Advice for First Time DSLR Owners - What's Yours?

Advice for First Time DSLR Owners – What’s Yours?


A friend of mine was just given a second hand Digital SLR (a Canon EOS 5D complete with pretty basic kit lens) and asked me for advice on how to get the most out of it as its his first DSLR experience.

I thought that the question would make a good reader discussion – what would you advise him?

You can give him some tips on what other gear would help him most (lenses, flash, filters….etc) AND/OR some basic tips on using a DSLR for the first time.

Hopefully your answers will make a useful resource for those of our readers also getting a DSLR for the very first time.

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • Clickblade February 24, 2012 11:48 pm

    Know your Camera. Get out there and shoot. I go out 3 or 4 times a week and take only one lens with me and learn to get the best out of it. Then the next time I take a different lens, You soon learn how to compose and get the beat shots.

  • Arvind February 21, 2011 09:51 pm

    Wow... lots of views and let me add how am learning it and is working really fine !

    1. Understand what is photograpgy first . For this read a lot, do it on DPS, it works ! Start with programmed modes 1st.
    2. After knowing the theory, know your camera functions, like the back of your hand. ( By now you would have stopped shooting in pre programmed modes )
    3. Start shooting ann continue shooting through your life and learn....

  • John Jessup February 21, 2011 05:06 pm

    Technically, get onto P, A , S M modes and Raw without wasting any more time. Aperture or Adobe Lightroom at same time.
    Creatively, just go and shoot photos initially in dawn/dusk light. Develop a feel of what subject matter works and what to avoid by shooting a whole bunch of stuff.
    Try to get an appreciation of color, art and style by visiting art galleries and hanging out with artists.

  • Cathy Keele February 20, 2011 09:40 am

    This is basically what I did, (I had no training in photograhy), although I did it with a "bridge" camera first, then moved onto a DSLR;
    *use camera manual to get familiar with basic controls.
    *research (google,books) aperture, shutter speed, ISO
    *practice, research, practice, research, consult manual when needed, practice in MANUAL MODE.
    NB.Use Program modes/auto for any important photos, don't expect good results at first, but celebrate when you ace a method and brag to a good friend (DPS,flickr maybe)
    * now you know the basics of the exposure triangle, research Focus/Exposure modes and consult the manual, practice in different situations,using different modes.
    * When you are familiar with that, move on to White Blance.
    * Now you have basic control over the camera move into research about quality of light and composition.

    NOW YOU ARE HOOKED,( hopefully you have an understanding partner) you will continue on for the rest of your life researching and practicing things like Post Processing,Raw files, flash photography,night photography, your style of photography, business of photography , posing, relating to subjects/models etc. etc............ENJOY!

  • GJ September 2, 2010 07:03 am

    there are 201 comments and I went through all of them. believe it or not, I just found this article and guess what, I'm gonna get my first DSLR in about 2 days YAY!

    I have already downloaded a PDF version of the camera manual and read it like 5 times. I admit, that's kinda weird, reading a manual even without having the equipment but I'm really excited. I have also read at least 150 reviews about the camera. I've been reading a lot of articles about photography as well. I have followed beginners articles and up to page 27 in DPS so far. :D it almost sounds like I'm some kind of a freak lol.

    maybe I'm not "eligible" to give any advice regarding DSLRs. but there's something I'd like to add here. I've been using computers since I was 5. FOR HEAVENS SAKE, no electronic company will add a "fancy-flashing-red-self-destruct-button" on any of their products. that only happens in movies, where the hero comes in before it blows up and save the day. so, don't be afraid to push the buttons. this is biggest misconception around when it comes to electronic items. you are not going to break it just by pressing a button.

  • Anshu August 16, 2010 06:20 pm

    1. Getting familiar with Manual - As everyone is saying be thorough with Manual
    2. Experimenting in different Modes - The best to start of is Aperture Mode, where camera varies shutter automatically. Know basics of Aperture like large aperture will give you shallow depth of field but fast shutter.
    3. If starting with a book - is the way you like to learn new things, I would strongly recommend Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. Do a workshop with your camera after every chapter sincerely.
    4. Lenses - People say lenses are more important than DSLR, but even if you have 2 you can compare and know the style of lenses you might want to buy or maybe not. It's a myraid world so you can stick with basics for beginners. I am cheating here, but I had to say a fixed 50mm prime lenses will enhance your work to match professional.
    5. Since SLR is also a camera - so you will have to work on composition, lighting etc like any other camera. Still to this - think before you click, recompose, know what is the message you want to give.
    6. More is not always good - that is the beauty of SLR, even with less snaps, less of random snaps you can achieve more. So take few but try to make every snap count.
    7. Shoot in night and day - since you will need to learn how your camera behaves in low light or bright light shoot in both possible scenarios. Night is especially good to learn about shutter speed, bokeh etc.
    8. Last but not the least - Practice focusing because focus can be tricky in SLR since there are so many options, here's where all the hard work you put to learn the manual comes in handy. A bad focus can be never rectified, so learn to focus on different space in same composition as a practice.

  • Edd June 28, 2010 03:22 pm

    Do not be afraid to put the camera completely on manual settings. It may take a while before you get the hang of it but once you do, you now have complete control over your equipment.

  • otoemlak June 18, 2010 08:25 pm

    take a picture, then change the settings and take another. the beauty of the digital format is that it records so much data on the shot. the only thing that you need to remember is what the lighting was like.

    Read more:

  • Dru Stefan Stone June 16, 2010 05:10 am

    My advice is READ the manual and practice as you read it!! It is a great resource of learning everything your camera is capable of accomplishing and then you can be creative!

  • Phil Meinke June 14, 2010 04:17 am

    Whether you are just starting, or are experienced to some degree, always take a shot on "auto" first - your subject may move away whilst you are setting up manually!

  • John Jessup June 14, 2010 12:48 am

    Now that I remember, trying to read the "English" manual was as useful as if I was reading the Russian version!

    Not just the "Jinglish" but it was a whole new technical vocabulary. Ken Rockwell's user guide saved me. Thom Hogan also does Nikon. I'm sure other guys do the same for Canon and the others. Ken just made it come alive and all the important terms eg White Balance, were very well explained. Furthermore, he explains the settings which he uses and tells you why.

  • Dennis June 13, 2010 05:56 pm

    As a professional photographer I have the following advice. This, of course, is probably not applicable to everyone, but its what would work for me.
    Everyone pretty much gives the same advice: "read the manual 100 times", "shoot 5 billion photos/day", "read this and that".
    You can easily get overwhelmed if you bombard yourself with to much info and to many goals.
    My tips are:
    - Learn the difference between the aperture, shutter speed and ISO and how changing them affects the final outcome (its not too much to read, really). Also learn how to change these on the camera (its not very difficult)
    - Look at what kind of photos you like, or what kind of styles, techniques you like and try to recreate them. After a while you can try and do this in your own way, not just 100% duplicating the image.
    - If you feel like it: read whatever articles, watch whatever videos you want about photography (read shorter books, i've found that the shorter they are= the less BS and equiptment-promotion is in it). Just make sure you do it cause you feel like it, and have the time. Otherwise doing the other two will be plenty enough.

  • fethi June 13, 2010 12:32 am

    a polarized filter (circular in these case)will give him an extra pleasure for controlling the reflection sitiuations.If there is more than one lens in the kit ,the economical way is : the largest lens-diameter determines the size of the polarizer with corresponding adapters for the smaller diameter size lenses.

  • Alex June 12, 2010 05:48 pm

    Think of the DSLR camera as a tool. It captures images. It can be used as a simple point-and-shoot that captures point-and-shoot quality pictures and, as you grow in skill and understanding, can be used as an artist's medium capturing stunning, compelling images that convey emotion or tell a story. The camera is a tool and you are the artist.

    Don't jump into the deep end of the pool if you don't know how to swim -- start off simply and grow into more complication. Taking on too much too soon leads to frustration and disappointment. Keep the excitement of your new DSLR and grow your passion for photography while you grow in skill.

    * Look at the work of others and emulate them while you are learning. You'll soon develop your own style.
    * Learn the basics of photography -- composition, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance, and lighting.
    * Learn your camera's controls and what they do.
    * Learn your camera's menu settings and what they do.
    * The temptation will be to shoot in JPG because you get more pics on a card -- don't do that! Shoot in RAW.
    * Check local camera stores and the local community college to find free or inexpensive photography classes.
    * Look for a local photography club and join it. They often provide lectures, classes, field trips, and give you a place to make friends who have a common interest who are willing to help guide you along your new journey.
    * Locate online photography forums and participate. Submit some of your photos for comments and critiques -- learn from them and don't allow yourself to become discouraged by them. Art, after all, is mostly subjective. In the end, if you love that photo then it is a good photo. But, do consider the comments objectively and see if there is anything you can use to learn and grow.

    While you're doing all of that, you're shooting photos. Digital photos cost nothing more than a little time and effort so shoot. Then, critically look at each photo and decide which you like and why; Which do you dislike and why? What would you do differently to make them better?

    At first, you'll use the simplest modes of the camera. Soon, you'll find you're not happy with the limitations of those modes and want more. You'll grow into using the other modes. Next, you'll be pushing the limits and capabilities of your camera. Now is when you look at adding accessories. Accessories are NOT a solution to a problem. Accessories are additional tools that expand your camera's capabilities. They are additional artist's tools used to accomplish your artistic vision. And, yes, family photos and vacation photos are artistic endeavors.

    Above all, have fun and enjoy photography.

  • Jack June 12, 2010 04:29 pm

    The first thing I would tell him is to read the book several times, so many people don't read the book so just end up stuck on auto mode. Cheers Jack.

  • ComradePie June 12, 2010 12:15 pm

    It's been said a hundred times, but just enjoy yourself! You are taking a big step up from the PNS world, and there is a LOT to learn.

    Take notes, when possible (What I need to do more of). A large number of your first shots won't pass muster, but they are still worth their weight in class 6 SDHC cards if you can learn from them.

    Post your pics for critique. This is important, but you have to remember not to take criticism to heart. Take it and use it, but don't get offended!

    Do it for yourself! This is a hobby (until you start making money); find a subject you enjoy, even if it's one that others find mundane.

    And finally (and again) HAVE FUN! You aren't making money of your photos just yet, so go at your own pace, learn from your mistakes, and stay interested in photography.

  • red June 12, 2010 08:11 am

    Don't be overcritical and just have fun. You are you and not someone else. Play with your camera and equipment until you learn what you like. You will keep going if you have fun, if you make it work you won't.

  • Pichead June 12, 2010 06:31 am

    Constantly look at other people's images online, and let them inspire you to go out and try shots for yourself. The more photos you view, the better your photos will be...

  • Mandy Buff June 12, 2010 05:16 am

    Get familiar with the camera and lens before you buy anything else. Learn everything you can about it and take lots of pictures. When you are ready do than do research on other gear.

  • Cathy June 12, 2010 03:50 am

    This very same thing happened to me. My Dad gave me a Leica Digilux 1 complete with the instruction book and a camera bag. All I ever did was take photos in automatic mode. Never understood why there was a blown out piece of the photo or how to change anything on the camera to get nice photos until a friend of mine started taking a photography class. WOW! I can set apeture and use the shutter speeds now. What a difference and a fun trying new things. I read about how to take photos and my friend explains things to me about the different modes. Take a class--learn how cool taking pictures really is. Get different perspectives--it's a blast!

  • Diana Eftaiha June 11, 2010 05:37 pm

    well my advice - as stupid as it may seem- is to read the cams manual. you cant imagine how much you can learn about the ins and outs of your cam reading its manual =)

  • Blackout56 June 11, 2010 04:59 pm

    I belive that if he fallows 2 simple steps, he can master that camera in no time (or any other camera).
    - learn how to use it, not neceseraly what every button does, but find out as much as you can about your camera

    - secondly, take a random photography book and read it while using your camera.

    I know i've done that, and it served me well

  • Martin Soler HDR Photos June 11, 2010 03:32 pm

    Here's my tip. I don't know if it is doable for most but here you guy. Don't buy your gear just because someone says it is good. Go and try it out yourself. Rent a Canon XXX or a Nikon XXX and try them out. Which one do you like most and which one do you feel has the best results.
    Same with the lens, rent the stuff before you buy it as you may be buying things that are currently totally useless (I did) and then not have money for things you want to do.
    I had a Canon and have a Nikon currently.
    Here are my Canon shots:
    Here are my Nikon shots:

  • Ravi K Nair June 11, 2010 02:53 pm

    My advice would be to get yourself a copy of Bryan Peterson's UNDERSTANDING EXPOSURE. It is a must book especially for DSLR users who shoot mostly in the manual mode. (And if you are using a DSLR, you might as well make full use of it by using the manual mode.) You can read and re-read this book a few times and each time you go through it, you will learn more. Of course, keep practising with the camera. Being digital, you don't have to worry about wasting film. So go ahead and keep experimenting. As for accessories, the first thing that you could do with is a tripod. Others, including a special flash, can come later.

    All the best.

  • nedy sitilac June 11, 2010 01:52 pm

    Try to explore the extents of your kit lens or first lens. You don't need to buy lots of lenses to be good. Get used to your camera first, know all you can do on that set-up and then that's the time to move on buying a different lens. Remember, what makes the photographer GOOD, is behind the camera.

  • ANNETTE LAMB June 11, 2010 12:01 pm


  • Emile June 11, 2010 11:34 am

    Do not give up . Shoot in manual. It will make sense gradually. wait it out. Pay attention.Love photography. It is not easy or simple it is an art. shoot in av, automatic . Composition....eventually lighting.. much much more have not even scraped the surface. I love Photography.

