I got my very first DSLR camera about 6 months ago, and was SO excited to learn how to use it. But I don’t think I was prepared for how much there is to learn about basic photography! I never intended to become any kind of semi-professional photographer…I just wanted to know enough about photography to take good pictures of my family and capture memories in a little higher quality than our old point-and-shoot. We purchased a Nikon D5100, and based on the recommendation of a photographer friend (knowing that I’d be doing lots of portrait-type indoor shooting of my beautiful baby girl!) we bought a 35mm f/1.8G lens instead of purchasing the camera with the typical 18-55mm kit lens.
Once our camera arrived, I very quickly figured out that while there is SO much potential with a DSLR, it is VERY overwhelming to read through the manual and not even know where to begin! I think that’s why so many people purchase a DSLR camera and end up just using it on automatic all the time. To be honest, using a DSLR on auto will take great pictures – much better than you ever got with your point-and-shoot – and maybe you’re happy with that. But once you realize how much potential there is in your hands…and what incredible photographs you COULD be taking…you’ll want to take some time to learn more about your camera.
The most important thing to begin is to learn about the basics of exposure. Without knowing about aperture, shutter speed, and ISO – and how they all work together in the “exposure triangle” – you’ll never be able to understand how to leave the automatic mode on your camera and utilize it’s full potential. I watched an incredible informative (and not boring!) video on Lynda.com called “Foundations of Photography: Exposure.” You can sign up for a week-long free trial of Lynda.com and just watch that video to get you started. (You can even watch a few excerpts of it without an account to see if you like it or not.) It was the absolute most helpful thing for me when I was getting started. Lynda.com also has lots of great photography and photo editing video tutorials that were super informative and helpful for me. (If you have a D5100, there is even a very thorough “video manual” that essentially shows you every function and setting specifically on your camera and how to use it.)
A GREAT place to start is the book Understanding Exposure. It is (of course) in full color, with wonderful photo examples of every concept explained in a way that’s easy to understand. It’s a lot more thorough than any online article or blog post or series you’ll find.
There are also some REALLY great blog posts out there that explain exposure and how to use your DSLR to take better pictures. I’d highly recommend reading these posts (or series of posts) and then sticking around to explore the other photography resources on these blogs! They were extremely helpful to me.
- KevinandAmanda.com is a GREAT resource for beginning photography! They’ve got some fantastic posts for beginners. I’d recommend starting with their Photography Tutorial, then check out their post on What Settings Should I Use and What Lens Should I Choose. Definitely spend some time on this site!
- It’s Overflowing has a short Photography Course that does a good job of focusing in on each aspect of that exposure triangle I mentioned.
- The Design Confidential rounded-up a bunch of posts on more specific and in-depth articles about photography concepts. A lot of the links are to Digital Photography School, which is another great resource. (I follow them on Pinterest)
- I’ve rounded up even more ideas in this post: 101 Tips to Take Better Photos of Your Kids
- Check out my Beginner Photography Pinterest Board for more links! (I also have a Photoshop Board if you’re interested in learning more about photo editing.)
For me, my goal was to be able to take good pictures of my family – photos I’d be proud to display on the wall and excited to go back and look through; photos that are more than just an image, they capture a memory. I know I’ll never be a professional photographer because I simply don’t have the time or resources necessary to invest in this hobby to do that…nor do I really have the desire…but learning the basics was still very important to me. I know I still have a LOT to learn, but I am proud of how much I’ve learned and how far I’ve come!
Have fun on your photography journey!
Disclosure: The links contained in this post are Amazon Affiliate links. That means if you purchase any of the items I’ve recommended by clicking on one of those links, Amazon will pay me a tiny percentage of the sale. All of those earnings will go towards blog-related expenses so that I can continue unOriginalMom.com!
Get your copy of my FREE meal planning binder!
Sign up to get a free copy of my meal planning system - an 11 page printable meal planning binder, complete with a pantry inventory, shopping list, and more to help get on top of your menu each week!
Thank you for this post. I would like to invest in a nice camera and don’t really know where to begin. Would you recommend the camera you bought? Your little girl is really cute!
Hi Kelly! I love my camera…it is a great “starter” DSLR but very high quality and well priced. Honestly, most of the stuff I read while researching cameras actually said that most DSLRs are actually pretty equal…especially if you get a Canon or Nikon. It’s the lenses that will really make the difference. I’ve heard that the Canon Rebels are great. Also, we purchased ours from Cameta Camera – they had the best price on the camera body and lens we wanted. Hope that helps!
Meredith, I’m in the same boat as you. Just purchased a DSLR last month which will be arriving with my visiting mother-in-law from the states next month. I’ve read tons of tutorials, many of those you mentioned here, and can’t wait to get crisp, clear photos of my family (and soon-to-come newborn son.) I know I have tons to learn and lots of trial and error are waiting for me, but I can’t help but get excited about the upcoming arrival of my new-to-me Canon DSLR.
Congrats on your purchase! It was a long time in coming for me…a whole lot of money to spend on one thing, which made it a difficult decision…but I am SO glad we did! You will have lots of fun playing with it. The only way to really get better is to take lots of pictures, it’s all about trial and error! Hope you have a blast with your new toy :-)
:-) I manage the Digital Photography School Pinterest account and discovered this post, ironically, while Pinning stuff. I was looking for more tutes to pin and saw the mention.
Thank you so much for what you said about DPS and let me know if there is anyway I can improve it.
I have learned so much from following you on Pinterest! Thanks for the great pins :-) Glad you stopped by!