Learning to Use a DSLR

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Is it okay to say that I have a bit of a love affair going on with my camera?  Sorry husband, but it’s true!  And because of this, I want to shout it from the rooftops and share everything I’ve learned over the past few years with you guys.  Because if you can learn from any of my mistakes to make your journey to DSLR bliss a little easier, that would make me oh so happy!

Ever wonder what to do after you buy a camera? Get on the road to photography bliss with these five tips on how to get started learning to use a DSLR.

Now that you bought your first camera I know you’re anxious to get started! An SLR is such a fun tool to use, but there are a lot of little things to master on it to achieve those beautiful finished photos.  So let’s get into my five recommendations for learning your DSLR!

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Get Familiar with your new toy

When picking up my camera at Best Buy the employee behind the counter let us in on a little tip: you can download your camera’s manual on your cell phone!  That piece of advice was gold to me.  As soon as we got in the car to go home I downloaded the manual and started to read it.  It was great when I was out and needed to look up settings for specific pictures or just wanted to read up on everything my camera offered.

Speaking of everything your camera offers….

Don’t be intimidated

Ever wonder what to do after you buy a camera? Get on the road to photography bliss with these five tips on how to get started learning to use a DSLR.
It took a few tries but I finally got the lighting, staging and camera settings right for this picture! You’re not always going to get it right the first time, and that’s okay. Just don’t get frustrated when things don’t go your way.

Yes, SLR’s have a ton of buttons and options, and if this is your first SLR all of it can be quite intimidating. Taking your time to learn everything your camera offers will allow you to create the pictures you want! My absolute favorite book on photography is Understanding Exposure, because it goes in depth and really teaches you how to use your new camera. I reference my book all the time! The other great thing about it, it doesn’t matter if you’re using a Canon or Nikon, this book will be great for any camera user!

How to Post Process Your Photos

I actually wrote a little bit about this last week, but it is definitely worth mentioning again! Photos straight out of your SLR look exactly like photos that you would take with a point and shoot camera. The difference between a point and shoot and an SLR is that the SLR contains more information for post processing. If you’re shooting in RAW, that means you can drastically alter the photo to get the desired look that you want when using your photo editing software.

I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to edit my photos, and while I’m learning both programs I am still able to achieve the finished result I want.  There are a ton of tutorials online to check out if learning these programs are something you’re looking into but you can also read this book, The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 Book, which I love and highly recommend!

Practice, Practice, PRACTICE!

Ever wonder what to do after you buy a camera? Get on the road to photography bliss with these five tips on how to get started learning to use a DSLR.
Two things I’m bad at: staging and finding the best light in the house. But if I don’t practice I can never get better, right?

Did I mention that you need to practice?  Once you’ve bought your camera and read the manual and/or photography books it’s time to get out there and use your camera!  You will never get better or familiar with your camera if you don’t pick it up and use it whenever you can.  Chris used to joke that, for the first few months I owned it, my camera was an extension of my right hand.  And it was!  I carried that thing everywhere; walks around the neighborhood, to my sister’s, around the house, etc.  Since then I’ve let up on how often I take it with me but I do make sure that I pick it up a few times a week just to practice with certain lenses and refresh my skills!

Find a photography group to join

Whether you’re doing this for fun or are looking to make it into a career, there is absolutely no harm in finding a group of like-minded people.  That will only make you better!  I’m a part of a few groups on Facebook and they are full of people who are willing to help you and give you advice on how to get the photos you want!  Here are a few of my favorite groups:

I learned the hard way that there are always going to be people that are mean and hurtful about your photos, but these three groups are relatively positive and I’ve never had a bad experience!  And, I’ve learned a lot from them.

No matter what you do with your camera, just remember to have fun with it.  Whether you’re trying to start a business or are just trying to take better photos of your children, photography should be an enjoyable ride.  Don’t take yourself too seriously and don’t beat yourself up if you are having trouble getting a certain kind of photo to come out right.  Ask questions, get involved in photography groups, and practice.  By doing all of those things not only will you get better, but you’ll also build a community.  And you really can’t go wrong when you’re surrounded by people who want to help you succeed!

And to learn even more about all the things you can achieve with your cameras, check out these posts!

Learn how to break up with your camera's auto mode and gain the confidence and understanding to shoot solely in manual mode with this four week course!

Break up with Auto

Using manual mode on your camera can be scary if you aren't ready to get out of auto. Find out if you're ready to shoot in manual with these 5 facts today!

5 Reasons to Shoot in Manual

 Understanding Aperture and its importance in photography

Understanding Aperture

How to Freeze & Blur Motion with Shutter Speed

How to Freeze & Blur Motion with Shutter Speed



  1. Great tips! I feel like a failure actually, I bought my DSLR years ago and last year I took a photography class to learn to use it better, I learned a lot….but now I’m back to automatic/ “P” mode! I even learned to shoot in raw and how to use lightroom to make my pictures epic but I lost it all, I’ll have to take your advice & download the manual + look at your other photography posts. I may in love with your blog, ps, just sayin’.

    1. Oh my gosh Sam, I’ve had my camera for about two years now (I think) and I continually go back and forth on what I’ve learned and been able to retain and what I need to relearn. It’s hard because there is just so much information and if you don’t keep up with it then it’s hard to hang on to it all. Don’t feel like a failure! I think a lot of us have been there. I love having you here, and if you want to relearn some photography stuff write me and we can do it together! I need a refresher.

      1. I would absolutely love that! I feel like the main problem for me is exposure. It bums me out because I love a lot of the projects I’ve made but sometimes the pictures do not reflect their beauty at all. If we do decide to relearn photography & our cameras together, I’ll have to go back and fix up those older posts!

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