  • Clare June 11, 2010 11:14 am

    It really depends on how you learn but as a new lover of photography my advice would be to read read read as much as possible (just not the manual!). Try the books about the camera (the dummies series is good) as well as the general photography educational books.

    Then when you're familiar with lots of the terminology (aperture, f stops, shutter speed etc) I would suggest doing a course - it doesn't have to be expensive - but it really helps to pull everything you've learnt and heard about together.

    I've had SO many ah ha moments!

    And of course, there is no substitute for just getting out there and shooting but it can be very very frustrating if you're trying to use the manual settings and it just doesn't work.

  • john June 11, 2010 10:55 am

    check for helpful tips. Its worth checking...

  • bigbanghost June 11, 2010 10:01 am

    When I had my frist DSLR the first thing I did was buy a book about how
    to operate the camera. The manual is a good read but sometimes it
    can be very frustrating because it only tells you the things to use but not
    how and when to use them.
    Another good advice is to treat photography as a hobby. Be ready to shoot
    a nice landscape, unusual portraits and cute macros. Give it some time to
    learn the tricks by browsing via youtube and flickrr and applying what
    you have learned.
    Find a hobby buddy who is also an enthusiast and can do a photo walk
    and ever discuss on how you compose and shoot your photorgraphs. This
    manner you won't get bored nor helpless.
    Finally, post your pictures on flickr, muliply, dps and have it criticized. This
    manner you will learn from your colleagues. don't be offended on whatever critiicisms
    you're going to get.. It is for your growth as a photographer.

  • Guilherme Carvalho June 11, 2010 09:32 am

    Congratulations on a new camera, I got my first DSRL a few months ago and this is what i've discovered so far:

    First, protect your camera: It is a very cool and expensive equipment and you don't want it destroyed. Avoid taking it to the water until you are confident about being able to avoid humidity and sand on it. If you must, take measures to prevent direct contact between the camera and the environment.

    Lens: You will probably want to go with a standard zoom lens, something on the 18-55 range for the everyday use and another on the 55-200 range for those shots you can't take from close. If you can afford a few bucks go for the models that feature vibration reduction, not that it is necessary if you got a steady hand.

    It is a good idea to put a filter in front of the lens. Most cameras nowadays have no need for UV filters but I like to use one as protection for my set of lens. That is so because it is far easier to replace a cheap (mine was given as a gift, but it should cost a fraction of the lens) filter than a whole set of lens. Another good idea is to protect the screen of the camera with a rigid plastic cover, trust me, the bigger the screen, the more likely a bump will crack it. For the same reason get your hands on a carry case ASAP.

    The costly things aside, enjoy the use of your camera and use it without regrets, take severall pictures. Study them on a big screen and try to figure out your shooting stiles and the things you need to improve on. When you are confident that you can shoot on automatic without messing up start messing with speed shutter, it will affect the images in a easily noticeable way, then move on to changing apertures and finally both. Once you are done figuring out the basics, you can see what your camera can offer in their menus and start shooting in RAW format so you can work with the pictures on your camera or your computer.

    Be warned tough: If you are planning to get the picture of your family for cristmas (and be in it) either get someone really trained in your camera to take it or go for a tripod. I recently got one very basic at an inexpensive price and it is very useful, specially in photos with no flash during the night.

  • Alex June 11, 2010 09:14 am

    Advice from a fellow newbie:
    read some more, ask some more
    keep on shooting

  • JR Kenworthy June 11, 2010 08:58 am

    One of the first things I was told. Set down with your manual and shoot your feet as you are reading it. Then try it to make sure you understand what the results of the shot are. Then compare that shot to your last shot to see the difference between the 2 are.

  • Jim Cowhig June 11, 2010 08:46 am

    Jezzs what can I say the information above is mind boggling regarding this guys wonderful gift of a camera and such a great piece of kit, I would agree that RTM is a great idea and going out taking all available shots is super but all the lens stuff is very important, buy the best only when you think you need it please don't rush in as the good ones are expensive.
    Some have said put a 20 dollar UV filter on your 600 dollar lens!!!! sorry dude no sense in that just put the cap back on when finished.
    Regarding the camera??? What one should do is take a few shots in auto and record the settings and then try them in aperture and shutter then manual modes regardless wether Raw or Jpeg mode as you have to understand the basics of your machine (it is only a machine) .
    Then when you have gone through this procedure many times please then look and look again and when you have studied the photographs that you have taken look again AT THE LIGHT as this is the most important concept of a photograph (you can't take a photograph without it)
    I wish you the very best with your wonderful camera and always wether Film or Digital the fundamentals are the same.
    Good Luck

  • Myra June 11, 2010 08:23 am

    Wow! Lots of great advice above for your friend, Darren!

    1) I would suggest something a friend of mine suggested to me - in the beginning, keep it simple. Don't overload yourself with too much info at once. Get to know what stuff does on your camera via the manual, and then take photos as often as you can. I would even go so far as to say, take photos every day, if you can.

    2) Then, when you put your photos up on computer, study them, and see what you think you got right (looks good to you) or where you think went wrong (doesn't look very good to you). When taking the next lot of photos, play around with the settings to gain experience. You can easily delete any photos you don't like.

    3) Sign up with the Digital Photography School! I'm not sucking up to anyone with this statement. I have learned/am still learning SO much from this site and from the valuable input of everyone who frequents it. Thank you.

    4) Above, all, persevere! It may seem overwhelming at first, but it will get easier, and then you'll be well and truly hooked on digital photography, just like the rest of us!

  • Jeni-dawn June 11, 2010 07:58 am

    Many people mentioned reading the manual - and yes, do that. BUT...I purchased a book "for Dummies" for my camera model from Amazon, and it was whole lot more thorough with colored pictures and detail, than the manual alone. You really need to read both but carry the book "for Dummies" with you where ever you go and have a moment of free time.

    Also, your camera should go with you everywhere and like mentioned above shoot everyday and look like "one obsessed".

  • Dani June 11, 2010 07:34 am

    I also recently bought my first DSLR and so far I am having a blast! At the time I bought the camera I also bought a textbook that was highly recommended and I signed up for a 5-week class. I definitely recommend taking a class and if possible, not just a quick weekend crash course but rather one where you would have a chance to get assignments and have them critiqued by the class and the instructor. The other thing I would recommend is to browse as many photos as you can and even buy some books on creativity. The more you see, the better you will get (of course it's a given that you will be practicing all the time too). Also, it is good to know what is out there and what has been done by others so that you can find your own unique style and vision. That's just my two cents and as I said, so far owning a DSLR has been an amazing experience for me!

  • Iain Austin June 11, 2010 07:18 am

    Following on From Tom's comments above -
    7 of my best (favourite) 10 pictures were taken on a point and shoot camera.
    The same applies to my people pictures.

    However the opposite is the case when I look at the technically best photos.

    When I got married, over 30 years ago, 3 friends who were press photographers took the photos,
    The process for the formal pictures was, as usual, laboured, but after that it all changed.
    True they changed lenses, fiddled with apperture and exposure settings, but these actions were so natural to them that they did as little as I do with my point and shoot and in their hands the SLR was no more cumbersome than my little P & S.

    If you want to get the best out of your DSLR then all the advice given above makes sense, but be careful - it can lead you into being a technocratic photographer; and while other may praise the quality of your photos you may be left wondering where your best picture went.

  • Custom SLR June 11, 2010 07:12 am

    That's a nice first DSLR :)

    My advice would be to focus on the 3 fundamentals:
    1. Aperture
    2. Shutter Speed
    3. ISO

    To get started throw on a 50mm, set it to AV (aperture priority) and have some fun!

    Next step would be post processing (RAW) photos...

  • pcain June 11, 2010 06:33 am

    someone GAVE you a 5d? Seriously? ---Step 1---Go take pictures with it...don't make it complicated or it won't be fun anymore. Your interest will force you get better and more creative.

  • John Jessup June 11, 2010 06:26 am

    Shoot what you like and stay with it. If other people who know photography and art like it as well then that is a bonus. Shoot a lot. Take care to develop your own educated opinion of what is good and what is not good work.

    If you're going to do non-journalistic/sport outdoor stuff, forget shooting at any time other than dawn and dusk. Preferably when there is an interesting sky. If you're doing macro, then you can get lucky in partly overcast weather during the day. Shoot night stuff 20-30 minutes after sunset to get lovely dark blue sky background instead of dull black.

    If you're going to shoot "snaps" you've wasted your money on a DSLR.

    The technical aspects will develop automatically and are initially less important than content skill. But try to get onto "P" right from the start. Raw is also a good idea as soon as possible for post process control and quality.

    Get some good software quickly. Lightroom or Aperture offer an unique editing + storage capability and you won't need a pilot's license to do most of the important stuff.

  • Adam June 11, 2010 06:26 am

    Use program mode and say away from auto mode.

  • Alfred June 11, 2010 06:13 am

    Have fun with it.
    Read the manual.
    Get the best tripod you can afford.
    Find an experienced photographer and get him to teach you, or join a camera club.

    Join a forum and search out photographers whos work you admire, ask lots of questions.

  • arjun June 11, 2010 06:13 am

    i just got a 7D with a basic lens kit and have the following suggestions:

    1. get some basic accessories. depending on how you will use the camera, get a bag. your camera is an expensive piece of equipment that deserves at least this. i prefer a backpack with a slot for my camera. i bough a dedicated camera bag but realise it was not useful for a non-professional photographer. many available on the internet.

    2. after that, use it extensively: the best way to get the best out of your equipment and also learn how to take photos. i know friends with point and shoots who take better photos than I do with my 7D. practice practice practice and have fun doing it. and go back to blogs to read up on techniques and try to practice them over again. i love gadgets and tend to buy stuff that i would not even need -- not a good strategy. don't rush into it.

    3. with a 5D, its worth investing in a good walk around lens. would suggest either the EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM or the 24 - 105 l lens. you can build upon this later on when you are more comfortable.

    4. its always useful to understand post production beyond iphoto so invest in some good software -- eg. lightroom 3 is just out as is photoshop CS5.

    5. after this (subject to the size of your wallet), the world is your oyster. you can buy loads of really cool stuff for the camera. depending on your need, consider purchasing:
    -- a tripod and tripod head only if you will use it -- a Manfrotto 190CXPRO3 is a good example of one.
    -- additional lenses:
    prime 50 mm: EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM
    wide angle: EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II USM
    macro that canalso be used for portraits: EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM
    zoom: EF28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM

    Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E5A to use with the laptop or ipod/iphone
    RC-5 Wireless Remote
    Speedlite 580EX II - flash

  • Vasans June 11, 2010 06:00 am

    (1) Read 'Understanding Exposure' by Bryan Peterson.
    (2) Buy $85 50mm prime f1.8 (even used one for cheaper)
    (3) Try auto mode first, then Av, and Tv.
    (4) Take 10-20 pictures everyday at diffr lighting conditions and compare results.
    (5) No problem starting with Jpeg and switch to raw in a week or so after seeing the results
    (6) Enjoy and have fun with your newly found mate.

  • Draculro June 11, 2010 05:58 am

    Start with this site: .

    Learn to use a lot of time in Manual mode.
    Compare the photos on your computer and see the diference from JPG and RAW.
    Use good lense.

  • T. George June 11, 2010 05:33 am

    I was interested Photo Quality, in Price/ quality ratio, weight(lighter the better for me), ease of use and ablitity to upgrade lenses. I choose the Pentax K-x. Yes, a Pentax. I tried all the other competitive models, read all the reviews I could (discounred the 100% raves and the 100 & the 1oo% boo's) - I recently gave my daughter the Canon T1i so I got all her feedback to help my evaluation. After a few year of learning the basics of DSLR I'll probably switch to whatever the then latest technology has to offer ( might be, might not be a Pentax) - Hope all of the former point and shoot users take a look at the K-x. I dont think they will be dissapointed.

  • Fred June 11, 2010 05:06 am

    Correct email address to above

  • dave June 11, 2010 05:05 am

    After you have memorized the manual and taken a few thousand shots in all manner of location light and weather think about a new lens!When you think about that lens think about what single type you want the most,Wide angle,Tele, macro,.When you get that in your head and are certain that is the lens you just gotta have then look at the best possible lens that can be had for your camera do not look at the bargain lens in the line up or the aftermarket wonder.(You still get what you pay for )If you want a tack sharp photo you need a tack sharp lens and that takes good glass which all boils down to deep pockets.Buy the pro lens and it will give you a shot at pro results! Twenty after market sinkers just wont stand up to one good Ziess or G grade or whatever the top of line is.

  • Fred June 11, 2010 05:04 am

    Please read and then reread the users guide!! There are many thing to learn about the operation of this camera. Start simple using P or A mode and then get going using other modes including manual mode. Don't buy another lens until you are comfortable with the current lens and have figured out which lens fits your needs. I.E. landscape, portraits, sports shooting will dictate which lens or lenses you will need. Good Luck with the 5D it's one great camera. Most of all have fun.


  • S Brasure June 11, 2010 04:58 am

    1. As already the manual. For me, I've found that I have to sit down with the manual and the camera every now and then and just review or learn what I haven't completely absorbed. It isn't easy to remember where and how to access every setting and how it may help you.

    2. IMPORTANT .....avoid GAS (gear acquisition syndrome). Learn and use what you've purchased and don't try to use too much equipment at one time. Use one or two lenses and learn how to gYet the best out of them as well as their limitations. Don't read about other gear if it is going to make you gear crazy....use what you have and enjoy it!

    3. You have to learn about light and how to use shutter speed and aperture opening (f stop) AND how your lens functions in this area. When you've learned a lot, then you will have a better idea of why folks purchase "fast" lenses, and you'll have a better idea of what kind of lens upgrade will help you with the type of shooting you do.

