There are certain things that people constantly and always tend to mess up when they first start using a DSLR after moving up from a point-and-shoot. Afterward, they tend to look at their images and wonder what went wrong. These are things that shouldn’t be looked past and in order to get the maximum cash value from your DSLR, you should keep these starting tips in mind while shooting.
1. Don’t Shoot in Auto
In truth, I’m compelled even to say don’t shoot in Program (P) or any of the gimmick modes like sports or portrait. The most powerful and used settings on a DSLR are manual (M) and aperture priority (A). These modes require some work on your part, but you’re most likely going to be able to get the results that you want instead of sitting there wondering why the camera isn’t responding to you the way you want. The auto modes tend to be more unpredictable in their mannerisms, and can even give you results that aren’t satisfactory at all.
[If you don’t know what these modes are or how to use them, I highly recommend Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. The best $17 you’ll spend on your photography hobby. -Eric]
2. Your Aperture Changes As You Zoom When Using the Kit Lens
This is a big one. When you’re using your kit lens, keep in mind that your aperture (F stop) will change as you zoom in and out and therefore you will need to adjust your shooting accordingly. You can find out how it will change by looking at the specifications on the lens. For example, a kit lens may be F3.5 at it’s widest angle (zoomed out) and perhaps F5.6 at it’s most telephoto angle (zoomed in). Because of this, you can’t always just point and shoot the DSLR. You’ll need to compensate.
Keep this in mind before you machine gun shoot.
3. Compensate Your Shutter Speed, ISO, Aperture
I’ve seen lots of beginners shooting in manual go from shooting one thing in a certain lighting to another thing in totally different lighting without changing their settings at all. Look at your light meter, it will tell you whether you are underexposed (dark) or overexposed (bright). Ideally, you want to get it right in the center of the meter. That requires turning your dial wheels until you come to the results you want.
Keep these in mind:
(Brightest/Slowest shutter speeds) 30″ – 1/8000th” (Fastest and darkest shutter speeds)
(Brightest and most light sensitive ISO) 3200 – 100 (Darkest and least light sensitive ISO)
(Brightest, and least depth of field) F1.8 – F22 (Darkest and most depth of field)
4. Check That You’re Totally in Focus
Like someone using their point and shoot, users of DSLRs don’t always check that their subject is totally and sharply in focus. To be fair, you can’t always see that on your LCD screen. Zoom in on the LCD after you’ve taken the shot and ensure that what you intended to shoot is in focus. Do this before you start rapid firing off on your subject. Otherwise, you’ll have loads of photos that aren’t in focus and more to throw away.
5. Remember That Your Metering Changes Depending on Settings
This will explain metering much better than I can, but keep in mind that when you point your camera at a different subject that it require different metering because of light changes. This means you may need to change your metering mode or adjust your exposure compensation (read your manual, these are important).
6. Keep Your Eye in the Viewfinder
If you keep your eye in the viewfinder, you will usually be able to find all your settings. Some photographers use the back LCD to check their exposure settings rather than using the viewfinder. When this is done, you just might miss the shot. You can read most of these settings in the viewfinder and it will allow you to make changes as necessary. All it requires is a bit of muscle memory in terms of remembering the buttons.
What tips can you offer to beginner DSLR users?