[News] 7 Things You Should Do Immediately With Your First DSLR

[News] 7 Things You Should Do Immediately With Your First DSLR

For all of you who were fortunate enough to be gifted a shiny new DSLR this holiday season, Stan Horaczek over at PopPhoto.com wrote a short article titled, "7 Things You Should Do Immediately With Your First DSLR". For our more experienced readers the advice may seem to be a no brainer but if it's your first ever DSLR, there are some words to live by here.

"Maybe you just pulled the wrapping paper from a shiny new DSLR. Or perhaps you used that holiday bonus money to get an interchangeable-lens compact. Or hey, maybe it's summer and you just found this article through Google. Regardless, you just upped your camera gear game and for that, we'd like to congratulate you. But, before you can make the most of your new set-up, there are a few steps you'll want to follow.

Go out and shoot a little bit

I'm a gadget nerd too, so I understand how strong the call of a new piece of gear is. First and foremost, make sure the battery is charged all the way, snap it on in along with a memory card and go fire off some frames. Once that's out of your system, you'll have a much easier time fighting distraction when you follow the rest of the steps.

Read the manual

OK, now it's time to buckle down for a bit. Your camera's manual has most of the answers to the technical questions you'd often end up wondering about later. Don't know the difference between One-shot AF and AI Servo AF? Wondering how to make sure the in-camera noise-reduction is set to your liking? Wish the thing would stop beeping everytime you get something in focus? The manual can help to straighten you out on all of that. Even if you already know your way around a camera, it never hurts to flip through the manual a couple times. Some people even suggest you keep it in the bathroom in order to promote, you know, actually reading it. Do this, and you just might find out something about your camera that you never knew.

Enable RAW image capture

Your new DSLR probably has lots more imaging fire power than your old one, especially if you're stepping up from a compact. But, to get as much as possible out of the body, you're going to need to shoot RAW. Not only will it give you uncompressed files, but it'll also give you a lot more flexibility when you're processing the images.

RAW processing is more complex than it is with JPEGs, so if you're totally new to the concept, it's best to set your camera to capture both in RAW + JPEG mode. That way, you'll have final JPEGs to share and RAW files to work with during the learning process. This will take up more space on your cards and your hard drive, but the payoff is worth it.

Switch over to manual mode to learn the lay of the camera

DSLRs are smart. So smart, in fact, that it's possible to get lazy and let it do almost everything for you. Switching over to manual exposure mode will accomplish a few things. First, it'll get you thinking about the actual process of taking a photo. If you were shooting with a compact (or even your phone) before, there's a good chance you weren't setting your aperture and shutter speed. Using manual exposure will bring that to the front of your brain and hopefully keep it there.

Secondly, it'll help you learn the feel of your new camera. If you're in full-manual mode, you're going to have to be quick on the dials and buttons to get the proper settings for each shot. The more you use that stuff, the easier it'll be, so put the work in.

The one helper you can keep around is autofocus. You can skip over to manual if you want, but the AF systems in most DSLRs are complex enough that they have a learning curve of their own. AF is a very useful tool and being able to use it effectively can make a big difference in your photography.

Learn the limitations of your camera

When stepping up to a DSLR or even an ILC from a compact or a phone, it's easy to set expectations a little too high. Yes, it'll be much better in low light and it'll focus a lot faster, but there are still limitations. Find a setting and take a shot at each ISO setting. Then find a situation with a different lighting arrangement and do the same thing. When you go back and look at the images on your computer, you'll have an idea of how it performs and which ISO settings work best for you.

Establish a photo filing system

If you were shooting a lot of photos before, you might already have this in place. In that case, well done. But for those who don't have their proverbial ducks in a row, things can get messy fast. Pick a central location to store your photos and a standardized naming convention for the folders and the images. Whatever software you're using to import your images should be able to help with this, even if you're using something free like Google's Picasa or Apple's iPhoto. Tag your images with useful info as you import them so they're easy to find later. Trust us. A new camera often means a huge increase in picture output and you don't want to have to go hunting through hundreds of photos for that one keeper.

Go shooting again

Once you know your way around the camera, all that's left to do is get back out there and shoot. A lot. But, don't be too frivolous with your frames. Yes, digital is "free" compared to film, but the shutter in your camera will only fire a certain number of times before it breaks. Most cameras have shutters rated for anywhere between 50,000 and 400,000. And while that sounds like a lot, if you keep it in high-speed burst mode, you'll be surprised how quickly they add up. "

via [PopPhoto]
From Kenn:
Do you like what we are doing? Then show us some love. Tweet and Like your favorite articles and be sure to leave your comments below. Heck leave a comment even if you don't like what we are doing. We can take it. ;)

If you want to receive the best of the month's posts in a convenient newsletter then don't forget to subscribe now.
And don't be shy. I could use some more friends these days so hit me up on Twitter and Facebook.

Log in or register to post comments


I was one of the lucky ones to get a camera from my mom :D

Sometimes you have to be your own mom/Santa and buy yourself a camera, like I did with this years purchase, my first D3. Luckily it isn't my first DSLR by a long shot, or I think I'd be dead in the water.

Now that would be rather funny, buying a D3 as a first (D)SLR :) With all the gear heads around these days I'm fairly positive there must be some people like that out there...