    4. Shoot RAW and learn how to "develop" your pics with programs such as Photoshop Elements, Paint Shop Pro, or other software of your choice. And.,,,pick one program to use and work with it a lot, as each program has a learning curve. While I use Photoshop elements quite a bit, there's a lot to be said for Paint Shop Pro when you can buy it at a bargain price, and I really prefer the print menu features compared to PSE.

  • tim June 11, 2010 04:29 am

    1. Get the best glass you can possibly afford. Go even deeper than you think you can (or maybe should).

    2. Learn your gear. There are so many programmable options on a DSLR. Set up your camera for the way you shoot, and PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE SHOOTING. In the early stages, don't even wait for the best subject or composition, just learn to use the incredible technology you hold in your hands.

    3. Learn to focus. AF is an amazing tool, but there are skills, not just techniques, that will help produce the sharpest image.

    4. Enjoy the heck out of you new equipment.

  • Shayne Willis June 11, 2010 04:28 am

    What can I say that has not being said already? or what different words can I use to help you better understand. This is a big step for anyone for a first DSLR. This camera offers it all, read the manual, several times and when you still don't understand something, read it again. If you are still having issues I would be glad to help you out in the matter. Get a good $100 or more tripod, this is a heavy camera and needs superior support for the sharpest images. You cannot buy a cheap tripod and get blur free images at slow shutter speeds. Learn where your buttons are on the camera, so that you can shoot and adjust them without moving your eye from the viewfinder. "SHOOT RAW", this is one of the most important things you will ever do, don't rely on JPG. You cannot do much with it and with RAW you have total control over everything. Dump your software that came with the camera and get something from Adobe, be it Elements or a full version of Photoshop download something on line to help you. Again I would be happy to assist you with anything and everything that I can, message me @ Good luck with your new camera and take it slow, they can be overwhelming.

  • Natalie Clarke June 11, 2010 04:24 am

    Make photography buddies and go out on fun days shooting with them. There are loads of photography groups on and to choose from. My group - meets at least 2 or 3 times a month to share knowledge and experiment with settings. Enjoy the process!

  • Tom June 11, 2010 04:22 am

    A few members of our camera club have started using the smaller all-in-one digital cameras (like the FUJI HS10) with their permanently attached 24x or 30x zoom lens. The results are impressive. Their ease of use is great.

    No, they may not be able to meet the specifications of big name dSLR's, but for general use producing digital images for competitions and competition prints they are indistinguishable from those bigger systems.

    So my advise is don't buy a dSLR. Save the big bucks and try one of the all-in-one cameras. If later you develop a need for the advanced features of a dSLR you will know more about what you need.

    I personally have a lot invested in a Canon system, but I am considering selling off some of the system for one of the higher end all-in-one cameras.

  • TexasTammy June 11, 2010 04:20 am

    Just like everyone else on here... 4 words of advice - Learn to shoot RAW! If you are not going to learn to shoot on the manual settings, save your money! Buy a really nice point and shoot for 1/2 the cost and put it on automatic! That's it.
    How do you learn to shoot raw? Shoot and play everything... read books, the internet is a huge resource for tutorials! Take a class with a pro photographer. If there's something I can't figure out on my camera, photographers always say - well - figure it out! learn your equipment in and out. read, read, read, utube tutorials and shoot/play!

    Again, if you're not going to learn the manual settings, save your money - don't go for the big boy cameras! :)

  • Omar June 11, 2010 04:13 am

    I suggest that you read "Understanding Exposure" It is very useful. You will probably understand everything about digital photography when you read this.

    Good luck :)

  • boyok June 11, 2010 03:54 am

    'play & sleep' with your dslr...and of course don't forget the user manual. know her well. try manual mode before you using AV, TV or P.

  • Wayne Oehlerking June 11, 2010 03:53 am

    If you find you really like taking pictures and you would like to pursue photography further.
    Be prepared to spend a lot of money.
    There is a lot of really nice stuff out there and It becomes addictive to have th latest and greatest.
    However everything has a price and believe it from a fellow addict, it will take its toll on your bank account.
    But its healthier than Drugs.

  • David June 11, 2010 03:25 am

    1.I actually started researching my Nikon D 80 just as soon as it was on the market , and several months before the wife finally caved in to my incesant whining and bought "the damned thing" .
    2.I was lucky that I had a friend who had bought the D80 several months before , so I could practise a bit to make finally sure I wanted about the model I wanted .
    3.Dump supplied software !! - unless it is Adobe Photoshop Elements - who really wants a 60 day honeymoon, followed by a six year migrane - or buy your software ahead of time ( or download it ) .
    4.Even though I cut my photgraphic teeth on a Nikon FM2 n , I still prefer to use Auto (green ) mode on the D80 (for speed of use) - alongside manual mode - for my more creative moments.
    5.Buddy up with a more experienced digital user / friend
    6.Buy a UV filter with the camera - dont wait for the first lense scratch !!
    7.Buy pair batteriies for the camera and flash , when you buy the camera
    8.Check insurance/warranty options
    9.Get a decent strap (Op - tech or similar ) - dump the one provided
    10 .Get a decent bag - one of mine has been protecting my cameras for 10 years now

  • negativefeeling June 11, 2010 03:24 am

    I was so fearful of having a dsrl cam, so the first thing i did, was learning the basics in photography. The second thing I did was reading the manual thoroughly once and once again. And then ask a friend to teach me how to. The last thing was to keep a diary where i write on what things I experimented, what I learnt and what (not) to do in certain cases.

    My advice is:

    Read your manual, learn the basics. Don't use presettings and automatic, you get enough of them in point-and-shoot (though stimes are useful when you're in a hurry). Get your photographer friend to ask them to make some issues clear. Try a lot of shooting. Write a diary to keep track on your evolution. Investigate by reading blogs, tutorials. Get inspired and try a lot of shooting. Keep writing your photo-diary. And enjoy your camera, make it your dear friend or your new point of view.

  • Andy Merrett June 11, 2010 03:23 am


    "when was the last time, or any time for that matter, that you looked at a photo and said “that would have been a better photo or had more impact if only it was shot in RAW vs. that would have been a better photo or had more impact if it had a better composition or, exposure, or subject?”

    I've not said that, but I know I've shot stuff in JPG with incorrect settings (yes, my fault) and found it next to impossible to rectify it acceptably, where as in RAW it would probably have been a couple of sliders to do it. (BTW I'm not sure why you put 'exposure' in your second question, as that's one of the advantages of shooting in RAW!)

    This is partly why I suggested anyone serious about this go on a course. You will get the lowdown on RAW and JPG and actually work with the two formats (assuming you do a course that includes post-processing, which you should).

    I would actually say that if a beginner can grasp the *concept* of RAW, it's almost a better choice to begin with. Yes, not for everyone, and yes JPG has got a lot better, but actually it's still a compressed format and does reduce your creative possibilities IF you want the highest quality prints once you're done tweaking. It also helps you to salvage photos that might otherwise be loss (think "great composition, forgot to check the white balance", for example. I KNOW you should get it right in the first place, or at least check in camera, but we've all done it, and possibly more so as beginners.

    Anyway, the JPG vs RAW argument is almost as painful as Mac vs PC. :)

  • Caryn June 11, 2010 03:22 am

    Even with all the great advice above, don't be afraid to just pick it up and shoot, learning along the way. And find a good shooting buddy whose work you enjoy. Watch them, learn from the way they see, and then learn the mechanics of it all. Above all - HAVE FUN!

  • Hagen June 11, 2010 03:21 am

    Congratulations first of all.

    My suggestions:
    1. take a course or local workshop.
    2. invest in lenses (lenses last longer, can grow with you as you change bodies and retain their value)
    3. don't be afraid of it

  • kadralkhan June 11, 2010 03:20 am

    quite simply, play with it.

    take a picture, then change the settings and take another. the beauty of the digital format is that it records so much data on the shot. the only thing that you need to remember is what the lighting was like.

    Have fun playing....

  • Gus June 11, 2010 03:14 am

    I would say experiment a LOT, but most important keep a log of the settings and information when you take each shot so you can compare the results later and be able to reproduce them later

  • Phugger June 11, 2010 02:49 am

    Men in particular seem to gain self-worth from the gear they own.
    We justify our choices because they somehow reflect on us as a person.
    (this is closely related to the Tool gene which is located on the Y chromosome)

    Here is some general advice that I would offer to anyone considering a new camera:

    * Your perfect camera isn’t necessarily mine (there is no perfect camera)
    * Larger image sensors have less noise than smaller image sensors
    * Image sensors with lower pixel density have less noise than those with higher densities
    * Today’s best efforts still aren’t perfect
    * Today’s less than perfect options are better than yesterday’s
    * Lenses are more important than features
    * Your perfect lens isn’t necessarily mine (there is no perfect lens )
    * The bitter taste of poor quality lingers long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten
    * A longer zoom will always trump mega pixels
    * You almost always have to sacrifice something to gain in a different area
    * Best has almost no meaning – as soon as you buy one, they will come out with a better one.
    * Gadgets and features can never replace the photographer’s eye

    Most of all remember that they are just tools and the point is you improve by taking lots of pictures, not by becoming a fanboy……. (c8

  • Manish June 11, 2010 02:32 am

    1. Search out videos on Youtube or any other site to understand how to set your camera for different situations and lighting.
    2. Whenever you get time pickup the camera and head outside.
    3. Don't forget a small notepad to write down the settings for each Shot you take. This is very IMP as it will keep you on track when you will see these images on computer and understand how these settings helped you to get that image.
    4. Lastly review your work with the camera manual or site that you refer.

  • Stratman June 11, 2010 02:31 am

    I don't have anything to add further as there are plenty enough of comments and advice in the posts above. However, I'd want to give some pointers to potential first time dSLR owners BEFORE they commit to purchasing one.

    1. Look into the entire camera system and its accessories before deciding on a brand or format (e.g. APS-C or 4/3rds). Professionals and advanced amateurs will study the system while newbies tend to look at the dSLR body and its price. Once you've bought a particular brand and have accumulated a lot of lenses and accessories, you'll have to sell the entire gear to switch to another brand.

    2. Determine on how far you want to go with this photography hobby. It can be a very expensive affair if you're treating this as a hobby rather than a possible side income. You do not need a more expensive midrange dSLR model if you just want a camera that takes better quality images.

    3. Always place lenses as your priority instead of the dSLR body. The quality of lens will determine how sharp the images will be, all else being equal. If you're choosing Canon, start off with an EOS 1000D or 450D kit and save up towards a better lens, instead of spending money on the more expensive EOS 50D with an EF-S 18-55mm or EF-S 18-200mm kit lens.

    4. Prices of dSLRs continue to drop while lenses go up in price every year. High end lenses retain their second hand value better. DSLR bodies depreciate in value quickly.

    5. If you're on a budget, consider buying a gently used, preowned dSLR kit rather than a brand new one. If you decide a dSLR is not for you, you'll minimize your loss from the initial investment.

    Hope this helps those who are contemplating buying their first dSLR.

  • Jessica G June 11, 2010 02:28 am

    My advice:

    1) Learn the triangle - ISO, Shutter and Aperture. Goes a long way!

    2) Don't overwhelm yourself with all of the literature and tutorials out there. No matter how much you read and absorb the material, it doesn't compare to getting yourself out there and practicing.

    3) Go on Flickr and look at what other people are shooting and how they are shooting. In addition, read all of the critique comments - they help alot.

    4) Post all of the your worthy pictures on Flickr and come back to them one year later and compare your recent pictures to the old ones. You will see that the old ones might be different from the new pictures taken a year later, in other words, your photography will improve over the year.

  • Jeff June 11, 2010 02:26 am

    I would say the most important thing to learn is to learn about composition in your shots. The manual modes can help with optimizing your composition but you need to know what objects should and shouldn't be there in the first place. Auto mode is fine in many cases. I shoot my 1 and 4 year old mostly and I don't know what I would do without auto mode, miss a lot of shots I guess. Sure its great to also know all about how your camera works in manual mode but without good composition your photo still isn't any good.

    What has helped me the most. Take lots of photos and then REVIEW them. Delete or hide the bad ones. Use post production to improve the good ones. Only post the absolute best. No one wants to see the thousand photos you took, they want to see the 2 good ones.

    1. Work to make sure your subject is in sharp focus and not blurry.
    2. Work on Composition. Look at how good photos you like are composed. Read about tricks other photographers use for composition.
    3. Learn how to improve a photo with photoshop, lightroom, aperture, etc.

    On equipment:
    a good flash that you can bounce off walls. I bought a canon 580 ex 2 which works great for indoor low light shots.
    50mm 1.8 lens is a great beginner lens and its cheap.
    You don't need to really spend money on equipment until you have the basics down.

  • TimG June 11, 2010 02:18 am

    1. Yeap read the manual
    2. Actually try it on Auto (Yes I know everyone says don't do that)
    3. After you shot Auto, switch it to Aperture Priority while you're still shooting your subject
    4. Then switch it to Shutter Priority.
    5. Go back and compare you're the differences. You will need to be your own worst critic.
    6. Why go through all that, well no matter what you read being able to look at what you personally have done in each of those modes it won't "sink" in the same.
    7. As suggested take your camera everyone, shoot a lot. (My friends think its kind of creepy that I always have my camera.)
    8. Most of all remember this is supposed to be something you enjoy. Don't make it work, at least not yet.

  • Wayne Bretl June 11, 2010 02:09 am

    Make a list of the actions you want to perform (select metering mode, compensate exposure, switch manual/automatic focus) that require you to know what button to push or menu to find. The read the manual and practice doing those things. Come back a few days later and see if you remember, and if not read the manual again to refresh your memory.

