So you got yourself a ‘big’ camera?
I remember the feeling of excitement when I got my first camera. I couldn’t wait to get started and take beautiful images like I’d seen online.
But then the fear set in.
So many buttons! So many confusing terms!
Learning photography is like a rollercoaster ride, there are so many ups and downs. One minute you think you’re getting the hang of it, the next you think you have no clue.
Don’t worry mama. I know what it feels like to be overwhelmed. But you don’t have to know all the things to get started.
When you first get started, here are the things to focus on.
What To Do When You Get Your First dSLR
Learn How to Hold Your Camera
DSLR cameras are so different to compact cameras or phones. For one thing they are much bigger and heavier, and for another you will be looking through a viewfinder, rather than looking at a screen.
This means you will hold your camera differently. You’ll need to hold it up to your eye to peer through the viewfinder. When you do this, keep your elbows close to your body so you can support your camera and hold it steady.
Use one hand to hold your camera and change settings, and the other to support your camera and keep it steady, like below.
Practice by using your camera lots and taking it places. It doesn’t matter if you are still in automatic modes, because at the moments we are focused on getting used to the camera.
Learn Some Photography Basics
My friend once told me that my camera takes really good photos. We’d all like to think a good camera can solve all our problems, but the truth is, unless you know how to use it your photos are not going to be much better than if you took them with your phone. Take some time to learn some foundations of getting a good photo so that when you’re ready to switch to manual you’ll be taking beautiful photos.
Here are a few things you can do to quickly improve your images (without learning rules and jargon!)
Knowing how to use light in your images will improve them dramatically. There is a lot of information out there about lighting. Loop lighting, Rembrandt lighting, butterfly lighting, lighting diagrams, lighting modifiers.
But let’s not worry about that today.
Start with the basics to easily level up your images
- Learn how to find the best light indoors
- Use open shade on sunny days to prevent harsh shadows
- Learn about catch lights and why there are important
- Practice taking photos in difficult light regularly
Work On Your Composition
When you take a photo you are telling a visual story. What needs to be in your photo to tell the story? What can you leave out?
Composition is a big subject, but there are a few easy things you can do to to improve your composition
- Crop in close to keep the focus on your child
- Pay attention to the background to make sure there are no distractions
- Move around and take your photo from different angles
Get Out Your Manual (and Load Up YouTube)
Don’t worry, you don’t need to read and understand your entire camera manual, but you do need to learn a few settings, and since they are different for every camera, you’ll need your manual.
You may also be able to find how to use your specific camera on YouTube, if you’re a visual learner.
These are the things you need to learn
- How to change your camera to Aperture Priority Mode
- How to set your aperture
- How to change your camera to Shutter Priority Mode
- How to set your shutter speed
- How to change your ISO
I don’t have guides on how to change your settings, because as I said, they vary for each camera.
Get Off Auto
Now for the bit you’ve been waiting for. It’s time to get off auto!
Some people like to jump straight to manual mode and learn as they go, but most people prefer to start with one of the semi-automatic modes
In these modes, you control ones setting, either aperture or shutter speed, and the camera controls everything else.
It’s a great way to start getting creative with your camera
Start with aperture priority mode and practice working with a shallow depth of field
Then move on to shutter priority mode. Understanding shutter speed will help you avoid motion blur and get sharper images .
Use aperture and shutter priority modes for as long as you want. Keep practising and using them regularly. Make sure you are comfortable with these modes before you move on to manual.
Don’t Get Overwhelmed!
There’s so much you can learn in photography, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and think you need to know everything before you can start taking photos.
Focus on the basics and your photos will improve quickly. There’s no rush to learn everything, just take it photo by photo.
Get a download of these steps to keep on your phone and remind you of what you need to know. I have a helpful roadmap that lays out these steps for you so you can improve your images without overwhelm. Get it for free below!