So You Got A New DSLR For Christmas!


North Phoenix Moms Blog_DSLR_BW

Hi everyone! If you were lucky enough to receive a new camera for Christmas this year, congratulations! That’s a pretty awesome gift. As far as material gifts go, it is definitely one of the top five of my life! My dad gave me my first DSLR camera for Christmas in 2009 because I wanted to take better pictures of my daughter (then a baby). I found out this is how a lot of photographers get into it-wanting to capture their kids’ childhoods. Trying to learn a camera (or any new skill) can be overwhelming. Many people never take their cameras off “auto”-and that’s fine, you will still get better photos of your kids with a DSLR than you would with your phone or a point-and-shoot type camera; a DSLR is so much faster than those choices which is very helpful when it comes to moving kiddos. I do use my phone camera often too, but to me it’s a different type of photography.. and that’s another post for another day. The DSLR is my first love and if you have aspirations of getting to know your new BFF better, read on.

Learning to use your camera to its capacity, as well as learning some things about composition and editing can really improve your photos. Not to mention give you a fun new hobby!

Here are some resources that have helped me learn how to use my camera these past five years. Some caveats-I am completely self-taught, and I am still learning every day. That is one thing I love about photography, there are always ways to learn and grow. It is a passion of mine and even if you have no desire to become as obsessed as I am, here are some places you can go to learn a few things!

Read: Most photographers will tell you the “Bible” of photography (at least when it comes to learning how your camera works in manual mode) is Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. There are tons of photography books out there; I have read quite a few of them (and have a few more on my bookshelf waiting to be read) but this is a great place to start if you are interested in flipping that dial over to “M” and learning manual mode on your camera. I had several “aha” moments while reading this book, it really clarified things for me.

I also recommend getting the “For Dummies” book for your particular camera. Not that you are a Dummy! But this helped me immensely when I was trying to learn my first camera, a Nikon D3000. I found the user manual that came with the camera to not be very helpful, as it was an entry level camera.

Websites: Here are some sites that helped me along the way.  This is by no means all inclusive and don’t forget Youtube and good old Google searches are also helpful if you are trying to learn something specific.

  • I Heart Faces offers tutorials, challenges and a photography community.
  • Click it up a notch: Tons of usual tutorials and tips on photography, blogging and processing.
  • Coffeshop Blog: Lots of tutorials and free actions
  • Rock the shot: Photography tutorials, photographer interviews, tutorials and an online forum for photographers.
  • Texas Chicks: Offers tutorials and workshops on editing and photography.
  • Everyday Elements: When I first started out, I edited my photos with Photoshop Elements (PSE), which served me well for five years. I recently switched to full Photoshop and Lightroom. Elements is a great program though and more user friendly for beginners. When I was learning PSE, I found this site very, very helpful. Having a good handle on PSE helped me immensely in making the leap to Photoshop. Learning to edit and post-process photos really helped me to take my photography to the next level and push myself creatively.
  • Clickin Moms: Offers tutorials, workshops and a very supportive online community for all levels of photographers.

Finally, the biggest piece of advice I can offer you is to take  a lot of pictures. Consider doing a 365 project (where you take photos every day for a year) or a Project 52 (where you commit to taking photos once a week for a year). Many of the above websites offer online community projects and challenges like this. Or you can start your own small group on Flickr with friends.

Best of luck with your new camera! I hope this post has been helpful in getting you started with it.  I hope you enjoy your camera as much as I have enjoyed mine! Maybe next year you will ask Santa for some new lenses 😉

Did you get a new camera for Christmas this year? Or maybe have made it your goal this year to learn to use the one you have? Do you have any favorite photography resources to share?  Tell us about it in the comments!


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Eileen has been married to her husband, Eric, an Air Force officer, since 1998. A pharmacist by trade, she worked that gig for ten years until her promotion to full time stay-at-home mom in 2009. Eileen and Eric have one daughter, Little E, who is a feisty little girl obsessed with Octonauts. As a military family, they move every 3-4 years, most recently from Southern Virginia to Arizona. They have lived in the Phoenix area since July 2012 and love the southwest! Hopefully they have found their “forever” home. Eileen’s passions and hobbies include photography, reading, travel, cooking, doing creative projects with her daughter, hiking and working out. She can often be found sipping a latte at Starbucks, looking for the next great read at Barnes and Noble, or browsing Ulta for the latest beauty find.



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