    You need to do the same things with any brand of camera, but doing them is different with each - so learn yours, and you will get more comfortable and less frustrated as the knowledge gets built into your fingers.

  • Susan June 11, 2010 02:05 am

    I disagree with the first commenter. If you are a beginner chances are you won't have a clue what to do with a raw file. Shoot in JPEG until you understand what you are doing. Then you can switch over. What a bummer to have your camera set on raw and then upload your files and you wonder where your photo is and how you open it. But definitely get Scott Kelbys photography books and read them, and then take you camera setting off of auto. Also, pick one type of photography element whether it be bokeh, landscape, macro, whatever and focus on that and try to get really comfortable with it and then move on to the next one. That way you will feel more successful and not get so frustrated that you can't do anything. And TURN THE FLASH OFF!

  • Lewis June 11, 2010 02:00 am

    Put it in MANUAL and start shooting!

  • Hank Horowitz June 11, 2010 01:59 am

    Auto focus can be very tricky. Took a long time before I realized that I was getting out of focus pictures using autofocus because I didn't realize the lens would usually focus on the closest object. Had to use a P setting to choose exactly which focus point I wanted to use.

  • Chris June 11, 2010 01:54 am

    So there's lots of chatter on techique reading the manual and what not. So here's advice on the 5D itself.

    1) The sensor will eventually get dirty, invest in a artic brush (look it up) it's a quick easy solution to annoying sensor dust.

    2) you'll notice the camera's Autofocus is good when there's a lot of light but suffers in low light ( especially the non centre points ). If you forsee shooting in darkness buy a speedlite (420ex and up). You don't need it to flash, what I like is that it has a lamp on it that'll light up red and assist the camera's autofocus. It's very convienient in dark places.

    3) The LCD on it isn't the greatest. So don't judge photos on it unless it's something simple like motion blur.

    Oh and for shooting RAW or jpeg... Choose whatever fits your work flow, don't wanna edit slot than jpeg it, wanna learn photoediting then raw.

    And shooting auto is fine too as long as you are aware of what the camera is doing.

    1 last thing. Have Fun :)

  • Paul E. June 11, 2010 01:51 am

    Take notes as you read the manual.... make your own cheat sheets.... nothing beats organizing in your head how the menu system on the camera is organized....

  • Deborah June 11, 2010 01:35 am

    I would say to just get out there and take some pictures. So what if you use it on Auto - at first. It is still going to give far better results than most compacts. Get out there and photograph anything and everything. You will then want to push the boundaries of the Auto function and then develop skills. You will also see what looks good or not and I think sack the manual, the best way to learn is by doing!

  • Paul C June 10, 2010 09:36 pm

    I'd highly recommend buying a basic digital photography book and a book about the operation of his camera if the manual didn't come with it. Without those two things, your friend might get frustrated and quite before they have a chance to experience the joy of photography.

  • Raul Fernandez June 10, 2010 02:47 am

    "It depends" is what most pro photographers (or even enthusiasts would say).

    For me, a pro (or semi-pro, depending on who you ask), I am in the market for pro-lenses mainly. Why? Camera bodies come and go, but lenses are here to stay. Even a 30 year old lens in good condition, can be worth 98% of original price, if not more (depending on how rare it is), but camera bodies depreciate after a year of use.

    So my advice, is if you're going to be serious about photography, spend the big money on pro-level lenses, and don't worry so much about the camera body.

    As for the rig you have now, a tripod is a must, large memory card is a must, and external flash is a must. You are only limited by your knowledge to a degree, and in a way, by your equipment, so make the best of what you have. I started with a Nikon D70 and a 28-90mm lens, and I took some great shots with it, despite it being a cheap kit lens and an old camera, by today's camera standards.

    Other than that, read your manual at least three times (sometimes I still refer to it, even though I've had my D200 for four years), but do a section at a time, and practice.

    Learn to trust and read your light meter.

    Take the leap and shoot in manual, and learn why the images you're taking come out all wrong, and when they come out right, why that happened.

    Learn about depth of field, and aperture.

    And study study study!

  • Jim June 10, 2010 12:44 am

    Regardless of how much you think you know about taking pictures, take a basic class on using a DSLR camera. While the concepts are the same as using with a film camera.....BUT...there is so much you can do with a DSLR that you'll need a walk through with someone who can TEACH photography. Best $40 I spent.

  • Robert June 10, 2010 12:31 am

    Gee... I forgot to mention, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using auto mode. It's not a sin and won't embarrass you with other photographers. In fact it's a good idea to start out in auto to get a feel for your camera in the field. It seems a lot of amateur photographers feel that unless they are shooting in some manual mode the photos taken are somehow going to sell them short as photographers. Then there's the RAW vs jpg debate. As someone who has been a photography enthusiast for 30+ years I can tell you there is nothing wrong with taking jpg images in full auto on your EOS 5D. The images will still impress you and pretty much everyone else. Rather than get caught up in this, I recommend you take forums like this with a grain of salt and try every mode to experience and decide for yourself.

    Congrats on getting a DSLR camera, enjoy!

  • Robert June 9, 2010 11:08 pm

    First off, that's a great camera you've got. It will give you lots of great photos, have fun with it. I've noticed that a lot of people are suggesting you read your manual. I personally find Canon manuals confusing and incomplete; a great alternative are the Canon EOS 5D magic lantern guide and the Canon EOS 5D digital field guide. I find that both these premium guides explain your camera much better and are a more interesting read. If reading is not your thing try the Canon EOS 5D DVD JumpStart guide. I especially enjoy DVD guides because I can sit in front of the TV with my camera and get a hands on education.

    Once you've got the basics on camera use it's a good idea to learn some of the technical stuff about photography. If nothing else, it is Important to learn about and understand exposure (ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed). There is a lot of other stuff you'll learn as you go but learning how to get good exposure is critical to good photos.

    Once you understand how to operate your camera and how to achieve good exposure it important to go out and start shooting. You'll find that as you shoot you'll have questions and as you answer those questions you'll become a better photographer.

    Finding answers as you go can be frustrating at times but stick with it. I have found the local library, internet user forums, and photography clubs very helpful. Also, if you can hook up with an experienced photographer it's amazing what you can learn.

    Good luck and have fun!

  • Jim June 9, 2010 08:48 pm


  • John June 9, 2010 07:54 pm

    I think I'm going to go against the grain here but:

    -read the manual enough to know the basic functions of your camera (auto, programmed auto, aperture priority, etc)
    -learn some core terminology (aperture, stop, focal length)
    -don't be afraid to shoot on auto to see what settings the camera uses. This can give you an idea of what sort of settings you should use to get the most from certain situations (although obviously there is room for improvisation)
    -take photos of everything. The best way to learn is to do!

    -have fun, if you don't 'get' the manual head to forums, and ask questions!

  • Michele June 9, 2010 04:56 pm

    Get hold of the manual and try to learn as much about what the different settings and dials are on the camera. Read up about exposure and how to work with it. The just take your camera and get out there and shoot. I always say you are the one that has to look at the photos so if you like it thats all that matters,

  • patrick June 9, 2010 04:04 pm

    1. keep on shooting and have fun.
    2. photography is subjective what looks good to you may not look good to others but do not be discouraged.
    3. do not worry too much about your gear its the photographer not the camera who takes a picture.

  • Jonathan June 9, 2010 11:53 am

    1- Learn about light and exposure, then learn it again and again and again, well you catch my drift.

    2 - Take millions of photos, sure initially most of them will be p0o but the ratio of keepers will get better and better.

    3- Eat a banana, you've earned it.

  • DawnielleC June 9, 2010 11:33 am

    I would agree with everyone who has said to take it off of Automatic. Auto Focus is fine when learning the other settings but strive to take it off of that if you feel comfortable. Oh and take the camera with you everywhere so you are thinking to use it.

  • Juan June 9, 2010 11:03 am

    1. Read the manual in its entirety and practice shooting as you do, specially at the semi-automatic and manual modes.
    2. Read the rules of photograpy to get directions here at DPS.
    3. Start practicing all kinds of photography under all kids of contidions: landscapes, family meetings, birthdays, etc., and force yourself to remember what the main pieces of advice are for shooting under the said contexts.
    4. Try to break the rules and make your own into the realms of photography, i.e. experiment.
    5. Be very patient for at least your first 10,000 shots, as results are usually not what you expected and you get to know the photographer and not the camera makes the shot.
    6. Try to practice every day, or else the most you can, so that you really aim to mastering your camera and your photography.
    7. Enjoy it!! I mean enjoy taking pictures of anything from signs on the ground to weddings or other important events.

    As for equipment, don't bother at the beginning. But with time and budget get at least a good prime such as a 50mm or 85mm for composing with movements instead of with zooms and a capable flashgun so that you can experiment with light.

    I guess that's it.

  • Steve June 9, 2010 10:49 am

    I grabbed my first dslr 2 years ago and made a vow to be completely off auto within a month. This allowed me to still have fun getting used to the feel of the camera and zooming lenses, but made sure I didn't get into the rut. A year later I made the vow to switch to full manual. I just don't get how people buy expensive gear and use them like a $100 camera - seems such a waste!

  • John June 9, 2010 09:25 am

    For the first time DSLR person , I would suggest looking up the manual and getting to know his camera & features , get out and shoot at every setting to see what it is and how it effects the outcome of your photos, most of all enjoy enjoy enjoy! Take care!

  • Renee Miranda June 9, 2010 08:54 am

    I have to say here that setting your camera on Auto for a short period of time is not a big offense. I didn't even comprehend what aperture, shutter speed, or white balance meant. It took me a few months to understand. I needed to put the camera on Auto until I knew more. I just needed to read the Magic Lantern Series book on my camera just so I could get started. Just learning what your camera does it a huge step forward. It will begin to take shape in your mind how everything fits together. We can't learn anything if we don't know or understand the basics.

  • Cornell June 9, 2010 08:45 am

    1. Do not use auto. (I personally don't believe that DSLRs above entry level should have this.)
    2. Read the manual for the basics.
    3. Take some photos, using the different settings in the Creative Zone.
    4. After you become comfortable with this, read about some of the things that are not basic, such as using white balance settings other than automatic white balance and moving the focusing point.
    5. Take more photos.
    6. If you change a setting from what you use as a default, such as white balance, move it back to what is your default setting when finished. Don't rely on your memory, the next time that you start taking photos.
    7. Take more photos. .
    8. Don't take on too much at one time. Learn to use the camera step by step, at a pace with which you feel comfortable. This should be fun, not a chore.
    9. Take more photos.
    10. I would suggest obtaining a copy of the Magic Lantern series book for the Canon 5D. From my experience, I have found the Magic Lantern books more helpful that the manuals that Canon furnishes.
    11. Take more photos.

  • Paulo Sacramento June 9, 2010 08:11 am

    Get prime lens.

  • AJ Sunder June 9, 2010 07:57 am

    First and foremost set a a low ISO setting (200) and switch to one of the semi automatic modes (Av) and stick with it no matter how bad the initial pictures turn out.

  • Jeff Colburn June 9, 2010 07:00 am

    I would suggest reading the latest post on my blog entitled "A Photo Tip" at It will tell you how to improve your photography when using a digital camera.

    Have Fun,

  • Joe June 9, 2010 05:38 am

    1. Skim the manual (learn the basics)
    2. Learn the main buttons and controls on your camera
    3. Take 1000 pictures in program mode (practice auto and manual focus, zoom levels, flash and no flash)
    4. Switch mode to Shutter Priority and play with different shutter speeds to:
    - freeze moving objects outside in daylight
    - smooth the water in a waterfall outside in daylight
    5. Switch mode to Aperture Priority and play with different f-stops to:
    - go outside and shoot an object with background blurred-out
    - shoot same object with background in focus
    6. Switch mode to manual, do not use flash, go outside during night time and:
    - Set shutter speed to15 seconds or more
    - Set aperture to F11
    - See what happens when you set your ISO to a low value compared to higher values
    - Now try putting your camera on a tripod or place on a still object and do the same
    7. Don't do this all at once, take your time, if you enjoyed it then shoot some more, read some photo books recommended by DPS or other photo sites. If you didn't enjoy this, then get your snapshot camera back out :-)

  • mulad June 9, 2010 05:23 am

    I actually think there's value in automatic modes, and in shooting JPG, but I'm an amateur and don't have ambitions to transition into professional photography, and I've also got time and disk space restrictions at the moment. Be sure to have enough storage/backup space to handle the number of files you're generating, whether RAW or JPG (you might be able to get by with really good housekeeping skills, but that will only work for so long).

    My first point-and-shoot digital camera was restricted to ISO 100, and had a limited ability to handle exposure and white balance, but that was it. I found that the right lighting was critical with that camera, as it mostly only worked in sunlit scenes, and any backlit scene was hopeless. If you've gotten to using a DSLR without learning a bit about lighting, there will definitely be times when shooting in auto is a helpful learning tool. Using auto also helps you to understand how the camera "thinks" -- but definitely take the time to fiddle in the other more manual modes and learn how to balance aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and EV settings.

    I find that RAW photography adds a layer of effort that is not to my liking -- I prefer to spend time behind the viewfinder rather than at my computer afterward fiddling with knobs, but there are always times when its necessary no matter what output method you're using. The biggest thing I personally gain from shooting in RAW is better control over white balance, but I think much of the gain you'd get there can be approximated with proper use of white balance cards.

    As others have said, an f/1.8, f1.4, or faster lens is a very nice thing to have. I think I'd lean toward a 35mm lens if you've got a camera with a 1.6x crop factor, but the 5D would fit nicely with 50mm. I use 50mm with my 1.6x crop SLRs, and I often really wish for the wider view.

