Navigating Your New dSLR


Twitter, Facebook and the world of blogs are revealing that dSLRs were a popular gift this year, making me think that many of you reading are currently trying to learn how to best use that shiny new camera of yours! A few tips to help you along in your journey to taking better photos!

1. Read some of my past posts on photography basics. The three things you absolutely have to understand before you can ever have complete control over the pictures you take are aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. You will never be able to take good pictures until you understand these three things. Your camera might take pretty pictures if you never bother to learn, but wouldn’t you like to take all of the credit for each and every photos you take?

A few other posts you might gain something from:

2. Get thyself over to Pioneer Woman Photography and read her tutorial posts. They are some of the best I’ve seen on the world wide web. This post on metering changed my life (it’s kind of embarrassing how long I went without understanding how to utilize my camera’s meter). You might also enjoy this post on Focus Point, this one on Basic Macro Tips, and this one on Nailing the Exposure. I Heart Faces has some really fantastic tutorials as well.

3. Get yourself an editing program and learn to use actions. [Editors Note: Apparently Photoshop Elements doesn’t provide the ability to use actions. Whoops! I’ve been spoiled and never had to use it. Check out these Photoshop Elements tutorials on I Heart Faces if that’s the program you are currently navigating!) Also you should learn to do things that don’t include actions, but actions are a good place to start. I frequently use Pioneer Woman’s actions and I think you will love them too. PW also wrote a great post on making eyes pop with Photoshop. Know that you will instantly be judged as an amateur by the majority of those who call themselves photographers if you edit your photos with the selective color technique.

4. Find some blogs with photography tips and subscribe to them. The Digital Photography School blog is my favorite.

5. GOOGLE EVERYTHING! I frequently get questions from people on things that could easily be answered with a little digging. Click here and I’ll help answer your questions concerning the best tips for beginning photographers (but just this one time).

24 thoughts on “Navigating Your New dSLR

  1. YES, I too loved the metering article on PW! The little thing was the puzzle piece that unlocked being able to shoot fully manual for me!
    And I second the plug for DPS- have learned so much about everything photography related on that site.
    But I have to point out- you can’t use actions with PS Elements. I think that’s the main thing that separates it (and makes it less expensive) than the full-blown Photoshop program. I currently have PSE 6 for Mac and I’m glad I’m learning to use all the different tools and layers and adjustment sliders now so that when I do get the full version of Photoshop, it won’t be such a steep learning curve, plus I’ll be able to get actions! Yes!

    TwoWishes Tara Reply:

    Actions ARE compatible with Elements. It depends on the actions — not all can be run on Elements, or the creator doesn’t take the trouble to make a PSE version — but you definitely can find some out there. Try Googling “Coffeeshop PSE Actions,” which includes both some useful free actions and a link on how to install them.

    Jenna Reply:

    Thanks Tara! Guess I shouldn’t blog about things I really don’t know anything about. :)

  2. Thank you!! We received a dSLR for Christmas and I pretty much have no idea how to use it. This is going to help me so so so so so sooooo much. Yay!! I’m so excited!!

  3. Thank you! I really need to make time to figure this baby out. For now, I’m just shooting from the hip, but I promise you (and mostly Forrest because he’s the handsome man that bought it for me) that I will learn, however slowly/long it may take.

  4. Jenna, I’ve been following your blog for several months, but this is my first time commenting! Hi! I too received a dSLR for Christmas and spent my time off reviewing your archives. You taught me my first several lessons, so thank you! I was just about to sign up for a photography class, but I think I’ll peruse the links you list here first to see if I can’t do a bit more self-education. Thanks for sharing all this information – you seem like the nicest person ever. And delayed congratulations on That Baby. How exciting for you and TH. All the best in 2010!

  5. Hi Jenna, Do you have any advice for those of us who don’t yet have a dSLR for taking great pics? It’s hard to justify the cost if you haven’t even mastered your Canon Powershot SD! Although I see the amazing pics people take and wish I could get there!

    Hannah Reply:

    Can I suggest reading the manual? I know that sounds insane and obvious but SO many people don’t and therefore don’t realise the capabilities of

    I worked on understanding how my Ixus worked when I got it and did get some lovely results – I think the Powershot has many more capabilities than the Ixus so you should be able to get some great stuff out of it.

    I learned how my DSLR works via reading before I got mine – including reading the manual online while I eagerly awaited its arrival.

    Jenna Reply:

    I just learned of a fantastic site geared toward people just like you! I like that they are going to be dispensing lots of practical advice for people who just want to learn to take better pictures in everyday situations.

  6. WOW! Thanks for this post – I’m hoping to buy a new dSLR camera this year and this is just what I needed! I dabbled in Photoshop in college during my graphic designer phase, but it’s so much easier to take quality photos in the first place and then do minor touch-ups, as opposed to trying to make a crappy pic look fantastic through layers and layers of editing.

    Oh- and I literally laughed out loud when I read your comment about the selective color technique! I hate that :)

  7. Good article. I still have problems figuring out how f stop really comes into play. I always leave mine at f 4 but really move and play with the shutter and ISO.

  8. Thanks for compiling this list of resources. I got a dSLR for Christmas too, so it’s nice to have some good places to start learning!

  9. Thanks for this post Jenna! I have been searching the net for months now, reading up on photography when I can, and these are definitely some of the best, most clearly written tutorials. You’ve saved me a lot of time and frustration!

    and all your photography posts. When I received my dSLR I used google, my camera’s manuel and your posts to create flash cards to help me get the hang of ISO, white balance, etc. It’s great to stick in my back pocket when I’m practicing with the camera.

  11. Ahhh! Thank you for pointing me to the Pioneer Woman’s free actions! I’ve been drooling over some online, but I’m too poor right now to dish out another $100. I just went back and edited about 20 photos for fun and posted some one my blog (when I really should be working on this 25 page research paper)

  12. Well timed post – did you read the same article I did proclaiming the digital compact dead? Thanks for the heads up about photoshop – I always just assumed it was 500+ bucks and never bothered with an editing program.

  13. I’m definitely bookmarking this post. I won’t be getting a dslr for almost a year but I know I’ll need all the help I can get!

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