It has been a while since my first 2 posts on this topic, but better late than never. A DSLR is a powerful tool no doubt, but it can seem intimidating at first with its gamut of controls. The OEMs have tried to ease the learning curve for first time DSLR users by providing a bunch of automatic modes just as in Point & Shoot cameras. These modes make for a good starting point for starting your photography journey and get you acclimatized to the controls of your new camera. Today’s DSLRs give pretty good results in typical scenes that you want to shoot. However, there will be situations where the automatic modes will fail to give you the desired results. These are the times for which you need to prepare yourself, and some basic understanding of the way your camera works and photography is going to prove very helpful. To unlock the true potential of your DSLR you will of course have to switch to the semi-automatic and manual modes eventually. The first thing you need to do is master the basics of not just your camera, but also photography in general. There are a wealth of resources online and tons of books on the topic, and I will try to guide you to some of the ones that I found useful.
A couple of key concepts to understand:
- The exposure triangle that relates the 3 key parameters – aperture, shutter speed and ISO – is one of the key concepts behind image making. Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Exposure is the best book in this regard and explains the key concepts in a very easy to understand manner with lots of examples.
- Metering modes and learning to read your cameras exposure meter (particularly important when using the advanced controls).
Now that you have understood a couple of basic concepts, don’t forget that every camera comes with this wonderful free book that contains a wealth of information about the controls and how to use them. Not many people end up reading it though as it is not presented in the most attractive of formats. Yes, I’m talking about the manual that came with your camera and it can actually answer a lot of questions that you have initially. In most cases, there should also be an electronic version of the manual and you could do worse than to copy it to your smartphone and\or tablet to have a ready reference with you. In case you are looking for a more attractive and easier to read package, there is also a series called From Snapshots to Great Shots for most of the recent models, and you can get hold of the version for your camera. It also goes without saying that practice is the best teacher, and the digital medium lends itself naturally to the trial and error technique of shooting.
This information should help you get started with your shiny new DSLR. Also, keep in mind that just because you are trying to master the basics does not mean that you should not check out the advanced modes and controls. So go ahead and explore your camera, and I will try to whip up a few posts (hopefully quicker than this post) on how to get better results.