    You should usually have a UV filter on your lens just to reduce the chance of it getting scratched. However, these can be a bad source of internal reflections in nighttime scenes, so you should try to buy a good quality one with anti-reflective coating. Later you can get a circular polarizer for reducing glare and enhancing the sky in daytime scenes. Neutral density (ND) filters are also nice for darkening sunlit scenes enough to get better depth-of-field. Polarizers have the problem that they will rotate along with the lens or camera body, so it's helpful to have a lens with a fixed (non-rotating) filter attachment point (though polarizers will shift around a bit on their own anyway).

    And a new wiggle has come up recently with the advent of video. Today, as you purchase new lenses, be sure to consider image stabilization -- unstabe video is very frustrating to work with, though non-stabilized lenses can be helped with appropriate shoulder rigs or either commercial or DIY steadicam rigs. There's a balance there between how much money you want to spend at a given time, how much space you want take up, and how obnoxious-looking you want to be ;-)

  • Sascha Vogt June 9, 2010 05:14 am

    Download the PDF of the manual and print a copy for every toillet you frequently use. Place the copies there and after every longer stay try out what you learned.
    Start a belly-button project. Shot the same thing every day. Experiment with settings, lights, back- and foregrounds, souroundings, angles, distance and depth of field.
    Download every photography related audio podcast you can find and listen to them while driving - at least twice.
    There is a lot to watch on Youtube and other video-platforms, there are a lot of photography related blogs - use your RSS-Reader.
    Shot every day! If you dont have your 5D with you, shot with your mobile-phone. You make the pictures, not your camera.

  • Ed Hamlin June 9, 2010 05:07 am

    There seems to be a several common threads of advice. I’ll try to keep this as simple as possible and may be repeating in part what others have said. The important things are to 1.) Learn your camera 2.) Know the basics of photography (DLSR or Not it is a must!) 3.) Shoot a lot of images.

    1.) You should know your camera in thirty days. Learn every functional aspect of your camera. Read the manual, and search for reviews. You will find a lot of tips on the camera. When you read it do it! That is the quickest way to learn how to use it. If you are watching TV, play with the camera and see how each function works and affect the outcome of the image.

    2.) Basic photography is going to teach you how to manage light. You will learn how to get the most out of light by controlling aperture, shutter speed and film speed. (I think that camera makers made it to easy on photographers in that you can change ISO settings on the fly) Back in the film days when you dropped a roll of 100-asa film in the body, that is what you had to use, and if you changed the setting on the camera up or down it needed to be developed that way. You had to shoot the whole roll at one ASA/ISO so learn how to shoot that way. You will find better results after learning how to shoot in a limited setting.
    Also in learning how to control the light, you will find you have either a flat image or a dimensional image with lots of contrast. Almost forgot, learn exposure equivalencies, it will give you the ability to change an exposure up or down precisely.

    3.) Shoot everyday! Shoot three frames of an image, one that you think is exposed properly and the one over and one under for comparison. Take your camera everywhere you go when you leave home. I take one camera with me at all times, gas, grocery store, run an errand. You will find things to photograph in your daily travels. WATCH the traffic though! If you see something pull over and shoot the image. I shoot some street photography, not as much lately, but get use to asking people if you can take their picture. Find a simple release so if you want to use their image later you have the ability to do so, you never know. Start a 365 project or better yet to begin with start a 52 project where you submit a picture a week for review on a forum. Spend time reviewing your images. Compare similar images and look to see what made one look better that the other.

    4.) Learn how to use a good digital image manipulation program light Lightroom, Aperture, etc. there are quite a few available. I prefer Lightroom and Photoshop. However my objective is to get it right in the camera unless I see something that I know I can't do in the camera. Shoot in full color always! Convert an image to grayscale in the program, better contrast and exposure levels are the end result.

    Lastly if you decide to use the automatic setting for whatever reason, you are just using a very expensive point and shoot camera, so why carry around a big bulk point and shoot. Some have advised on not purchasing a really good lens until you have learned how to use the kit lens. I disagree! Here is why, you cannot learn what a lens can do completely unless you have a comparison. I would have to assume,(hate the word assume), that the focal length spans the 50mm range. Well you need to go get a 50mm f1.4 or f1.8 lens. They are not overly expensive and on a full frame camera use to be the standard lens sold in the film days, if it is on a DX camera then the focal length affect is around 70-75 mm so it is great all around lens to use and is very fast and you will like the results. Once you understand the differences, you will want to go out and get standard fast lenses. I would suggest three lenses for the bag, a 24-70mm f2.8, 50mm f1.4, and a 70-200mm f2.8. Anything beyond those lenses is going to be a specialty lens for you. Most import above all the advice above is to have fun!

  • Kyle Bailey June 9, 2010 05:03 am

    I recently wrote a post on about some lessons I've learned in the few months that I've been practicing the art of photography. Here's the link for those who want to read it.

    Great article. Awesome advice.

  • lemonboyz June 9, 2010 04:04 am


  • darren_c June 9, 2010 04:03 am

    Can we please stop telling beginners to always shoot RAW? I see this a lot whenever a question like this is asked.

    As more experience shooters we need to keep in mind that not all beginners will understand what "shoot in RAW" means. Telling them it's like a digital negative doesn't really help either. Let's say the beginner gets their new DSLR, they are told to shoot RAW, they find that setting and lock it in, go take a whole bunch of photos (family, friends, parties, vacation etc...) only to go back to their computer download the files and then realize that:

    1) they can't see them! Why? oh yeah, you need to have a special RAW converter program in order to see them. Not every beginner will have CS4/5 with Camera RAW or know about Lightroom or Aperture right away. (Dare I say that they may not even have any Adobe photo programs at all) Even though their camera may come with the manufacturers proprietary RAW software, they may not know how to use it to it's full capability. And in the case of a hand me down or buying used, they may not get any software with it.

    2) (if they do have a RAW program) they may notice that image looks flat and lifeless and they may not know what to do with it or how to process it and convert it into a jpeg or tiff and think that their camera sucks. They hear that "pros" shoot RAW and think that this is what allows pros to get amazing looking images (btw - I've seen some amazing jpegs from professionals).

    I remember when I was a beginner I was told that I HAVE to shoot in RAW, but I didn't know anything about it. I tried it with my Canon software, and I didn't get it. I tried with Camera Raw for PS Elements, and again, I didn't get it. I couldn't see the difference. I had to take the time to learn about RAW files and processing/output. I learned over time and began to gradually make the shift.

    RAW is a great format, but jepgs now are much higher quality than they used to be. I get some great jpegs now from my D300 (better than my older Canon), but I mainly shoot RAW now that I have learned how to get the most from RAW files through proper processing techniques, and I now have a standard RAW workflow that I use.

    The RAW vs. jpeg debate is still alive and well. I took a stab at RAW vs. jpeg topic for my blog recently ( and it was one of the more challenging pieces to write. I know the advantages, but it was hard to describe. So I ended up doing a comparison and advising to try it out and make a choice. There's nothing mysterious about RAW, I just think that we need to tell beginners to learn all they can about it before we tell them to ALWAYS shoot RAW without helping them understand why first.

    I'll leave with this question, and be really honest here, when was the last time, or any time for that matter, that you looked at a photo and said "that would have been a better photo or had more impact if only it was shot in RAW vs. that would have been a better photo or had more impact if it had a better composition or, exposure, or subject?"

    Okay rant time is over. Have a good one!



  • cmcacioppo June 9, 2010 03:36 am

    As a recent 'newbie' of a new DLSR camera (having used an old Nikon from the 80s) and returrned to the hobby, this is a new world. I dove in and learned digital photography, post processing THEN landed a Canon Rebel ESI (the p&s was very tired). Most of these tips are spot on and I still will use some of them in my education process.

    After nearly 6 months and 5000 shots things are startin to come together and 'feel right'.
    Joining a 'photowalk' group is one of the best suggestions I have endorse. There is help, encouragement and guidance from a range of pros AND amateurs like myself.

    My camera travels with me nearly everywhere and I am very lucky to have no lack of subject matter a lunch hour or short jaunt away.

    This website has been a great resource along with many of the books etc (camera specific, project driven books) for me.

    What to do with things like "AWB, AE, Tv, raw, EXIF, and MANUAL" are no longer strangers to me. "AUTO" is becoming a distant memory....

    cmcacioppo (charlie)

  • Deirdre June 9, 2010 02:34 am

    * I highly recommend buying an "enhanced" manual for your camera. Look your camera's name up in the books section of and you'll find a few. I used one by David Busch for my Nikon D40. The manual that comes with your camera is difficult to understand, especially if you are new to SLRs. The enhanced manuals explain how to use the different controls, but also WHY.

    * once you've learned that, learn about the exposure triangle. You can learn about that there, on DPS, but I highly recommend David Petersen's book, Understanding Exposure. The Guide to Digital Photography is another good one for beginners.

    * Learn how to read your histograms and exif information. Even if you start out by shooting using the auto settings, you can learn by seeing what exposure settings auto chose to use.

    * put off shooting in RAW and all the editing that comes with that; don't even THINK about words like "pro" until you've been shooting just for fun for at least a year; and unless you have specific needs, stick to the lens you've got until you know your camera inside and out, manually, and really understand the limitations of the lens.

  • Bob Hayes June 9, 2010 02:19 am


    You can learn what all those modes/buttons/dials do. Yes, you (that's tight you) can learn aperture, shutter speed, ISO, depth of field, the rule of thirds, proper framing, etc. One day you will understand all of these things, even if today it all seems like rocket science. Or brain surgery. Or some kind of photography.

    The trick is to relax about it. Don't get too excited about what you don't know. Get excited about what you do know. Go out and take pictures in whatever mode you understand. Be amazed by what you discover. Then add to your knowledge base. Read the manual. Keep reading it. Put it in the bathroom, so you can read it in little bits that have a better chance of sinking in. Get a good book on basic photography, which will help you understand what you are doing. Scott Kelby's Digital Photography book is an excellent place ot start. Remember, photography is fun. You got into this because of how fun it is to push the button and sometimes get incredible photos, not for how you will do on the test later.

  • jad40 June 9, 2010 01:23 am

    Learn what you want to learn first. Everyone might say to learn something specific first, but I feel like you learn best when you are enjoying what you are doing. Technical aspects can be picked up in the future. Have fun now!

  • Michelle June 9, 2010 01:18 am

    becareful where you change your lenses... don't do it outside next to a dirt bike track... all bad! and don't shoot green mode!

  • Richard Skoonberg June 9, 2010 01:16 am

    1. Photograph subjects you are interested in,: family, nature, cars, flowers, lover, work, etc
    2. Keep you images simple and fill the frame -- get close
    3. Start out by keeping the camera controls simple -- shoot using Program mode.
    4. Learn about the histogram and look at it after each shot.
    5. Have fun.

  • babumussa June 9, 2010 12:44 am

    Well, as you can see, some people here have some slightly different approches on how to learn about the photography triangle: ISO, shutter speed and aperture, but apparently everyone agrees with:

    Go outside and take maaaaany shots!

    This is the only way to learn. With that in mind, my advice would be:

    1.Read the manual, but pay close attention to the "how to take care of your camera". You can learn about its features, pros and cons in websites and have the manual as a reference for your specific gear. Keep shooting!

    2. If you are new to DSLR photography, go explore some techniques and try to master them, it will help you built your own style. Keep shooting! Go check on their shots too, you can discover some great things.And kKeep shooting!

    3. Share what you learned so far (it's amazing how much you can learn by participating!). Post your shots here and ask for feedback. Follow the weekly assignments, challenges, etc. Not for the competition itself, but it will help you to master some techniques!

    The most important is HAVE FUN!

  • joanmg June 9, 2010 12:21 am

    1. Work your way from Automatic to Program and then to Aperture and Shutter speed priority and eventually Manual. Take your time.

    2. Take the camera with you everywhere and shoot everything. Learn from your mistakes

    3. Buy a good book for beginners photography., My bible: Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson

    4. Relax. You do not have to immediately turn into Annie Leibowitz. Your photos will improve as you learn more about the shooting process. Compare your photos from month 1 to month 3 and already you will see a big difference.

    5. Unless you plan to make a living as a photographer, your photos are for enjoyment and sharing, so HAVE FUN!

  • Kelsey June 9, 2010 12:13 am

    Also, another thing that I learned was that a lot of times, even now, I tend to trust the screen on my camera too much. My screen tends to show pictures brighter and more blown out than they show up on the computer, so pay attention to the differences in your camera preview and the photo you get when you upload it. I now know that when my photo looks properly exposed on the screen, to take another one that is a little more exposed, just in case. Really my advice on this point is just to get to know your camera well.

  • Kelsey June 9, 2010 12:00 am

    I jumped right in from a regular point and shoot to a DSLR. I had read up about settings and techniques etc. on DPS, and then bought my Canon Digital Rebel XSi. The one thing that I think helped me a lot was I never shot in anything except manual. Ever. I figured that if I was going to be buying a DSLR, I wasn't going to throw it on auto and use it as a point and shoot. It really did work too, because as stubborn as I was about using it on auto, I learned what worked, what didn't, and about all the different settings and what they do. Now I switch my camera to Av mode a lot because I know what is happening within my camera, but this mode just gets me where I want to be much faster.

  • Renee Miranda June 8, 2010 11:57 pm

    I have recently become an owner of my first DSLR myself. This is what I've learned so far. 1. Take a photo class if there is one in your area. 2. Join a photography group, also if one is available. 3. Make friends with other photographers, especially if you admire their work. Go on photo shoots with them and watch what they do 4. Read camera magazines, books on Photography, and your camera manual. Keep the books and magazines out near the place you sit, so they are there when you take a break or relax. 5. Try to grasp one thing at a time. 6. Take your camera with you wherever you go. 7. Take lots and lots of pictures 8. Keep the camera on Manual at first, until you can move to the next step. You need to see good pictures so that you don't become frustrated and give up. 9. Be easy on yourself, you are learning something that is not easy to do. It's like learning a second language. 10. Appreciate the accomplishments you have made even if it's a small step. This will take time. Don't let anything distract you from accomplishing what you set out to learn.

