So, you've purchased your first Digital SLR in an effort to amp up your photography game. Soon your Instagram gallery will explode with beautiful, high resolution images. But, wait — all these bells and whistles make it look way harder than you thought it would be to get started.
Luckily, there are tons of resources out there to help you embark on your journey as a pro photographer. Learning how to make the most out of your new gadget simply involves a little research and guidance. These helpful tips from yours truly will nudge you in the right direction.
Experiment with your new camera in manual mode
Technically, you could keep your camera set to “automatic” mode forever and, sure, you might get some beautiful images here and there. However, using “green mode,” as it is often referred to in the photography community, is a bit like riding a bike with the training wheels on. It's fun, but you'll never learn how to recreate a certain look or capture a specific type of photograph.
Like any art form, photography takes practice and the best way to learn the ins and outs of your new camera is to experiment in manual mode. Manual mode allows you to physically control the camera's depth of field, shutter speed, exposure and a variety of other features. Using your camera in this mode is the easiest way to break free of your training wheels and learn what it actually takes to achieve a specific shot.
Watch helpful online tutorials
YouTube tutorials exist for just about everything these days, whether it be make-up application, how to build your own hot tub, or learning a new skill. The social platform is a great resource for photography tutorials as well. If you've already installed Photoshop and other helpful Adobe products on your computer, YouTube can help you navigate those programs and understand their complexities.
If you're willing to invest a little bit more money into the learning process, an excellent source for all things photography related is Lynda.com. This service, which offers a free trial period, is well known within the photography community for its helpful tips, tricks and advice for the beginner photographer.
Take your photos in RAW format
If you're just starting out, you might not know that your camera has the ability to take photos in a variety of formats, including JPEG and RAW. When shooting in JPEG format, your camera is able to store more images because the resolution is compressed. In RAW format, however, all of the image data is recorded by your camera's sensor and stored, allowing you to take higher quality images.
Shooting in RAW format also allows you to capture greater detail, adjust the white balance of your photos, correct over or under-exposed images and much more. The only downside to shooting in RAW format is that your photos take up more space on a hard drive and require special programs for processing and editing. In the end, don't sacrifice quality for the sake of space. You can always convert your images to JPEGs after the editing process is complete.
Download useful editing software
If you're serious about taking your photography game to the next level, software programs like Adobe Lightroom are worth the investment. Specifically developed to help photographers organize, process and retouch their images, Lightroom makes basic photo editors look like child's play.
Lightroom allows photographers to enhance and improve their images by changing color balance, improving tone, removing red-eye effect, sharpening, reducing noise, cropping and straightening or adding filters. It also allows users to create presets, meaning they can apply the same enhancements to more than one photograph in a series.
If Lightroom isn't within your budget, there are free, albeit less advanced and functional editors available online, such as Pixlr.
Follow your favorite photographers on Instagram for inspiration
At the end of the day, your new camera and any knowledge you've acquired for using it won't serve you very well if you're not feeling inspired. If landscapes are your thing, check out Instagram users like travel blogger and photographer Matthew Karsten. Possess a love of animals and wildlife? National Geographic photographer and conservationist Paul Nicklen has captured some of the most stunning wildlife photographs imaginable. If you like to dabble in a little bit of everything – pet photography, portraits, weddings, nature and more – give me a follow at Pixel Perfect Photos. I'd be happy to offer whatever advice I can and I look forward to seeing your captures!
About the writer:
Always a dreamer, Jill Bentham is a passionate writer and photographer based in Toronto.