won’t need to use your flash.

Using your camera’s pop-up flash is unflattering to your subjects.  It will make them look drained, washed out, and will give you the dreaded red-eye.

For this reason, go into your camera’s settings and turn off your flash.  Always try to seek out more light rather than resorting to on-camera flash.

3) Move to Aperture Priority Mode

The next step is to move away from the Auto Mode in your camera, and start to take a little bit of control by switching to Aperture Priority Mode.  On the top of your camera, you’ll see that you have either an “A” or an “Av” – that’s Aperture Priority Mode!

This means that you set the Aperture, and the camera will set the other two remaining aspects of exposure (shutter speed and ISO) for you.  For more information on aperture, I’ve written another post that goes into more detail. Read the post Understanding Aperture right here. 

Making this simple change is going to allow you to blur your background, which is a great little trick for making your images look more professional by helping bring more attention to your subject.

Nikon d750

Want to know more visit Aperture Priority Mode.

4) Turn on the Rule of Thirds Grid

Another way to add more impact to your images is to think about the composition of the photo.   The composition is simply how the various elements within your image are arranged, to help make the photo more engaging. The most commonly used composition technique is the rule of thirds.

The rule of thirds imagines that your image is divided into nine equal sections using two horizontal and two vertical lines, as shown by the image below. When taking a picture you simply want to make sure that your subject is along one of the lines, or at a point where two lines intersect.

rule of third grid

Now, that can be tricky to do when you are first starting out, so a useful trick is to turn on the rule of thirds grid overlay feature in your new camera. This will allow you to see the grid in your viewfinder so that you can position your subject along one of the lines when you are taking the photo.

If you have a Nikon you can turn on your Framing Grid by following this tutorial.

That’s it! Of course, you will want to expand your knowledge and learn everything you can to help you take great photos, but following these four simple steps will have you taking better images from the get-go. Once you have mastered these four steps you are ready to master manual mode. Check out Your Road Map for Mastering Your Camera to get off of AUTO and on your way to taking pictures you love. Enjoy your new camera!

~Click with Love~ Deeanne

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