  • Carolyn June 8, 2010 11:04 pm

    I found it helpful to take some classes, our instructor had us with our camera in our hands most of the time learning the controls. Carry the manual with you when you start shooting. I wouldn't buy anymore equipment until you start getting comfortable using your camera,then start making your wish list (and maybe you will want to upgrade your camera too). Remember some lenses on the inexpensive cameras will not work on a more expensive camera.

  • Dmitry Chastikov June 8, 2010 10:52 pm

    My advice would be not to expect great shots just right out of the great camera. My first frustration with the DSLR was that it produced images "worse" than from a P&S, just being conservative on the exposure the camera attempted not to blow out the highlights giving out some darker images. Some learning curve is required to get accustomed to the new gear and as often happens a more professional thing requires more craftsmanship from the user

  • amy in peru June 8, 2010 10:50 pm

    yay! thank you everyone! I skimmed them ALL! phew!
    nothing I haven't heard before, I think (I've been subscribed to the e-mail for months now)...
    I just have to read the manual and take pictures! hahahah.

    thanks again,
    amy in peru

  • Taryn June 8, 2010 10:48 pm

    Probably much of what's already been said here--first get to know all of the little buttons, dials and menu items by reading the manual. Otherwise you have a heavy and expensive point and shoot.

    Lenses - make sure you invest in good, quality glass. A good DSLR and quality glass will give you the tools you need to help you take great photos.

    Filters - Obviously protect your lenses and get a UV filter at the very least. But experiment with others such as neutral density filters, colored filters, polarizers and of course infrared filters.

    Above all, don't fall into the assumption that just because you have these two things that you'll instantly be a great photographer. Shoot, shoot and then shoot ten times more and review what it is you shot. See what looks good, see what didn't work. Producing great photos takes a lot of time, effort and passion.

  • Dan June 8, 2010 10:45 pm

    A few things...
    -- first, don't be afraid to use it. Set it in AUTO mode and just take pictures. After you are comfortable with it, then learn about the many different functions & features.
    -- get a good book written specifically for your camera. I've read three different ones for my D40x. Each one had something a little different based on the author's point of view.
    -- get a good wrist strap and USE IT ALL OF THE TIME. Digital cameras don't bounce very well.
    -- isolate features. Don't mess with shutter speed, aperature & ISO all at the same time. Learn how each one individually affects your pictures.
    -- HAVE FUN!


  • Zack Jones June 8, 2010 10:40 pm

    @cavale -- this particular user is in luck -- the 5D doesn't have an on-camera flash.

    It's been said many times but I'll say it again. Read the manual. Then shoot, review your photos and read the manual again. Also don't be afraid to experiment. Since it's digital if you don't like the image all you have to do is delete it.

  • Sam June 8, 2010 10:25 pm

    STAY CREATIVE!!! there are NO rules (:
    experiment, fail, experiment again!
    try not to edit afterwards so you learn how to get full control in manual or semi manual modes to get your desired affect because if you do it too much, and you go on holiday and take a lot, you wont be able to process them all

  • Will June 8, 2010 10:19 pm

    Buy a normal (~50mm) prime lens.

    I would even say to sell your kit zoom lens if you have to.

    A fast (~1.8) prime lens is the best way to figure out depth of field and composition, and will show you what a DSLR can actually do.

  • Maureen June 8, 2010 09:22 pm

    Take a class - preferably a live one. The interaction, and feedback is crucial - as is going through the basics, step-by-step. Also, play with the various camera modes until you're really comfortable with all that your camera can do. Get comfortable with your camera. Shoot in Automatic mode, and PSAM modes for the same shot. You'll be surprised what a difference the settings can make. Don't be afraid to post your picts, and ask for criticism. It's the best way to improve one's work.

  • Bishwajit Singh Rajkumar June 8, 2010 09:18 pm

    1- The simple solution is learn how to operate the cam.
    2- The more you click, better u pick things up.
    3- Learn the basic post processing to give more meaning to ur image.

  • Karen Stuebing June 8, 2010 08:53 pm

    I think it's all been covered in the previous comments.

    I would emphasize learning to keep the lens cap on when not using the camera or buying a filter to protect the lens. Shoot in manual. And YES, shoot in RAW.

    Reading the manual is good but can be overwhelming with all the options available. The basics are manual mode, ISO, aperture and shutter speed. Learn how to do that first.

    Now, if anyone has a camera, they want to give away, just let me know. :)

  • $udhakar June 8, 2010 08:42 pm

    * Read the manual
    * Read the manual
    * Read the manual.... enough
    * DONOT USE AUTO Mode / GREEN mode; else he/ she will never reach next stage
    * Get to know all the controls/switches on the camera and
    * Practice
    * Practice
    * Practice.-- no end here.

  • Warlord June 8, 2010 07:43 pm

    Do you see a tiny dust spot on your pictures? Do yourself a favour, DON'T start messing around inside your camera!

    DON'T touch the AF screen with ANYTHING.
    DON'T touch the mirror with ANYTHING.
    DON'T touch the sensor with ANYTHING.

    You can blow all you want, if it doesn't move its better to live with it :)

  • Robin Capper June 8, 2010 06:49 pm

    Play, break the rules*, look at the results and enjoy it. Don't worry about learning every button immediately, just use it!

    * It's important to understand the basic rules of exposure, depth of field. composition etc but don't be afraid (esp with digital where it costs nothing) to break them

  • Richard June 8, 2010 06:40 pm

    Heck everyone has an opinion it seems...
    I had a Nikon d70 18-80?? lenz and used auto a lot at the beginning. Got WAY better pictures than any pocket I ever had... I could focus on composition.
    I first went manual with the ISO settings...
    Then I started playing with Shutter and Aperture priority.... Often, if the object was stationary I would do an Auto, Aperture priority and then shutter, and then look at the differences... I ended up preferring the results in poor light from the Shutter priority. But still they were underexposed, something I believe is an issue in nikon... anyhow learnt to fix that..... both in jpg in camera and from raw...
    I take fotos in the way some people write a travel diary (personal pleasure, & memories).... as I am no Adrian Mole.
    40,000 fotos later and I have a D90. I use auto still if I am pressured in an environment I don't like... but mostly shoot in S and lately manual in poor light. I seem to have more contoll in the 90. Probably I am more confident
    I came to it when I was ready and not a minute before.
    I by no means am a pro I even hesitate to call myself an amateur... (as I am more a functionalist than a lover of photography...)
    But I like the photos I take, (some of them anyway) but probably would only show about 1 in 20 to others....

  • Ricky Law June 8, 2010 04:32 pm

    Study light first! Is it soft, or hard? Which direction is it coming from? Etc etc. Since photography is called painting with light! And realize how limited the camera is compared to our own two eyes.

  • Dean McCoy June 8, 2010 04:00 pm

    Take a picture everyday and I will guarantee you will be a better photographer in no time. Try different angles before you snap even one shot and really look at you background. OH and have fun :)

  • bev June 8, 2010 03:30 pm

    Learn your camera - Bryan Peterson's "Understanding Exposure" (already recommended here) is very easy understandable read on how camera basically works. Shoot and shoot and shoot - and use a program that easily lets you see the EXIF (camera settings) - and also use Flickr (or other photosharing site) and look at other people's photos and their EXIF - for pics you think both successful - and not. The learning curve is much more immediate w/ digital than in old film days thanks to availability of info both of your shots and about photography. You might want to sign up for a course - local or on-line - or find a good community with similar interests DPS or Flickr or other. Also shoot in RAW and use even basic program like Adobe Photoshop Elements to edit (and organize) photos. You'll never look back once you start actually using RAW (it may take a while). After a while you will figure out what you like to shoot and may want to invest in some good glass - a lens or two. You will notice a big difference between good lens and kit lens - but not if you haven't figured out your camera first.

  • Michael Smith June 8, 2010 03:16 pm

    Below is a blog post that I made specifically for a friend of mine that just got a DSLR.

    I thought about this for a while, and here are the steps to learning that I recommend to make learning a DSLR non-daunting. This is pretty close to the process I followed during my learning process. Each step could be a half day if you're intensive with it, and you don't need to complete each step before going onto the next one. But this is the order in which you're likely to comprehend what's going on. Think of these as progressively more difficult techniques for your new instrument!

    Step 1: Full Auto
    Put your camera on full automatic and see what it can do - shoot into the sun, try to focus on something non-intuitive, see how contrast works... experiment. It's just digital memory. As my dad says, the secret to taking good pictures is to take a lot of bad ones! Right now, don't use your flash, since your flash will confuse the learning process. If you need to get some pictures in bad lighting, use the flash, but don't make it part of your learning yet.

    Step 2: Time Priority
    Once you get a bit bored with that process (and you don't have to have mastered it), try time priority. It's pretty simple - you give the camera a hint on how long to keep the shutter open, and it computes the other variables for you (and it'll do the best it can if you're way out of range). Take the same picture with multiple time exposures. Run through the entire range of times - longest times in low light, highest times in sunlight. Try to shoot something that's always running and play with the blur effect: waterfalls and fountains are best, but cars will also do.

    This technique is used to master the art of capturing blur.

    Step 3: Aperture
    This is the step where you'll get some really neat results that you just couldn't do with smaller cameras. Try aperture priority. Take multiple shots, experimenting with "depth of field". (See the pictures here: Get a hang for "large aperture or low f-stop = shallow depth of field and lots of light" and "small aperture or high f-stop = deep depth of field and little light".

    This technique is used to master the art of 'framing' the shot by choosing how to draw the viewer's eye through selective focus.

    Step 4: Timing
    Get addicted to your shutter speed by trying to catch something at just the right time - a car passing by in the right place, or catch a water droplet from your sink. Your DSLR is MUCH more responsive from button press to picture. See if you can exploit this by finding the exact right time.

    This technique - along with the other two - are used to capture just the right shot at just the right time. The correct time slice of the smile, or the perfect fleeting composition.

    Step 5: Shoot, shoot, shoot (aka practice, practice, practice)
    Master those things above. When you don't have your camera, think about how you'd line up the shot - roughly what parameters you'd use, and whether you'd do full-auto, timing or aperture priority.

  • DaCogent June 8, 2010 03:03 pm

    First i'd say read your manual. nothing can help you as much as knowing your DSLR. learn how to use your creative Zone on the camera and experiment all the time.
    Then this website DPS has helped me a lot.
    so read and practice. and take care of the DSLR it's not a toy.
    And specially, don't lose faith, it can be hard to get good picture in the beginning but that totally normal, don't freak out, you'll get good at it.
    good luck.

  • Anna June 8, 2010 02:35 pm

    In addition, theres nothing wrong with taking a bad photo ;] When I first got my DSLR, I thought it would help me expand my creativity so much more and make my pictures AWESOME, but that wasn't the case and I kept getting down on myself when I got back from a walk and all my pictures were crap. That's what's great about digital, you can just shoot and shoot and shoot and no one has to see the bad pictures. Just delete them and they're gone ;]

  • Abhilash June 8, 2010 02:34 pm

    If you are new to this whole DSLR thing and have more than 1 lens, please refrain from wanting to switch lenses too often.

    Sensor dust is a reality and a pain.

  • Anna June 8, 2010 02:32 pm

    When I first got my DSLR not too long ago, I had so much fun zooming in and out I forgot to use my feet. Don't depend too much on the lense's capability to zoom, zoom with your feet. It'll force you too examine your subject more carefully.

    Also, don't be afraid to use the auto focus on your lense. I started out using manual focus, thinking I could do it, but all my pictures were blurry despite looking sharp in the viewfinder. Slowly begin using manual focus after you learn what's sharp and what's not in the tiny viewfinder.

  • Michael Perronne June 8, 2010 02:08 pm

    Don't be afraid to make mistakes, because making mistakes help you learn what not to do. Also some of my mistakes have become some of my best work.

    Keep on shooting and don't ever give up!

  • Jason Collin Photography June 8, 2010 01:58 pm

    Buy a DSLR with a top of the body LCD, i.e. a camera you can grow into. If you want to photograph people at all, buy an external flash right away. Like others have said, then go and take a few photography lessons so you do not shoot on auto mode, and not just lessons on how to shoot, but also lessons on how to edit your photographs. I am sure no pros here publish or deliver un-edited straight from the camera shots to clients, I don't. So when you see great photos online, they did not come exactly out of the camera like that. If you live in the Tampa Bay area, I teach private lessons. And I recommend private lessons over the classroom theory, homework assignment, back to classroom style as there is no one in the field to give you advice when you really need it. With that kind of classroom might as well save your money and go out and do trial and error yourself.

    Then you'll need a good monitor to view and edit your photos on, at least 24".

    Then open a flickr account so you can share and get feedback on your photos.

    And shoot every day. Should be at least 1,000 shots a week in the beginning.

    Good luck.

  • Janak June 8, 2010 01:51 pm

    There are so many ways to get most out of your DSLR. But the first and best is get bit user friendly with your DSLR and go through Tips given in this will surely help to amplify your idea for photography. There are so many things for beginners and intermediate photographers.

  • Jo June 8, 2010 12:55 pm

    buy 3 prime lenses a wide, a normal, and a telephoto as best as you can afford.
    then buy any body cause new ones multiple like rabbits.
    thats all you do.
    no need for tripod, flash cause you got some fast glass with a prime.
    then have fun, learn to use it don't be a tard.

  • junglebear June 8, 2010 12:25 pm

    Don't forget to use your brain as well.