I'm a founder of a local, private camera 'club' here in SWFL located in a VERY high-end, exclusive community ($$). When new people show up, we ask them to introduce themselves, what gear they shoot, and what subjects. I can't tell you how many times I've heard 'Hi my name is ______. I am new to photography because my neighbor likes it. I shoot with a 5DmkII and 2.8 glass...'

On auto or P mode, of course!

Amazing. I once heard that 90% of DSLR owners never take it off auto. We can laugh about them all we want though, but they are the ones who bring down the price for the educated few who are actually able to use these cameras.

they're also the reason the megapixel fight lasted so damn long.

Touche, good point. Glad I got that out of my system at some point. Though the focus seems to have shifted from larger MPx count to longer lenses and bigger bodies (battery pack for street photography, sure).

Javi's picture

but I thought P mode was for Professional mode!! LOL

In all seriousness, my K5 has a P mode on the dial that I use frequently. It is basically aperture priority and shutter priority without having to spin the mode selector. Spin the rear dial and I adjust aperture, camera handles shutter. Spin the front dial, camera handles aperture and I control shutter.

I basically split time between Hyper P and manual modes, am I being lazy, or using my equipment to the best advantage?

Seems the only thing you didn't copy from PopPhoto in that article is this: "Copyright © 2011 Bonnier Corp. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited." So, I guess the question is, why don't you say something like "Reproduced here with permission".

It does say 'via PopPhoto' and in the introduction the original author is mentioned? I don't really see the problem here.

Jacques's picture

What about writing down the serial numbers?

JimmySchaefer's picture

If someone wants to give me one of these cause i'm pretty much poor, I would love to sell it for a Canon 5D Mark III or a X.

Steven Cohn's picture

If someone gave me a D4, the first thing I would do is probably jump for joy! (Quickly followed by a little weeping. But then more jumping for joy!)

P's picture

Kind of boring article, isn't it? To post an image of a D4 above it does not make it a good post.  Good article needs good information which is useful. Is this useful at all? Shoot. Charge battery. Read manual. Enable RAW. Shoot M mode. Camera limitations. Image filing. Shoot more. :) 

If this is aimed at beginners then now you made them so confused. Why? This is how I would see 7 common rules for beginners or total newcomers to DSLR photography. Are you interested? Then keep reading. If not, sorry for bothering. 
1. Learn the buttons on the DSLR what they do. 2. Read about ISO setting how to set it for daylight and low light3. Read about WB setting how to set it for daylight and any other light source different then white4. Start to shoot in P program mode to learn how the camera measures the exposure - those are the numbers you see in format: 1/number and f number - or  shutter speeds and aperture numbers :)5. Be in control over AF - select single 1 point AF and learn how to focus and recompose6. Shoot in slow pace, not thousands of shots - less is more this time and preview images on LCD. Judge your images carefully, what you did good what wrong and learn from your mistakes7. Do not stop learning. Shoot every day. Practice is the key and once you understand how the camera with all those buttons and settings work then slowly switch to S,A or M exposure mode to start to create something what you have in vision and not your D4 :)The FS website is a nice source of information for many photographers and cinematographers out there. But lately this kind of silly meaningless articles just lower the quality of it. Again, this is just a simple opinion of a guy who also has a camera and love the photography. The author put together a mess. How can he expect a guy who is new to DSLR to know what RAW does, how M exposure mode work if he teaches the same guy how to charge the battery..? Makes no sense. Does it? If this post gets deleted it makes me no harm, I just wanted to share my opinion and maybe look at the theme from a different perspective. Even thou English is not my native language I hope I made my point :)

hi, I am actually looking into buying my first DSLR. I currently use a Nikon L320 and I really want to step up because I would like to eventually make a career of photography so if anyone has any good suggestions of what I should get I would sure appreciate it, thanks.

Purchase a DSLR that you can grow into as you learn.
If a budget is an issue buy a sub-frame camera but full-frame lenses as sub-frame lenses are not format interchangeable. When upgradeing to a full-frame camera, all of your full-frame lenses will be good to go. Don't spend lens money twice replaceing lenses because sub-frame lenses can't be used on a full-frame camera.
It's best to look to cameras that don't make you menu dive and hunt for settings. You want a camera where all of your controls are buttons & dials at your finger tips.
Nikon D7100 is a sub-frame DX camera and a great $$ value.
(NikonRumors.com says a D7200 upgrade will arrive soon)
Good but inexpensive prime lenses at max aperture of F1.8
Nikon FX 85mm f1.8 G = 127mm when used on a sub-frame DX camera
Nikon FX 50mm f1.4 G = 75mm when used on a sub-frame DX camera
Nikon FX 28mm f1.8 G = 42mm when used on a sub-frame DX camera
( Both focal length and aperture are multiplied by 1.5 for effective DX values.)
Fixed focal length lenses have an advantage in that you'll be doing the zooming with your feet where you'll end up with more varied shot angles.

I would say: Insurance! Specially if you going for a full frame or something that would be painful to break. 

The first thing I do when I buy a new camera is go on the interwebs and find/download a PDF of the manual into iBooks on my iPhone. That way I always have it with me.


Spy Black's picture

Shouldn't number two actually be number one?...

Tom Barnes's picture

Insuring it should surely be step 1?

Its not what the camera can do. It's what it can't do . . .

reading the manual. Really??

Before step one, remove and properly dispose of that cheap UV filter they sold you.