Pro Tips: Getting acquainted with your new DSLR / by Jamil Matheny


Pro Tips: Getting acquainted with your new DSLR

The camera makes you forget you’re there. It’s not like you are hiding but you forget, you are just looking so much.
— Annie Leibovitz

Check the menu settings on the camera to familiarize yourself. This will increase muscle memory between looking in the viewfinder and checking your settings when shooting in manual mode. (photo courtesy of

Whether you received a new DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflector) camera from a store purchase or as a gift, owning a new camera is like getting candy from the store as a kid. Yes, I remember when I got my first camera, of course, it was back in the film days (yes, there are people who still use them). Since then, cameras have evolved and have become popular to hobbyist, enthusiasts and professionals alike. With that said, here are some pro tips to getting acquainted with your new toy.

  1. Familiarize yourself with the camera’s menu settings. Most of the time, you will be looking at the camera anyway while shooting. You may as well learn how to familiarize yourself with the camera’s menu settings. Even with the consumer DSLR cameras, you can do things like checking your histogram, learn to change your aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. However, those are the more common things that professional photographers tend to look for while shooting (aperture, shutter speed, white balance, and ISO). I’m talking about the shooting and playback menu on your camera. Get used to navigating the main menu and learning from the camera’s manual to know what each setting does.

  2. Shoot in Auto-mode first, then learn manual mode later. Do you see that little green camera icon on the wheel with M, A, S, P? Yes! That one, that’s the auto-mode setting. In the photography community, you will probably be laughed at for shooting in auto-mode by professional photographers. I’ll tell you what, even they started from the bottom and didn’t know jack squat about a DSLR camera until someone taught them how to use it on a pro level. So, don’t feel bad for not getting shot you want, but getting out there to shoot is the first step to letting out your inner photographer. Get out there and start shooting! Shoot your family members, shoot your dog, shoot your house up, landscape or whatever (don’t literally shoot them - no guns please, just cameras lol). Becoming a great photographer will take time and a skill set you have to develop just like anything else.

  3. Pick up and read a book on DSLR cameras. Reading a book on photography, in general, to learn how to use your new DSLR is the best investment you could possibly make as a new photographer. It will allow you to make better decisions based on the composition in your framing and will improve your skill set. You can also learn how to shoot in manual mode, how to set the correct aperture, ISO, white balance and shutter speed.

  4. Don’t spend all of your time on camera reviews. I know, getting a new camera can be exciting. Although, do you really need to look at any more camera reviews after you’ve just made your buying decision or received your camera as a gift? Be blessed that you even have a DSLR camera, as expensive as some of them are. Focus more of your time improving your craft than getting more gear or the newest, best camera of 2018. Trust me, when it comes to photography, “keeping up with the Jones’” is not the best way to go. For instance, I have used a Nikon D3200 for years before deciding to purchase a full frame camera. If you really want a new gear, I’d suggest investing in a fast glass first before a new camera body like a 35mm, 50mm, or 85mm prime lenses.

  5. Keep it clean! So now that you have been acquainted with your new DSLR camera, you’re probably babysitting the camera or falling asleep with it because you can’t wait to go back out there and take pictures everything. Well, you have to eventually clean the sensor of any dust that might get inside since you’re changing out those new kit lenses that came with your camera. Also, get a microfiber cloth to keep the lenses clean as well. After all, you’re cleaning glass and glass needs to be clear. So keep it clean!

Spending all day on camera reviews before or after you’ve made your buying decision. Get out there and shoot! (photo courtesy of

Spending all day on camera reviews before or after you’ve made your buying decision. Get out there and shoot! (photo courtesy of