  • Michael June 8, 2010 12:10 pm

    1) Read the manual.
    2) Read reviews about your camera to know what your camera can do.
    3) Go to pictures sharing sites like filickr and zoomr and look for pictures taken with your camera to see what results to expect from your camera
    4) Take pictures under different lighting using Auto mode, then take a look a the values that your camera choose for the exposure triangle and imitate them using Manual mode.
    5) Take plenty of pictures
    6) Keep on clicking!

  • IrishNYC June 8, 2010 12:02 pm

    The camera doesn't take the pictures, the user does. Paying more money for or having a fancier camera doesn't mean you're going to get better shots.

  • goofy June 8, 2010 11:58 am

    Lots of good tips here. The ones that worked the best for me were take a lot of pictures. Of anything and everything that you think might be interesting. Also, YouTube has some great videos. The Flickr recommendation is great. Find a picture you like and you can see the settings. Very helpful for specialized photography like fireworks. Lastly, enjoy yourself.

  • June 8, 2010 11:55 am

    READ your owners manual, go to a camera store that is knowledgable and friendly. Take your camera. Have Someone help you figure out some basic settngs. Shoot aperture priority. Shoot RAW, shoot often and learn to use the exposure compensation function. Shoot what you know, Shoot what you like!

  • Danny June 8, 2010 11:51 am

    I HIGHLY recommend you to get: Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. Before I read the book: shooting in auto mode or the presets. After: Manual or the priority modes! Highly helpful! Also: Winning Digital Photo Contests by Jeff Wignall.

  • Wild & Woolly June 8, 2010 11:40 am

    Get your manual and read it. Figure out what's important and highlight those areas in the book. Have someone that knows tell you about ISO, Aperture,and shutter speed in layman terms. Above all things learn about the exposure compenstion feature n your camera. Don't rush anything just learn and enjoy

  • v8torq June 8, 2010 11:38 am

    First of all, congratulations. I wish I had a friend who would give me a 5D!! :-)

    Well, you've been given great advice. There's only one more suggestion I would make ... MANAGE YOUR FILES! After the initial purchase, shooting digital is free. The suggestions to experiment and take a ton of photos are right on. But for your own mental health, throw out the trash and organize what's left. You'll be amazed at how quickly you pile up photos ... and can't find what you're looking for!

    Have fun!!

  • Mei Teng June 8, 2010 11:29 am

    Get to know your camera and shoot lots!

  • cristiano007 June 8, 2010 11:28 am

    Don't let the prize and size of your camera being an obstacle to take at least the same amount of pictures than before.

  • Drew June 8, 2010 11:26 am

    As someone who just recently got back into photography after taking a beginner's course in high school almost 10 years ago and just now getting "serious" with their first DSLR, thanks for all the words of wisdom everyone!

  • mario June 8, 2010 10:59 am

    my first camera was EOS 450D with 18-55 mm kit lens, then I bought 17-85 mm lens because I thought it would be nice to have a longer focal length.

    First thing you have to do is read the manual carefully, how to use and adjust the camera. One important thing in taking good pictures is the white balance, Try to understand how to set the camera's white balance. Then, learn how to adjust the exposure and aperture to get the correct exposure in the image, follow some tutorials that are available in the internet or read a book.

    Because your camera is 5D, you'd better invest an external flash, it's needed when shooting indoor or doing flash filling. Lenses depend on your needs, right now I use 17-40mm F4L and 50mm F1.4, love them. I would recommend these lens for you if you like nature photography and human interest.

  • sreekrishnan June 8, 2010 10:58 am

    My only piece of advice ..

    Having a DSLR doesnt mean you are guaranteed great pictures. it just means you have a good tool to execute your ideas. Ideas are important.

    THis psychology helps a lot !

  • Andre June 8, 2010 10:48 am

    Here's what I wish someone had told me:

    Buy memory cards bigger than what you think you need (and buy the quick ones).
    Shoot in RAW, even if you don't have a use for it yet. Use the setting that writes RAW and JPG if you only want JPG. One day you'll be glad you have the RAW versions. It's just disk/memory space. You'll see, trust me.

    When you get adventurous, and start using non auto settings, always remember to check your settings before each use. I can't count the number of times I left my camera on ISO1600 and ruined good shots.
    Check the first few shots on each shoot just in case you missed a setting.

    Don't skimp on the tripod.

    Don't be afraid of the manual settings. Only by using them will you become used to them.

    Back up your photos. All of them, even the "bad" ones.

    If you're going to use a polarizing filter, don't use Auto - or at the very least, learn how to use the exposure lock.

    Don't get frustrated when you look at other peoples' pictures and they seem so much better than yours. That will happen less and less. Don't get frustrated when it doesn't stop though - and don't let it stop you.
    People tell me my shots are good - I know they're nowhere near as good as others I see. It's frustrating, but you get better. I did, and am still.

    You don't have to have a $5000 camera to take good pictures. Although good lenses help.

    Learn how to hold the camera still. It took me a long time to get sharp shots.

    If you come across a scene like a landscape that would make an excellent picture, take many shots, and try different settings. Experiment with manual settings, especially for conditions that can confuse the sensors, like sunsets. Learn the bracketing feature of your camera.

    Don't use abrasives like Kleenex on your lens.

    I'm sure there's more, but those are definitely things that are good for me.

  • Orv Neconie June 8, 2010 10:31 am

    Read your manual over and over and then take a photography class, if you haven't already taken one. It will pay off tenfold in the long run!!!

  • Jason Grear June 8, 2010 10:11 am

    Keep that sensor clean...I need to have mine cleaned this week.

  • Wendy Mayo June 8, 2010 10:08 am

    Yup, yup! Just like others have said - Read that manual! I teach a beginning photography class and I am always amazed how many of my students have never even looked at the manual, much less studied it. It is required reading for all my students!

  • Helen Anne June 8, 2010 09:24 am

    1. Read enough of the manual to know how to turn it on, where the shutter button is and how to get pictures onto your computer.
    2. Go take pictures. Have fun.
    When you a ready, read part of the manual that explains one of the controls (aperture/shutter/manual) then
    1. Go take pictures
    2. Look at what you did
    3. Read the manual again
    repeat 1-3 until that part starts to make sense. Make sure you are having fun taking pictures.
    Now pick a new topic and repeat.
    Re-read the manual annually. Its amazing how much more the manual starts to make sense over time and how little tidbits suddenly leap out at you.
    If the manual isn't making sense, search for the information -- books, magazines, this website.
    Always keep taking photos.
    If I'm having problems deciding on correct aperture / shutter settings, I go back to the program mode and see what the camera's automatic settings say. Then I play from there.

  • Mike Woodhouse June 8, 2010 09:12 am

    As a newcomer, he's going to forget some really basic things while he's trying to absorb and apply all the good advice above. Like putting the lens cap back on. Even a kit lens needs a little protection - I'd say it's a good idea to get hold of a cheap Skylight or UV filter ASAP. Doubly so if there are other family members likely to want a turn, triply so it they're anything like mine. A $20 filter is a lot cheaper to replace...

  • D. Travis North June 8, 2010 08:56 am

    Geir - I will concede that there are many methods to learn (and teach). When working with absolute beginners - the first thing I teach is about depth of field. I don't get technical, I simply state larger aperture = smaller depth of field. Then I'll show how to control the aperture in AP mode. I find that people get a good idea pretty well within just a couple of shots. They'll experiment a lot with AP mode, and the rest flows so much easier.

    I used to teach much the same way you do, but I found that getting them off of Auto was more difficult simply due to frustration of the pupil (frustration that they can't figure out why things are the way they are).

  • Geir June 8, 2010 08:46 am

    Well, first of all we are talking about a person getting used to photography and the camera for the first time. He won't understand the technicalities, and will have no pleassure from it. To understand the tidbits. your best bet is to get the pictures taken, then sen what the camera chooses, because it will be correct in most cases. From that point on, you have the whole world to explore, and then you can turn to the manuals.
    Believe me, I teach photography for people starting off, and can talk camera technology and read them manuals, but they just won't get it before they see the results and can interpret them. This approach works 9 of ouf 10 times. When you see how the camera works by itself, then you can start overriding, and that's where creativity starts.

  • Todd Eddy June 8, 2010 08:45 am

    1. I'll just reiterate the same thing a lot of people are saying, READ YOUR MANUAL. It may seem intimidating but you can read through it in a few nights.
    2. unlike what some say, avoid the green auto function. In fact, avoid any special "scene" modes. The only 4 you should ever use is program, aperture priority, shutter priority, and manual. Program is pretty close to auto but still gives you control over more things. By reading the manual you'll know what those are.
    3. shoot raw from the beginning or you'll regret what could have been on early photos.
    4. if you know what you are going to be shooting (a kids soccer practice, some pictures at night, etc) don't rely on the scene modes. Instead, search online how to take a picture in various situations. You'll learn much more about your camera than just relying on a preset
    5. If you think your kit lens is inferior, search for it on flickr using pixelpeeper's advanced search: and notice the amazing pictures people get with even plain kit lenses.

  • D. Travis North June 8, 2010 08:42 am

    Geir: I disagree with you completely. While Auto has it's place, your method is not going to be the easiest way to learn how to shoot in manual. The camera isn't creative...there are dozens of "correct exposures", but they all aren't necessarily the most aesthetically pleasing exposure.

    My recommendation is, from day one, to avoid Auto all together. If you shoot in Aperture Priority (AP) or Shutter Priority (SP), I think you'll quickly learn the relationship between the two. I'd recommend starting with AP to get a grasp on Depth of Field, then let the rest fall into place.

  • scott June 8, 2010 08:37 am

    If you turn on Auto-ISO you should sell your camera and so something else.

  • Geir June 8, 2010 08:22 am

    That's easy. Start shooing in Auto, see what the camera choses. Then try to achieve the same things in Manual. From then on everything comes easily.
    Then take as many pictures as you can, and after image number 10 000 you'll see the improvements.

  • alex June 8, 2010 08:12 am

    Buy a cheap 50mm and commit to using it (in Apeture priority mode). Bring only the body and this lens on a vacation. You'll love what you come back with plus you'll learn a lot about light and depth of field.

  • Keri June 8, 2010 08:04 am

    I tell everyone to either buy(borrow), read and understand Bryan Peterson's 'Understanding Exposure'.
    Read the manual and try to keep it at hand at all times
    and most importantly, practise, practise, practise the more you use your camera the more you become one with it and everything becomes 2nd nature

  • Jeff Plum June 8, 2010 07:35 am

    I always use Manual mode, it's not daunting, and it's the only way to really understand an SLR. Back in the day I had a film camera and there was no other option than manual. This means you have to consider the exposure triangle - ISO vs. shutter vs. aperture. Master that and you can use ANY camera to get fantastic shots - the special appeal of the 5D is that it is so easy to change all three of these settings very quickly without moving your eye off the viewfinder.

    You won't regret it!

    I once had a tutor who told me, with regards to technology, to be wary of it trying to do too much for you - otherwise your creativity will always just be a series of happy accidents determined by chance.

  • pankaj June 8, 2010 07:25 am

    People against the Auto mode are totally wrong in my opinion. There is a lot more to learn in Auto mode too. Unless you know whats missing (and shortcomings) while shooting in Auto, you can't progress to other modes.

    Get a zoom lens with VR(IS), Read the Manual, Take a lot of pictures and in different light situations.

    Good Luck.

  • cavale June 8, 2010 07:25 am

    Do NOT use your on-camera flash.

  • Mark June 8, 2010 07:24 am

    Shoot almost soley in Aperature Priority mode and learn about changing the ISO. Stick with the basic kit lens for a while. Order a good book or two - most manuals tell you how, but not why.

  • Mido Aboshihata June 8, 2010 07:21 am

    Understand what you can do with your DSLR compared to the Point & Shoot.
    For inspiration check
    The 5D camera you have is just a tool that produced these images in Flickr. Yes some had different lenses, lighting, and editing software but just take a look for inspiration.

    The main differences are as follows:
    1- You'll be able to manually control the Shutter & Aperture
    2- Better control of focus
    3- Higher quality photos (ability to shoot in Raw format)

    What to do right now?
    1- Read the manual with the camera in hand and do everything it says.
    2- When done, Set the camera the highest quality setting available
    3- Learn how to export your photos to your computer and organize them (find tips in DPS on workflow) Use a free tool like iPhoto or Picasa to manage your files if you don't have a way to organize your photos
    4- Learn how to read the meta-data of your photos (ISO setting, Aperture, Shutter...etc.) This will help you know how you took a shot and what the settings were.
    5- Find exercises or Photo of the week competitions on DSP

    An example photography exercise to conduct with your Point & Shoot and your new DSLR can be found on my blog by going to

  • Casey Cook June 8, 2010 07:20 am

    These are all very excellent suggestions. The only thing I would add to it is this:

    Do not get discouraged when your results do not compare with the results of a professional or serious hobbyist. Remember they have spent years getting to know their camera and perfecting their technique.

  • Kent West June 8, 2010 07:16 am

    Great tips all, thanks. It is great to have a place to come an learn from others. Happy Shooting!

  • Ejpierle June 8, 2010 07:14 am


    I was just talking with someone who is looking to get a first DSLR last night. Here's what I told him:


    Learn the basics with what you have first... 99% of all cameras are better than 99% of all photographers. You don't need a fancy camera to learn to see photographically; rule of thirds, composition, etc...


    1. More lens, less camera.
    2. Learn to change shutter, aperture, and iso with your eyes closed.


    1. Fill the frame; zoom with your feet.
    2. Get close; get low.

  • Sandee June 8, 2010 07:10 am

    Take at least one picture every single day.

