Photography Lesson - Learning to Use Your New Camera

January 09, 2014  •  2 Comments

Assateage Island Dune FenceDune fence at sunset on Assateague Island

I got a camera for Christmas! Now what?

Did you get a new DSLR as a Christmas gift this year? I'm sure you're thrilled to have your new camera, but if you're new to SLR or DSLR photography it can seem like a daunting task to learn what all those dials and switches are for. I won't go into depth here, but I will be happy to provide a list of tips and useful resources to get you started on the right foot.

Read the Manual

My first suggestion is one that seems obvious, but it is also a step that is often overlooked.  Read the camera's owners manual. Read every page of it, learn the names of all those buttons and switches, and the purpose they serve. even if you don't understand all of it right away, at least you will have a basic understanding of your camera's capabilities.

Are you done reading the manual yet? Congratulations! You've already done more than most new camera owners!

Shoot Something...Heck, Shoot Everything!

Once you have a basic understanding of how your camera functions, get out there and start shooting some photos. One of the best things about digital photography is that "film" is (nearly) FREE, so it costs almost nothing to practice. When I started taking photography classes at Stephen Decatur High School thanks (Mr. Sterner), photography was kind of expensive to learn. Every time I fired off a frame of film it cost me money. Digital is different. Fill up a memory card? Reformat it, and start over again!

Visit Libraries and Bookstores

Your local library is a great resource for finding books on lots of topics related to photography. You can find instructional books, as well as books of the works of famous photographers you might admire. If you prefer to own your books head on over to your local Barnes and Noble, or jump on Amazon to find photography books that you might be interested in. The important thing here is to read a lot of stuff about photography!

Get Out of Auto Mode

Don't get me wrong, there are times when it's perfectly acceptable to let the camera do the work of choosing the ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed for you. But once you've mastered the basics, it's time to turn that large dial on the top of your camera to something other than AUTO. You're not going to break anything on your camera by playing with all those dials, so go ahead and fiddle to your hearts content.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Is there a particular photographer whose work you admire? Like a photo you've seen in a book or magazine. Try to emulate that style as you learn. Copying off the work of the masters, is a great way to learn. When you can see how other photographers think, you will slowly develop your own style of photography.

Get Involved Locally

Join a local camera club, or take a class at your local Art League. There are plenty of others in you community who share your love of photography. By teaming up with them you support one another, and encourage each other's artistic growth.

The Internet and Social Media

Arguably, the internet and social media could be a the top of this list, but it's such a vast place that it can be overwhelming if you're just starting out. My favorite website for learning photography basics has to be Digital Photography School. They are constantly updating their content, and have post on a wide variety of topics, aimed at both the beginner and advanced photographers.

As far as social media goes, Facebook is a great place to start, but as far as photography-related postings I highly recommend using Google+. you can sort your "Circles" by interest, and there are so many fantastic photographers, who actively participate in discussions, and are always willing to lend helpful suggestions or critiques. Thomas Hawk is really famous on G+ (add him right away), and he has curated "circles" of some of the best photographers the G+ has to offer. Here's a circle to get you started: 2,500 Kick-Ass Photographers on G+.

Don't forget about the other top social networks: Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram

Don't forget to follow some blogs too. Cam Miller was my high school English teacher, and now she spends her time taking great photos of here daily travels. Very inspirational, and highly motivational.

Best Wishes on Your Journey

I hope that you've found this post to be helpful as you begin your journey into the fantastic, and highly-addictive world of digital photography. Please join me on the social networks listed above, so we can support and encourage one another.

Feel free to add your comments, as well as any suggestions for useful links and resources that you may have found.

See you soon...



Jerry Kiesewetter
Cam Miller(non-registered)
Be sure to check out the great course offerings at Wor Wic Community College (or your local community college) in the Continuing Education department. You'll make new friends, have fun, and take better photos!
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