In case you’re one of the many people who found a brand new DSLR camera under the Christmas tree. And let’s just assume you’re new to DSLR photography. Here are some tips on what to do next:
1. Start practicing
Whatever your new camera model is, the most important first step is to get out and shoot. Over the next couple of weeks, you’ll explore the many different ways of using your brand new toy. Most DSLRs today have a plethora of different buttons and dials. Not to mention the menu items that seem overwhelming in the beginning. The best way of dealing with this wealth of information and options is to take your camera and start experimenting. Shoot as much as you can. Under as many different lighting conditions as possible. And don’t limit yourself to just one type of photography in the beginning. Try capturing people, landscapes, wildlife, night scenes, etc. The more you practice, the better you’ll be able to handle your new tool once you’re confronted with the once-in-a-lifetime subject under perfect lighting conditions.
2. Get a couple of photography how-to books
While practicing is a great way to improve your shooting skills, reading a couple of well-written photography how-to books is the only way to get you to the next level. There are literally thousands of books on the market that fulfill the needs of a photography beginner. And in most cases you’ll even find a book that’s tailored to your specific camera model. Some books also include a list of tasks at the end of each chapter, which will help you to practice even more.
3. Buy Lightroom or Photoshop and learn how to use it
Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop are the standard software solutions that most digital photographers use. Whereas Photoshop has a steeper learning curve, it also offers more options for professional image adjustment. However, for about 70–90% of what’s needed to significantly improve the results of your work, Lightroom is sufficient. And there are lots of Lightroom tutorials freely available on YouTube and other places on the web. And in case you’d like to get more into the nitty-gritty details of those two software packages, buy one of Scott Kelby’s or Matt Kloskowski’s books.
4. Learn from others
Get on Flickr and 500px and browse through the “Explore” (Flickr) and “Popular” (500px) sections. You’ll find a large number of high quality images from photography enthusiasts around the world. By just looking at and analyzing those people’s work, you’ll get a much better sense of what makes a good image. You might even try to imitate some of their lighting and composition techniques. In the end, a top-notch photo starts in your head.