Make the Most of Your DSLR

DSLR

All right! You’ve made the commitment and purchased a DSLR. Now that you have your shiny toy, it’s time to make the most of your new photographic instrument. And like any instrument, you have to master some skills in order to make it sing—or in this case, take great photographs. Here’s some sound advice for any DSLR, from the most affordable to out-of-sight professional models.

Read the Manual

We know we sound like an old high school teacher, but in order to get the most out of your camera, you have to know what all the buttons and dials do. This advice will go a long way toward maximizing your experience. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a first-time DLSR buyer, you have to delve deeply into the owner’s manual, because every camera is different. Otherwise, you’re just skimming the surface of the camera’s capabilities, which is a shame if you’ve just dropped $750 or more. Keep it handy, read it in chunks, but go through it all.

 

Learn every detail about your DSLR by reading the manual
Learn every detail about your DSLR by reading the manual

Take a Class

We can hear the groans again but if you’re not familiar with the intricacies of photography, it would well worth your while taking a class in person or online. Check out BetterPhoto.com to see what’s available. Also many of the top DSLR brands offer local classes plus they have online tutorials to walk you through their cameras. The more you know and the more familiar you become with your camera, the better your photos will be.

BetterPhoto.com
Check out BetterPhoto.com for classes

Go Beyond Auto

Every DSLR has an auto mode. It’s a good place to start as you get the feel of the camera and become comfortable with the control layout (see steps one and two). Once you’ve shot for awhile, it’s time to spread your wings with scene modes, which are similar to the scene modes found on point-and-shoots. With these shortcuts the camera will make the appropriate adjustments for a specific subject (portrait, sports, landscape and so on). They’re baby steps, but the more photos you take, the more confident you’ll become.

Auto Setting
Test out the different scene modes on your camera


Unleash Your Inner Child

And by this we mean play with all of the major image components available to you, including exposure compensation, bracketing, white balance, contrast, saturation, sharpness—the whole nine yards. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results you’ll get from tweaking images to your vision. Depending on the camera, you may want to under- or overexpose your photos all the time to suit your taste (exposure compensation), you may prefer less sharpness – or more. The list goes on. It’s up to you. And don’t be afraid to go crazy taking tons of photos. Our best photography teacher urged our class to just shoot 10 rolls of film – at anything and anywhere – every week for a month. We even had to develop our own film and make piles of prints. It was a liberating experience, and really opened our eyes as to what personal photographic expression could be. There’s no excuse not doing the same thing with digital.

Take tons of photos
Don't be afraid of taking a ton of pictures at different settings


Take Notes

You can go analog (pen and pad) or digital (iPhone apps), but it’s important to note the adjustments you made to each practice photo so you’ll know exactly how you tweaked the image when you review them. There’s nothing worse than forgetting your settings. Of course, you can check out the file’s metadata, but that usually doesn’t show all the adjustments. Once you’ve examined your photos on the monitor (make sure they’re enlarged at least 50 percent) you’ll know which tweaks worked best. You’ll also see at what ISO digital noise becomes a problem, so you can avoid that option in the future.

Take note
Keep track of your settings for review
Product Review

Equal parts tool and toy, the Lensbaby Edge 35 bucks photographic tradition

The Lensbaby Edge 35, part of the Composer Pro optic swap system, creates tilt-shift-like blur without the tilt-shift price. Made for photographers who want find tradition boring, it opens up new ways to work with blur.
Photography

Panasonic Lumix S1R vs. Nikon Z 7: When megapixels matter, which do you choose?

The 47-megapixels Lumix S1R and 46-megapixel Nikon Z 7 are the two highest-resolution, full-frame mirrorless cameras on the market. The S1R features a high-resolution mode that can take 187MP images, but the Nikon is lighter and cheaper.
Deals

The Canon EOS Rebel T6 DSLR camera gets a steep price cut at Walmart

Modern smartphones can snap pretty impressive pics, but if you want pro-quality photos, you need a dedicated digital camera. The Canon EOS Rebel T6 is one of the best entry-level DSLR cameras on the market, and it’s on sale right now for…
Photography

Nikon Z 7 vs. Sony A7R III: High-res mirrorless cameras compared

The Nikon Z 7 and Sony A7R III both have over 40 megapixels, but which one comes out on top? With similar image quality, the answer comes down to speed, autofocus, battery life, and design.
Product Review

Fujifilm's X-T30 is a pro-level camera that costs less than an iPhone

At just $900, the Fujifilm X-T30 keeps pace with the $1,500 X-T3 in many respects. It is an impressively versatile machine and is great as either a first camera for beginners or a second camera for pros already shooting on the larger X-T3.
Photography

Go for bokeh, not for broke with the best cameras under $1,000

Looking for a great camera without spending more than $1,000? From the stellar Fujifilm X-T30 to the beginner-friendly Canon EOS Rebel T7i, here are the best sub-$1,000 cameras on the market right now.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Halfbikes, VR for all your senses, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!
Photography

These are the best camera straps you can get your hands on

Choosing the right camera strap for your needs can be a tough decision. To help sort through the junk, we've rounded up the best camera straps on the market for you to choose from.
Photography

Fujifilm X-T30 vs. Sony A6400: Midrange mirrorless cameras compared

The Fujifilm X-T30 and Sony A6400 are two of the best cameras you can buy for under $1,000, but which should you choose? Each has an edge in certain situations which makes picking a winner difficult, but here's how they compare.
Photography

Photography news: Sony brings Eye Autofocus to critters via A.I.

In this week's photography news, the Sony a7 III and a7R III have some new capabilities, thanks to updated firmware. Lexar teases a crazy fast 1,000MB/s memory card, while Vimeo launches bulk upload possibilities.
Deals

The best budget-friendly GoPro alternatives that won’t leave you broke

Cold weather is here, and a good action camera is the perfect way to record all your adventures. You don't need to shell out the big bucks for a GoPro: Check out these great GoPro alternatives, including some 4K cameras, that won’t leave…
Photography

Etch-A-Snap camera puts a modern spin on one of your favorite childhood toys

Can't draw on an Etch A Sketch? Snap a photo with the Etch-A-Snap and the camera will draw out the scene for you. The weirdly cool camera designed by Martin Fitzpatrick replaces the usual LCD screen with an old-school Etch A Sketch.
Photography

The Black Eye Pro Cinema Wide G4 is a knockout lens for any smartphone

Where cheaper wide-angle accessory lenses add distortion, and costlier models don't always justify their higher prices, the Black Eye Pro Cinema Wide G4 offers a valuable balance of modest price and high quality optics.
Photography

Family feud: Huawei P30 Pro vs. P20 Pro vs. Mate 20 Pro camera shootout

The Huawei P30 Pro's camera has an amazing zoom mode and low light capabilities. But take these away, and how does it compare when facing its sibling phones, the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro, taking regular photos?
1 of 2