  • Techpriester June 8, 2010 07:07 am

    1. Don't shoot in any full automatic modes, you won't learn anything from that.
    2. Shoot A LOT! ... .... No, more than what you just thought.
    3. Shoot RAW, always.
    4. Read the manual. Completely!
    5. If you can afford, get a prime lens as soon as possible. An older/used one will do fine. Zoom lenses just make you lazy...

  • chuck June 8, 2010 07:04 am

    Get a copy of "The Visual Story" and read it. Twice. Then shoot every bloody concept described. Repeat ;-)

  • Sam S. June 8, 2010 07:03 am

    Learn the camera, inside and out, what it does, what it doesn't do, etc.

    Read Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. Really helps you understand how to make the photo look perfect.

    The other thing I would do is try to shadow someone who has used or uses a DSLR similar to yours. It can be a good friend, a professional in the area, etc. Seeing how they use their camera and picking their brains really pays off.

  • Garran June 8, 2010 07:00 am

    To get the most out of the camera would be to completely understand the equipment. Read the various How-To and Tips articles on the photography blogs and shoot in Manual Mode. This will give you an idea how ISO, Aperture and Shutter work together to achieve an exposure value. This is important to know how to achieve a desired look when you're in the field but more so, gives you the knowledge on how to correct/adjust for difficult exposure issues on the fly.

    Until you learn what you camera can do and it's limitations as well as the type of photography you'd like to pursue, I'd keep the additional equipment purchases to a minimum: Circular polarizer, reflector and a small strobe flash. Once you have a specific direction of photography that you want to pursue then you can begin to narrow down your equipment wishlist.

    Aside from your camera equipment you should invest in an adequate post-production software such as Adobe Photoshop. This may be a bit pricey so an excellent alternative is Adobe Lightroom.

    Here are 2-basic photography tips that you can Google: "Rule of Thirds" and the "Sunny-16 Rule".

    Finally, like many of the other comments I would invest in quality lenses before a body upgrade. You have a great starting off point in the 5D which should give you a few years of growth before you'll need to consider an upgrade.

  • Pancho June 8, 2010 07:00 am

    Read the manual.
    Shoot in the morning.
    Read the manual.
    Shoot at midday.
    Read the manual.
    Shoot in the afternoon.
    Read the manual.
    Shoot at night.
    Read the manual.
    Go to forums.
    Read the manual.
    Read reviews about your camera.
    Shoot with artificial light.
    Read the manual.
    Memorize the manual.
    Try changing the settings without looking... that`s hell of a training. Your camera is an extension of your body.
    Shoot a bit more.
    Play with it. Combine settings. Try RAW. Don't be afraid. It won`t die. You won't breake it. Enjoy the process.

  • Paul Howard June 8, 2010 06:58 am

    In addition to the above, if you have a friend who's already familiar with a DSLR, go out and shoot with him / her. If not, enroll in a class if you can. A lot of community colleges and local pro photographers offer basic courses and you get immediate feedback on what areas could use improvement.

  • Scottyea June 8, 2010 06:58 am

    Wow, nice gift!

    I agree with all the above, with the proviso - have fun!!!

    Find the funnest photography forums / groups and join them. Find some fun photographers locally to hang out with. Life's too short to short otherwise.

  • gfahey June 8, 2010 06:57 am

    Get out and shoot everyday if possible. If not, stay in and shoot!

    Learn Photoshop and RAW editing software like either Lightroom or Aperture.

    Examine your photos and see what went wrong. Learn from your mistakes. You'll always make them and you'll always be learning!

    I too recommend a fast 50mm lens. f/1.4 of f/1.8.

    Get over shyness and engage people when walking about. Ask them if they'd mind you taking a photo of them and offer to email a copy to them. I find people love this. But, first have a website up (go with Blogger or Wordpress if you have to, they are free) to have on your card. It was tough for me to get over the shyness thing but, when you find people receptive, it helps to get you over that hump.

    Join Flickr. Best $25 you'll spend.

    Don't be afraid to try anything. Get on the ground. Get up on a ladder. Walk through a park. Go to local sports events. Get out there.

    Don't be afraid of constructive criticism. Get a thick skin and learn from your mistakes.

    Enjoy it and let it show in your work!

  • Andy Merrett June 8, 2010 06:53 am

    As someone who inherited a Canon 300D as my first DSLR, I would say the following:

    Firstly, if you tend to be used to point and shoot cameras, get used to at least the basic operations of the DSLR, both how to hold it and then how to get the most from the kit lens. Get used to all the functions of the camera, and if you are looking to take photography at all seriously, get out of the habit of using the auto modes as soon as possible.

    I started with Aperture Priority mode, then Shutter Priority, then full Manual, then Program Mode. I know some others advise diving straight in with Manual mode - but do make sure whichever way you do it you have at least the basic technical understanding of WHY different settings (shutter, aperture, ISO, white balance, etc.) work the way they do, and how they can assist and alter your composition.

    Once you have at least a reasonable understanding of the camera (you know roughly the best mode to use at least for different situations, and can make a fairly good judgment of things like ISO, white balance, etc.) I'd say it's more important to concentrate on HOW to compose. Look at the many principles of composition and practice them - rule of thirds, diagonals, perspective, etc. etc. This will serve you well whatever sort of camera you have.

    Don't go mad with lenses. Get a feel for what types of photography you want to to before you go all out buying loads of lenses (even if you think you know what you want right off the bat, and/or have all the money!) Then research, find which lenses will do you the best in the first place, and get the best you can. If you want to try things out first, find a decent equipment hire supplier and get a decent lens for a weekend before you splash out.

    I've read that it takes a year to really get to know what your lens can do, so it's worth taking time with your equipment rather than flitting about buying new stuff every month (IMO).

    Keep shooting. Keep learning. Study the work of professional photographers (current and historical) to get an eye for the medium itself. Take some sort of class run by a professional, even if it just covers the basics of camera use, composition, and post-processing, as it really will help cement the principles. You can learn it all online but there's something about getting it "live" from someone who earns their living that way.

    Don't be discouraged if you inherit an older DSLR that doesn't necessarily have the latest functions on. The basics will be there. Rest assured that you can learn a lot then upgrade the body when you know you are serious. EG the noise reduction on my camera is poor at high ISO, I don't have some of the flash or metering modes, but I know how to use them and when I upgrade I'll hit the ground running.

    If you can find a photo buddy (either online or locally) that can help to encourage you at the times when perhaps you lack inspiration or it doesn't quite make sense.

  • Ohad June 8, 2010 06:50 am

    Short and simple: The camera alone will not make you a better photographer or make your photos that much better: learn how to use it and buy the right lens.

  • Dan June 8, 2010 06:43 am

    Learn the basics of ISO, Stops, and shutter speeds.

    Read the camera's manual and also get a good 3rd party book or DVD.

    And most of all, use it. ;)

  • Jim Denham June 8, 2010 06:43 am

    I recommend purchasing 3 things:

    1. A 50mm prime lens, as fast as you can get (mine f1.8)
    2. A sturdy tri-pod
    3. A ball head for the tri-pod - make sure it will support future lens purchases

    The 50mm is great for taking all kinds of photos, but mainly for pictures of the family and random portraits. Also makes you move around rather than trying to zoom around.

    Try to buy as much of both the tri-pod and head as you can afford - skimping will actually cost you money.

    Take pictures every day, and I mean everyday, and shoot anything that looks interesting.

  • Andres Calle June 8, 2010 06:43 am

    1. Learn your camera.
    2. Read blogs, magazines, books, etc
    3. Shoot Shoot Shoot... Do crazy stuff and play around.
    4. Organize yourself and have something in mind and do it.. dont stop until you master it.
    5. Kepp shooting! lol

  • Daniela Vladimirova June 8, 2010 06:41 am

    When I first used my Canon Eos 1000D, I set an ISO which seemed more or less suitable for the light conditions (higher ISO corresponds to darker surrounding environment), and then started getting familiar with the Tv mode (time priority) - it's quite straightforward because changes are immediately perceivable.
    About a couple of months later I felt comfortable enough to move to Manual mode... and then I bought a 50mm f1,8 lens, which was more or less a turning point: I hadn't realized what depth of field actually is, until that moment.

  • briansquibb June 8, 2010 06:40 am

    It is better to get a sharp picture with noise rather than a blurred picture without noise.

    Most DSLR's are OK to iso1600 - dont be frightened of using it

  • Florian Rachor June 8, 2010 06:39 am

    1. Learn how to shoot in aperture priority
    2. Go make some photos
    3. Visit DPS to learn more :)

  • Lewis June 8, 2010 06:38 am

    Take it off auto. NOW!

  • Chris June 8, 2010 06:37 am

    Having gone from picking up a Canon DSLR to getting nationally published (Pollstar, Dec. 2009) in 8 months, I'd like to give everyone that reads this some steps that I took along the way:
    1. Read. Read a lot. You can read the manual, but you won't do that first off. Read photoblogs, get plugged into Flickr. There's an ocean of experience out on the internet. Use it, consume it, digest it.
    2. Use your camera. A lot. Study your pictures afterwards. Compare EXIF information to other pics you like, especially on Flickr where they often post EXIF info.
    3. Pick an interest that you focus your photography on. Don't just shoot flowers or cats. Choose something challenging. When I started shooting concerts with my Rebel and a kit lens, I quickly saw the difference between my results and the results of seasoned concert shooters. I studied and analyzed the differences in settings, what lens they used, how they composed shots, and their post-processing.
    4. Take your best shots, post them on the web, and then step back and ask the crowd, "What's wrong with this pic?" Prepare to be torn apart, but understand that you will not get better by having all your family tell you how good your shots are. You'll only get better by listening and learning to use criticism.
    5. Take your camera with you to shoot as much as possible. Be obnoxious with it. The more comfortable you are with your rig, the more likely you'll catch that moment. And you will know it.
    6. Then read some more. Always.

  • Jack Foster Mancilla June 8, 2010 06:36 am

    Get a good (not the best) camera body with an upgrade path of DSLR bodies, but, get the very best lenses.

    The camera body does not have to be the best because you will trade out bodies every three years, or so as quality improves. But, you must have the very best lenses you can get, only the best, because they will also work on the next body you upgrade. And the best glass, is, the best glass.

  • Danny June 8, 2010 06:29 am

    1> Read the manual

    2> Maybe even buy a book or two

    3> Shoot and play

    4> Shoot and play

    and if all else fails...shoot and play.

  • Jen at Cabin Fever June 8, 2010 06:28 am

    Before you buy a SLR try and borrow a friends or better yet go to a store and get a look at the different kinds. For example, a store like Best Buy has many introductory level SLR cameras. The employees also don't work for commission so they don't (usually) pressure you on a sale.

    When it comes to reading the manual I really did none of that. The way I learned was to literally turn it on and start taking photos. I would learn all the buttons and options through trial and error. For me that's what works best. You may feel that an SLR just has too many buttons and options to try and figure it out just by using it, but they really aren't that hard! What helps is if you know basic photography theory, like what an aperture is, shutter speed, ISO, etc. Then tooling around on your own is really easy!

    Cabin Fever in Vermont
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  • D. Travis North June 8, 2010 06:26 am

    Regardless of skill level, I'd recommend (at least) the following:
    1. Learn the camera - go through the manual, look for online articles, what-have you. Learn how to shoot in shutter priority, aperture priority and some basic understanding of manual mode.
    2. Learn how to change settings on the fly. It's not all menus, most DSLRs have dedicated buttons on the outside - learn how to do that.
    3. Don't expect immediate results. It will be difficult to get the desired results immediately. You have to first become comfortable with the camera before you're satisfied with the results.
    4. Fail and fail often. Sounds odd, but you need to experiment to find out what doesn't work. Embrace failure, and you'll learn faster. I personally aim to fail at 60-70% of my experimental works. When I'm on assignment, lessons learned from my failures help me to stay on task to make sure that my practiced methods result in a 90% (or higher) success rate.
    5. Have fun. A new camera can be overwhelming...but if you start getting frustrated, put the camera down for a while. Take breaks. You don't want to build a grudge against your gear.

  • Bob June 8, 2010 06:22 am

    I have two suggestions:
    1. Do not buy a new gear until you've mastered your existing equipment (especially lenses).
    2. Reading blogs, photo websites, magazines will NOT replace actually going out and shooting. All the time. All different subjects. All different locations.

  • Amanda Y June 8, 2010 06:19 am

    It's not only about reading the manual thoroughly (yes, thoroughly) but also not forgetting your basics in photography. Don't get stuck using the Auto setting, use the creative controls.

  • Oscar Camejo June 8, 2010 06:15 am

    Top 5 ToDo's for New DSLR Users:

    1. Read your manual to get to know what your camera can do (i.e. functions, pros and cons and limitations).

    2. Take lots of pictures using various modes (except for Auto; don't shoot in auto) so you can learn how the setting affect your photos.

    3. Search for your camera model and camera techniques on YouTube for tutorials. Besides its free education.

    4. Visit sites like for reviews about your camera.

    5. Review hundreds of photos from pros and amateur enthusiasts online to examine techniques.

    BONUS: Stay encouraged and stay focused especially if some of photos come out crappy. I've heard that the different between a pro and an amateur is simply 10,000 photos. Hope this helps!

  • Kyrptonite June 8, 2010 06:11 am

    I would say read the manual until you know it like the back of your hand. If you want to take great pictures, you have to know to a tee how your camera worlks!

  • DrNick June 8, 2010 06:08 am

    My advice: you've bought an expensive and rewarding piece of kit... Don't just treat it like a point-and-shoot (on automatic settings). Invest in learning about exposure and always shoot RAW if you can (think of it as your digital negative)!

    Above all, try a little of everything - portraits, landscapes, macro and everything in-between!