Home photography 5 things I wish I had known when I bought a DSLR

5 things I wish I had known when I bought a DSLR

by Clare Mansell
5 things I wish I had known when I bought a DSLR

1. That my cheapest lens would also be my favourite

When I got my first DSLR I rushed out and bought a huge expensive zoom lens for it, because zooming in and out is really cool! 6 years later I don’t own that zoom and most of the time when I take photos I use one of two lenses, the 50mm I bought 5 years ago (which has outlasted all my camera kit) and my 35mm. The 50mm cost me £90 but because of its aperture range it is wonderful for photos of food and people.

2. Joining a Camera Club teaches you more than doing a course

There are camera clubs up and down the country and they are a goldmine of knowledge. Joining one will introduce you to people who have a huge and varied knowledge of photography that you can access weekly for free (well for the price of membership at least) it will get you involved in club competitions which will push you to improve your photography and allow you to have your work critiqued rather than just having nice things said about it, which is hard at first but invaluable if you want to improve.

3. Shoot in RAW even before you know why you need to

RAW files are a form of digital negative which give you the flexibility to edit your photos in a non-destructive way. It can save an under or over-exposed picture and correct white balance. I spent months being (politely) nagged by friends to switch to shooting in RAW until I finally got it. Now I go back to old images and want to weep that I don’t have the RAW files to alter. If you are taking important images (birthdays, portraits, one off experiences) change your camera to “RAW + JPEG” and tuck the RAW files away, one day you will be grateful!

4. That great images (mostly) don’t come straight from camera

When I first got an SLR I was really disappointed that the images it took often appeared quite dull. I eventually learned that most photos can be improved with some subtle tweaks to exposure or saturation and a little sharpening and some can be improved by radical changes. Taking the picture is really only half the job. There are loads of software options around, I personally use Lightroom & Photoshop,  but Photoshop Elements is brilliant for beginners.

5. That light can make or break a photo

Many amateurs (me included a while ago) wrongly assume that full sunlight is “good” (you often hear people cooing “oh look and the sun has come out too!” as a photo is taken.) The truth is full sun is flattering to no one and nothing, the easy option is to seek out the even cover of shade, but my big leap was understanding that you can achieve beautiful images if you shoot with the sun behind your subject (and their face in the shade) providing it is low enough in the sky.

So, what do you wish you had known when you bought your DSLR?

PS –  I am over at Iheartsnapping.com today as part of their My Best Photos feature.

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Carie May 23, 2014 - 7:40 pm

I think I wish I’d known about Lightroom sooner, and possibly also about the golden hour at dusk – and maybe also that in England sometime the better picture is the one you took in grainy low light to actually capture the moment, than the one you didn’t because conditions weren’t perfect. Gorgeous pictures one and all by the way 🙂

Jane G May 23, 2014 - 7:50 pm

wonderful! all those apply as mine as well but the raw shooting is a new one to me! Thank you, i suspect ive just been handed my next big learning curve! i think the best thing i read this month about photography was to bear in mind the ‘subject’ behind your shot! why you are shooting it, to ensure you have a photograph not just a snap shot! that one idea alone has radically altered how i think when i pick up my camera! beautiful images xxx

City Coastal Life & Style May 23, 2014 - 7:54 pm

I have heard of RAW but no idea where to find it or what to do with it *laughs heartily* but I am off Auto mode some of the time! I am thinking of joining our local camera club, will go check it out & then decide, not sure I have time for weekly meets though!

Isisjem May 24, 2014 - 1:41 pm

I was just telling someone yesterday how my ‘nifty fifty’ is my favourite lens. I wish I’d upgraded my entry level DSLR sooner. I resisted because the entry level one was lightest that manufacturer did – a real bonus if you’re also carting around a big lens and are wussy like me. But now I’ve upgraded (purely by picking up someone elses camera and trying it for a day rather than the odd snap.) I so wish I’d done it sooner. I can’t believe the range of settings it allows me to manipulate that my other camera didn’t. People would say oh in low light just adjust this to…or that to… and I’d be gritting my teeth thinking: But the camera’s settings don’t go that far and I couldn’t compensate with another setting for the same reason! Admit I’ve heard people talk about RAW but know nothing about it!

Karolina Barnes May 26, 2014 - 3:23 pm

Thanks for the RAW tip, also never knew what it exactly was for. I also need help with creating photos with blurred areas. I currently do it in Photoshop. Is there a camera that can do it automatically? Like on your last picture?

pennydog May 27, 2014 - 11:13 am

I use Adobe Creative Suite every day and I’ve never really understood what Lightroom or Bridge is for…!

I actually don’t have my DSLR anymore but you are right about the sunlight thing. I’m helping my friend with some photos for a new online shop and she was worried when I was taking the photos outside one evening- we’d had a stunning day and so it was still lovely outside but without the harshness that would normally bring out the shadows, and I still had plenty of light to change aperture up.


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