Got a New Camera, Now What?

Congratulations! You got your first DSLR.

It is such an exciting feeling and also can be very overwhelming. So many buttons, it’s so big, and there is SO much to learn.

I know I was overwhelmed when I got my camera because I wanted to take awesome pictures but I didn’t even know what to Google.

Let’s make this transition a little easier for you as you start your journey in photography.

Tips to rock your new camera

  • No.
    You don't have to read your manual from cover to cover.

    I grew up being told I couldn’t even turn something on until I read the manual. I needed to know how to use it inside and out. If that is your personality then please don’t let me stop you. However, I have noticed with camera manual they are not giving your tips to improve your photos but instead letting you know how to do certain things on your camera. I keep my camera handy as I often reference it to figure out how to change a setting or see if it is capable of doing something. But if your goal is to improve your photos the answer is not in your manual.

  • No.
    Take it off Auto.

    Yes, there are so many buttons and so much to learn but why have this nice camera if you are just going to use it on Auto. Personally, I think everyone should challenge themselves to two weeks of shooting on manual mode. Don’t do it when there is a major event like a birthday that can’t be recreated if you mess up the photos. Instead, take two weeks of your everyday and only shoot on manual mode.

  • No.
    Learn how to change your focal points.

    This is where your camera manual comes into action. You want to be able to change your focal points so you can focus on what you want instead of having the camera tell you what will be in focus. Say you want a photo of just a baby’s feet. Then you need to set your focal point on their feet to get that nice blurred background. You can read more about changing your focal point here. I have even included a few videos but I can’t get my hands on all cameras so you may need to reference your manual.

  • No.
    Subscribe to my weekly emails.

    Like I said, there is a ton of information out there. For me, I found the hardest things was not knowing what I don’t know. How can you look something up if you didn’t even know that option or technique existed. Simply sign up for our weekly emails and get a free ebook – 8 ways to improve your photography. Plus each Wednesday you get a short email with a photography tip or two delivered to your inbox.

  • No.
    Invest in a good lens.

    Before you say, but I just spent all this money on a camera, and now you want me to buy a new lens, hear me out. Nine times out of ten most people start with the kit lens that came with their camera. This lens is fine to start with but you may soon realize you aren’t able to get the same look that you are seeing other people have. That is because most photographers don’t shoot with their kit lens. In fact, I highly suggest not even buying it and buying the body of the camera only. If and when you are ready, check out what I suggest you buy for your first lens. You really only need one good lens to start. I had my 50mm 1.8 for a year before I got another lens.

  • No.
    Take the camera with you.

    If you are serious about capturing these moments of your life then you need to take the camera with you. That may mean taking it to the grocery store or beach. Either way, you can’t photograph the moment and learn to use your camera if you aren’t using it. However, before you take it out with you, I suggest you get it insured.

  • No.
    Set up a system for uploading your images.

    If you are like me, you will be taking a lot of photos. Starting off with an organized system to upload and store your photos will help you down the road when you are looking for your images. Plus, it is extremely overwhelming when you realize you all your photos are all over the place. Start off with organized photos.

  • No.
    Learn to see the light.

    One of the biggest factors that will make your photos look amazing is learning how to use light correctly. Turn off the overhead lights and open up the curtains. Using natural light will help with the coloring of your photo and give it the shadows you need to create dimension in your image. Check out all our past lighting tutorials.

  • No.
    Pick a photography project.

    No matter how big or small, pick a photography project that will help you to learn more about photography. You can do it for 5 days or 365 days. Either way you will improve your images simply by using your camera more often. Read more about some of our photography project ideas. If you want a project that will help you learn a new photography tip each day while taking an everyday moment check out the 30 day challenge – The Unexpected Everyday.

  • Larry Steward
    January 7, 2015 at 11:27 AM

    Really love your work and your common sense yet practical approach to teaching. I have been teaching digital photography at Colorado State University for many years as an adjunct, so I’m always looking for helpful and practical tips for students, and you are now among my top recommendations. Very nice.

    • January 8, 2015 at 3:54 PM

      Thank you so much! I appreciate you sharing the my website with your students.

  • OPA
    January 7, 2015 at 6:09 PM

    Hi Courtney,

    I’ve been struggling with manual for a while now, even though I’ve read all about the triangle of ISO – APP – SS my pictures still were not good enough in my eyes… until yesterday!! January 6, 2015 my eyes were opened and it was so simple that NOW I GET IT!!

    For some reason I never looked at what Auto was doing as far as settings go, so I was taking some pictures of the beautiful snow covered trees and the love seat my wife and I have out by our garden. The pictures were coming out to bright, I was adjusting this and that and still didn’t work out. Then I took an Auto settings picture and it turned out pretty good, I looked at what settings it had and then BOOM!! I GOT IT!! I put it back on manual and away the pictures flowed… beautiful pictures just started flying out of the camera, I couldn’t believe it… I ran to the wife and said I GET IT.. I GET IT… I GET IT and started taking pictures of everything…. front room with the beautiful big windows that let in so much light to the family room that was darker and all the pictures were just spot on!! My wife looked at all the pictures and said, Yep, you finally understand it now. Just by looking at what the auto settings were is all it took, so simple… So, I decided to do the 365 day challenge and it’s so much fun now, I can NOT put the camera down. BTW, I have the D700 and D800 and love both.

    Thanks for all you do, I’ve learned to see more of what I’m taking a picture of. Keep up the great work you do!!
    Mike 59 years old and finally GOT IT :)

  • January 7, 2015 at 6:32 PM

    Great post, I’ve been struggling with my photography I bought my camera a couple years ago but due my work schedule I barely use, I’m going to try using it more often but I’m so scared of manual mode I use AV which at least is not totally AUTO but Im afraid I might loose the perfect moment in a blurry photo! Thanks for the information.
    My blog is check out if you can!

  • K O
    August 29, 2015 at 2:46 AM

    So happy to have found such a great blog full of tips, advice and information! Also loved the detail and information in your Ebook! Thanks for the help!

    • K O
      August 29, 2015 at 2:48 AM

      Also, my blog is and my website is :)

    • August 31, 2015 at 1:34 PM

      Welcome! So glad to have you here!

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