Tuesday, December 1, 2009

First Week with a DSLR: Part 2

Dispelling the Myth

So you've just opened the box of your brand new DSLR.  What next?  Well first you'll probably want to attach the camera strap, charge and insert the battery, attach your lens, and put in a memory card (preferably not the small-capacity freebie that came with your camera.)  Once you've done that, you should have a working camera.  When you turn it on, you'll probably be asked to set the time and date, but that is most likely your only hurtle to overcome before snapping away.

So let's say you've done all this, you've put the kids to bed and you are ready to experiment.  Prepare to be disappointed.  Why?  Because most people who haven't used an SLR or DSLR think that big heavy cameras take great pictures.  Wrong.  Photographers take great pictures.  One of my photography-pet-peeves is hearing people say "Sure his pictures are good, look at his camera."  I especially hate this when people say it about me.  For two reasons.
  1. I've got a nice camera, but I want some credit for my pictures.  (This is called pride)
  2. Plenty of people with nice cameras take bad pictures.  (This is reality)
So don't think that your new camera is going to make you the next Ansel Adams or Annie Leibovitz without any effort.  If you can get past this, then the first few weeks with your new camera will be a lot more pleasant.

Where to Start

To avoid disappointment, here are a few pointers:

  • Start your experimentation outside in the daylight.  Then you will get to see how great your camera can be.  You'll have to work to get good pictures in darker situations, but don't start with the most difficult stuff.
  • Start with your camera in AUTO or Program mode.  Let your camera do the work at first so you can get used to holding it, zooming and taking pictures.
  • Don't change settings if you don't know what they do.  You'll probably do more harm than good - and then you'll forget what you did.
  • Use your camera's display to review your pictures immediately.  Take advantage of the fact that you have a digital camera that can give you immediate feedback.  Learn and make adjustments right away.
  • Don't delete anything at first.  Wait until you can see the pictures on your computer and find out what you are doing well or poorly.  Looking at your mistakes can help you to learn a lot quickly.

A Message of Hope

Don't let my sobering message mislead or discourage you.  Your new DSLR will absolutely help you take better pictures than your old point and shoot camera.  Your new DSLR can get good pictures in situations that your P&S cannot.  Your purchase was worth it.  It just might take some time for you to learn how to use your DSLR in a way that maximizes its potential.