Knowing Photography & Your DSLR

Are you the proud owner of a DSLR camera?
Are you intimidated by all of the buttons, dials, lens options, etc.?
Wonder about Photoshop?
You are not alone.

A rude awaking may come when you open that box and are faced with a manual an inch or more in thickness, a big camera with a lens you think is going to produce those images you see from online portfolios the pros have.

Well, 2+ years ago, that was me.

Christmas 2010 was going to be the awesome start of great photos I would be able to take myself. I had no idea what aperture clue about shutter speed or lighting....or anything!

I basically wanted to know how to turn it on, and see a beautiful photo that the most expensive camera I had ever bought could produce.

Cameras are like ingredients you use to cook. Sure, it helps to have high quality ingredients, but even the most amateur chef can take a prime cut of meat and turn it into jerky if it's not done right.

Here are some tips that I want to share just in case there are some newbies out there who need to be told these things...some people just don't know, and the lingo can be intimidating.

Tip 1) Learn your over the manual. I know you probably won't want to do this, but it is really important that you at least familiarize yourself with the dials and buttons. You will want to know how to adjust aperture, shutter speed, ISO and various other modes. Don't let these words scare you. If you're looking for that blurred background, you have to understand aperture.
If you're looking for a vintage-haze look to your photos, get to know your shutter speed too!
Learn. Your. Camera.

Tip 2) Read online blogs, books, YouTube videos, beginner forums 
I especially find the posts on Lil Blue Boo's photography page.... very informative.
On you tube, you can type in almost any question and find a video about it.
Books can be useful to understand the genre of photography you are interested in. A good book that was recommended to me is Understanding Exposure.
Facebook has a bunch of beginner pages you can join to meet other newbie photographers and get constructive criticism or help with your photography.

Tip 3) Find photographers you admire, & follow them on social media.

I follow a few, and even get to chat with them if I ever have a question. Do you see a picture of theirs that you love? Ask them what lens they used to take it, what their settings were, etc. Most won't mind sharing that information. It has been great to talk to some of them and ask what camera they have, and what their favorite lens is. You can quickly get an idea if you are on track with setting up your shots, and using your camera to the best of its ability.

Tip 4) Think about lighting! 
Pictures at mid-day are the most difficult, so you will need to practice different lighting situations when taking pictures. Before you set up a shoot, or take a photo, ask yourself where the light source is coming from. Do you have enough light? Do you have too much? Of course, some situations with bad lighting will be unavoidable, so that is where knowledge of your camera's settings will be useful. Check out some lighting books at the library, or experiments with different locations and times of day.

Tip 5) Editing

Nearly all of the photos you find have some degree of editing done to them. If a photographer ever posts a photo "SOOC" (straight out of camera), that is to show you the original photo without any edits to it.
I've learned it is an art to get a beautiful picture SOOC, so practice and be realistic when comparing your photos to ones you find online. DON'T have unreal expectations, and DO try to get the best photo in your camera originally.

My personal taste for edited photos is very minimalist...the less, the better.
I do not own Photoshop, but I do have Photoshop Elements 10, and eventually want to own Lightroom.

Tip 6) Take a TON of photos...try venturing off of AUTO mode
Once you familiarize yourself with aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, start experimenting with manual mode. Auto is like having an auto pilot...someone who tries to gather the information from your surroundings, assumes it knows what you want a picture of, and does its best to calculate all of that into a good picture. Manual allows you much more versatility and accuracy with your photos. Don't be afraid to take a hundred pictures and then throw them all away.....each one will be a lesson learned. Keep taking them and adjusting your settings to learn them in an out.

Tip 7) Find a LOCAL photographer you admire and get to know them, their style, and what they offer. 
Many will offer mentoring or beginner workshops that you can learn a lot in. Some have tutorials online that you can download.
 I recommend following Jessica Downey Photography because her workshops are great for any beginner, and she offers mentoring to photographers all over the United States. The only 2 classes I have ever attended have been taught by her, and her first class gave me the "guts" to switch to manual mode just over a year ago. I haven't looked back to auto mode since then.

Heather Gill Photography is also another photographer I admire because she is a food photographer, chef and photo editor of Edible Phoenix magazine. She's offered to let me collaborate with her on some projects for 2013, so I am excited about that!

Well, I hope I haven't overwhelmed you with all of this writing.
To give you a break from words, here are a few photos I took at the Jessica Downey's workshop this past weekend. I do not have a crazy expensive camera or lens (Nikon D90, 50mm 1.8), but I hope to upgrade this year to something a little more improved.