23 Things All New Camera Owners Should Know

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1. Built-in Flash

The flash built in your camera can be your best friend or your worst enemy. As long as you learn the rules of using it, you can actually turn it into a useful tool. If not, you'll probably take better pictures with your phone.

2. The Rule of thirds

There is not a single photographer out there with an excuse for not knowing this rule. It is at the core of composition theory and it's not even complicated. Make sure you learn it and start to use it.

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3. Finding the proper background

When it comes to portraits, a very popular category, one of the key elements that seems to be getting ignored a lot is the background. It can very easily ruin an otherwise good photo. Make sure you check everything in your viewfinder and that means finding the right background.

4. Focus locking

Learn to use focus locking correctly. In order to do that, you have to anticipate what's going to happen and if your subject is going to move or not. It's a very useful feature but if you don't use it right, you're going to end up with a lot of blurry images.

5. Av and Tv

These are two of three semi-automatic exposure modes found on most cameras. Av is aperture priority mode, and Tv is shutter priority. The third one is P, a mode that takes control over both aperture and shutter speed, but still lets you play around with ISO and exposure compensation. Learn them!

6. Filling the frame

Learn how to avoid dead spaces in your photographs. Fill the frame wisely and balance the elements.

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7. The holy trinity of exposure

Aperture, shutter speed and ISO make the trinity. Their relationship to each other will determine if a photo is properly exposed or not. Start experimenting as much as possible with these three elements until you achieve correct exposure in all situations.

8. Cleaning your sensor

Every DSLR sensor requires some cleaning every once in a while. Even though the camera might have a built in system that cleans it, it doesn't quite do the job completely. Learn how to clean your camera sensor manually, using a special kit.

9. Cleaning your lens

It goes without saying that you should have a UV filter mounted on all your lenses. That still doesn't mean you don't have to know how to clean them.

10. Mind the horizon

Learn how to frame the horizon line correctly. Try not to tilt it and use the guidelines in your viewfinder if you have to.

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11. Master sharpness

There are multiple factors that control sharpness. Aperture, ISO, shutter speed and lens quality all affect the amount of detail you end up with. Make sure you learn how each of these factors act and get the sharpest possible images with your camera.

12. Bracketing

Bracketing is very useful, especially if you're into HDR. Make sure you learn how to use it.

13. White balance

It is also known as color temperature and it is measured on a Kelvin scale. A cold white balance will have a smaller numeric value than a warm one.

( Download this cheat sheet: 9 Step lens cleaning checklist. So you don't screw up your lenses. )

14. The Histogram

Every digital camera owner must know what a histogram is and how to use it. Using it is optional, but being clueless about it isn't.

15. Proper holding of the camera

This seems like a no brainer, yet so many beginners don't really know how to hold a DSLR. Right hand on camera grip, left hand underneath the lens. It's that simple.

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16. Points of interest

Learn how to add points of interest to your photos. Make the viewer want to look at your images and give them a powerful visual impact with the right elements.

17. Shooting modes

Most cameras have different shooting modes that allow them to shoot one frame or more at a time. They are usually labeled S for single shot, CL for continuous low and CH for continuous high. Use the later only for sports and fast action shooting.

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18. Hazardous elements

Learn the most important risk factors for your camera. They include salt water, sand, dust and others.

19. Custom functions

Some cameras will allow you to customize buttons and create user defined presets. We suggest you use these features because they can be of real help in the real world.

20. Shallow depth of field

That nice, blurred background that everyone loves so much is the result of using certain lenses in a certain way. To be more specific, wide apertures and longer focal lengths, preferably 50mm or more.

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21. External flash

Using an external flash is optional, but you should know how to use one, should the occasion turn up. If you get a taste for creative lighting, you must then learn how to use a flash off camera.

22. The camera doesn't do it all

Even if you leave the camera on Auto mode, which we strongly encourage you not to do, it's still not the one responsible for taking awesome photos. It's you who gets that part.

23. All camera systems are investments

No matter what kind of camera you buy, a mirrorless or a DSLR, and no matter the brand, you will most likely invest in it in the future. It's not just a matter of getting a camera and a lens, especially if you want to get a little serious about photography. There's always going to be a better lens, you're always going to need extra batteries and memory cards and the accessory list could go on forever. Think about buying a camera system as buying a car. It will bring you joy, but it will also reach for your pockets. Invest wisely in all the extras, especially if it's just a hobby.

Learn more about using your new camera from these recommended books:

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