10 best tips to learn about DSLR photography are listed below. Bear in mind that these are only suggestions and observations. Many photographers may disagree with them and DSLR photography is an art with many different photographers taking many different approaches.
1. ISO, the single most important technical thing to know for a DSLR photographer is ISO which technically stands for the International Organization for Standardization and in the old days of film it had to do with film speed. But without getting very technical here, if you are shooting in the dark or a poorly lit room or at night, you can dramatically improve your photos by bumping up your ISO setting. Most digital cameras these days go to 1600.
When you see those blurry shaky photos that people take at night without a flash what is going on here is that the camera lens is being opened on an automatic setting too long to avoid the movement of your hand which produces the blur. By increasing your ISO setting you will be able to shorten the amount of time the lens is open and thus get a less blurry photo due to the ever so slight movement that naturally takes place in your hand when you shoot. Experiment around with your ISO setting and make sure that you understand that it will make a world of difference to the photos you are shooting in low light situations by increasing it.
2. When dealing with low light situations that are still blurry at high ISO settings, find something to brace the camera on. You can set it on a table, chair, bar, etc. You can hold it tight against a light or telephone pole or wall. You can lay on the ground and set it there. Find something for stability. This will dramatically improve your ability to steady the camera in a low light situation.
3. Don’t cheap out on a tripod. Cheap tripods will inevitably break and further, they won’t work right, won’t get your camera at the right angle, will shake in the wind when it’s blowing, etc. Spend some extra money and buy a good tripod or you will regret it. It should have a ball head and for everyday use be somewhat light and hopefully fit in your back pack. You may want a more sturdy industrious larger tripod for the car, but a basic smaller one for a backpack of good quality is money well spent. Manfrotto Compact Tripod (Black) is a good example to look for.
4. It’s all about the lens. The difference in shots using better lenses is dramatic. With Canon their L Series lenses are amazing – you will not go wrong with any Canon L Series lens. Whether zoom telephoto, macro, wide angle, prime (fixed focal length), all will make dramatically different photos come out of your camera. See our article. Experiment with lenses and make sure that a fair portion of your camera budget is dedicated to at least one if not two quality lenses.
5. Join Flickr. Flickr is almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world. Something happens when you start sharing your artistic photographs with the rest of the world. It’s hard to say why or how it happens but it gives you a tremendous amount of emotional support and genuine satisfaction to see like minded camera geeks sharing their work and appreciating yours.
6. Know your rights. Nowhere are rights more misunderstood than with photographers today. Can you take photos of strangers on the street. Yes. Can you take photos of buildings from the street even after security guards tell you not to? Yes. Can you shoot into an open door from the street into a bar? Yes. Know your rights and stick up for them. This not only helps you but it helps other photographers. For a great primer on your rights as a photographer check out Bert Krage’s excellent .pdf called “The Photographer’s Right”
7. Shoot in RAW and then learn how to do the production necessary with your photo processing app to do the minor modifications necessary to make your photo the best that it can be. Raw files take up a lot of space on your hard drive. But being able to make modifications to the exposure, contrast and temperature before really processing the photo makes a huge difference.
8. Photoshop. Almost every digital photo can be improved by editing it. Simple things like bumping contrast, altering saturation, sharpness, selective color, etc. all can make a world of difference. Buy Photoshop or go for free software like Google’s Picasa, it does do a lot of the basics nicely.
9. Take lots and lots and lots of photos when you shoot. Feel free to throw out the vast majority of the shots you shoot. When you see something you like to shoot, shoot 6 shots of the exact same thing. Some will be bad and you can pick the very best one and throw out the rest.
10. Change your perspective. Whenever you think you have your shot framed and captured take your shot and consider different perspectives. Can you get down on the ground (or simply set your camera on the ground and shoot from there standing up) and get a better perspective. Look up. Is there someplace higher you can get. What about closer, further back. Turn around. What’s behind you? Are you missing something great? Look everywhere at once. Keep your eyes open for different ways to take the same shot. Tilt the camera, take a vertical, a horizontal, a diagonal. Crop out the sky. Crop out all of the land but a thin small strip at the bottom. Play with your perspective on a shot and take several different versions of the same thing.
And finally, have fun. Digital photography is a great hobby and can be loads of fun but make sure that you don’t get so serious about it that it stops being fun for you. DSLR photography can be a career option for you if you take much seriously.