Five Tips to Get Started With Your New Camera

Important milestones like births, weddings and once in a lifetime vacations often motivate people to go out there and buy themselves a fancy new camera. My husband, Eric, just bought himself a new mirrorless camera. We are travelling to Barbados this Christmas and we welcomed our second child, Eloise Clara earth-side back in September. These two exciting milestones motivated him to pull the trigger and up his photographic game.

women in a blue dress holding a vintage film camera

One of the most common questions I get asked by my family, friends and clients is how to get started with a DSLR or mirrorless camera. Learning how to use a new camera requires a bit of effort and brain power that can be hard to muster up when you are living in the newborn fog. Sleepless nights, and countless dirty diapers leave parents exhausted with very little energy. Considering these challenges, it is not surprising that many new moms and dads buy an expensive new camera, use the auto mode or leave in sitting at home in a dark closet.

With a little bit of effort, and the tips listed below, you can start taking awesome photos. I promise the effort you put in now will be totally worth it. Follow these tips and within a couple of weeks, you will be capturing awesome memories that your family will cherish for years to come.

big brother kissing his newborn baby sister

Read your New Camera’s Manual from Cover to Cover

Read the manual from cover to cover?! Yes it sucks and no one ever wants to do this. This task is especially for new parents who are existing on virtually no sleep. My advice is that you suck it up, pull out your camera and its manual. Next, sit down and start reading. As you read, play with your camera and discover all of it’s cool features. This is a great overview and the only way you are ever going make the leap to taking great photos. Once you have read that manual, stick it in your camera bag and always keep it close by. I also downloaded a PDF version of my camera manual that I keep on my computer as an extra reference. As you learn more about photography and try new things, your manual will be an invaluable resource.toddler reading an upside-down book

Take an Introductory Class

Taking a photography class is such a great way to take the plunge and throw yourself into the world of photography. Taking a class gives you access to an expert instructor who can answer your burning questions and a group of peers who will motivate you to get better. In Calgary, ACAD, the University of Calgary, Mount Royal University and SAIT all offer continuing education classes in photography.

Feeling too lazy or exhausted to get out of your pyjamas? Take an online course. There are some amazing courses offered by Click Photo School, including Mastering Manual Exposure and First Steps with a DSLR. Over the years, I’ve taken several courses through Click PhotoSchool and the experience has been absolutely amazing. These classes are great motivation to get out there and practice with your new camera.

Pick up a Good Book

There are so many great books about photography out there. Once of the best places to start is with David DuChemin’s the Visual Tool Box: 60 Lessons for Stronger Photographs. DuChemin’s books introduces you to the technical side of photography but quickly moves on to composition, the creative process, and the principles and rules responsible for making great photographs. The chapters in this book are easy to read and implement. I’ve always wanted to start a book club and work through this book over the course of a year with a bunch of like minded people.

sleeping baby girl

Join a Forum

Photography forums can be scary and downright nasty. One awesome safe space that I’ve found within the photography community is the Clickin Moms Forum. The name is terrible, but the content and people in this digital space are incredible and inspiring. Over at Clickin Moms you will find like-minded photographers who are always willing to help you out. Clickin’ Moms is a great place to share your work, meet new friends and ask photography related questions. A Clickin Mom’s membership is $10.00 USD a month, $60.00 USD a year or $195.00 USD for a lifetime membership.

Start a Personal Project

They say practice makes perfect and the single best way to improve your photography skills to shoot every single day. Start a project like a 365 or project 52 and commit to taking photos daily or weekly. You will be absolutely amazed by the progress you make over the course of a year. There are tons of groups out there where people share their 365 projects. If you are looking for a group, send me a message and I can hook you up!

Boy playing in the snow

If you are willing to dedicate a little time, effort and energy to photography, you will be taking photographs that you love in no time. I recommend reading up on your new camera and reaching out to the photography community. In addition to learning how to use your camera, you may discover a lifelong passion and make some awesome new friends! For me, the journey of learning how to use my camera has been transformative. Photography has changed my life for the better and I look forward to learning more and pushing myself in the years to come.

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Kristen Holm Photography

Calgary, Alberta