Ok, so you just got your first DSLR camera--GREAT! Now what?! How in the world do you use this thing?! If you are like me, when I got my first camera, I had no idea where to start with learning how to use it properly.. So, I just set it to "Auto" mode and started shooting. This worked ok, BUT I knew if I was going to be paying this much money for a camera, I wanted to learn how to use it properly!
iPhone or phone camera users- you can STILL take amazing photos! Phone cameras have come a LONG way in the last couple of years. For your tips, skip to #3!
1. Learn how to shoot in MANUAL MODE
This is by far the most challenging thing to learn when you first get your camera.. but if you can learn this, I promise you, it will only get easier with practice and soon you will be able to adjust your settings without much thought. Shooting in manual mode means you are controlling your aperture (your depth of field), shutter speed (how long the shutter is open to let the light in) and ISO (your camera's sensitivity to light).
2. Use the VIEWFINDER
Stop using the screen on the camera!
When I got my first DSLR camera, I always used the screen to see what I was shooting. This slowed me down and was really difficult to do once I started using manual mode. I know it feels weird to use the view finder at first, because after all, our phone cameras don't have viewfinders! HOWEVER, looking through the viewfinder, you will be able to adjust your settings more quickly and also focus faster. Stick to it and after a while, it will feel normal and less awkward!
The only times I use the screen on my camera are if I am doing an "above the scene" shot where I am holding the camera up really high above my subject, if I am taking a self-portrait, OR if I'm shooting video. For everything else, I use the viewfinder.
3. Shoot during GOLDEN HOUR
Golden hour is the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. It is when the sun is at it's lowest point in the horizon. The benefits of shooting during this time are awesome. The light is softer and not as harsh and best of all, it is GOLDEN. This is very flattering for photos and allows you a lot of flexibility because you don't have to hide from or work with harsh mid-day sun.
4. Use BACKLIGHTING
There are MANY ways to shoot in natural light, but my favorite by far is backlighingt! It is easy to learn and very flattering for your subjects. Shooting with backlight means that you are shooting with the sun behind your subject. This works GREAT during Golden Hour.
Backlight prevents harsh shadows on your subjects face, illuminates the hair to create "rim light" and is just GORGEOUS. When you are shooting with back light, you will want to underexpose your subjects a little bit and then bring up the exposure on your subject when you are editing. This will maintain details and colors in the background and make sure the sky is not blown out and white.
5. Keep your camera READY
While you are shooting your subject, especially if it's children, keep your camera UP and ready to click! Children are quick and if you keep your camera up to your face and ready, it will be much easier to capture unexpected cuteness! When I first started, I cannot tell you how many pictures I missed because of this. My main subjects are young children and babies so learning this has helped me immensely!
I hope you have found these tips to be helpful! Please leave a comment if you have any questions, I would be happy to help in any way that I can!