I Have a DSLR… Now What?

I have a DSLR... Now What?

I have a DSLR… Now What?

This article was originally published in July 2014. 

Congratulations! You have just purchased a new DSLR. Believe it or not, this little device you hold in your hand can make you a great photographer. That is not to say you cannot achieve the same results with a regular compact camera or even your cellphone! The point is about making images that are timeless, and a camera is simply one of the many tools available which will aid you to capture pivotal moments.

As beginner photographers, we are all so excited about the kind of images we will make. The initial days with a new camera are the best, because we make so many images in that span of time. Unfortunately, this is also that time when we have the tendency to fall into a trap, where we start considering ourselves to be really, really good photographers. I will elaborate on this a little later, but at this point I would like to tell you a little something Henri Cartier-Bresson, the father of modern photojournalism, once said— “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.”

Can you believe that? Unfortunately, there is truth to this statement. So, how do we become better photographers? What should we do to make our 10,001st image a masterpiece? Following are some tips I can give you which will definitely help you along the way.

Learn the Basics
To be honest with you, I do not believe it is necessary to go to a specialised institute in order to learn photography. You cannot learn photography, you can only learn how to use a camera. What matters most is seeing, and how you perceive the world. It is all about how effectively you can translate your vision into a photograph.

So while an institute may not be able to teach you to see and perceive, what it can teach you are the basics of creative control. You can just as easily do this on your own by reading up on the various things your camera is capable of and how to harness these powers into creating your works of art. There are thousands of video tutorials available on YouTube which can help as well.

Revisit the Masters
There is a reason why photographers Ansel Adams, Raghu Rai, Helmut Newton and Robert Capa are considered legends in the field of photography—it is the legacy they make with their photographs. A great way to learn about photography and to get tips on how to improve your own style is by familiarising yourself with the works of such great masters. Read their interviews or works written by them. View and review their images. Analyse why they make for such great compositions. These masters should be your photography teachers and will certainly be able to take you on a path of better photography.

Think Before You Shoot
Before you make any frame, give yourself a second to think about what you are photographing. Is it meaningful? Will this make a great image? To give you an example, more often than not, we find ourselves making photographs of the poor and underprivileged, in the guise of practicing street photography. Before you do so yourself, just ask yourself one question—”Will my making this photograph make any change in this person’s life?”

Another advantage of thinking before you shoot is that you will be putting a lot more ideas into your photographs and making intelligent frames.

Steer Clear of Photoshop
Photoshop is a great tool, as it has proved time and again. But if you are just starting out with photography, I suggest you keep away from it. I have seen more than the normal amount of images that feature selective colouring. In my opinion, it is one of the ugliest and most useless type of image editing. Just don’t do it.

A lot of new photographers also severely overprocess their images, completely ruining it. Photoshop is meant to enhance your images, not make them jarring or look fake. You can always learn about this software in order to understand how to make minor adjustments. The ideal approach is to become such a competent photographer that you do not need to rely on Photoshop at all.

Be Confident
Walking up to a person and photographing them can seem daunting, because we do not know how a person will react to our presence. In such cases, we become shy and stay away from photographing anything at all. You must learn to break out of this mindset, because you may be missing out on a chance for a great photograph.

Photographing people is a very fulfilling experience. If you are hesitant in simply pointing a camera in someone’s face and shooting, make eye contact first. Smile. Make conversation. And see how easily you will be able to make people photographs. If you can, email your subject their photograph, as it increases goodwill.

Try Everything!
In the beginning, we are not really sure about what kind of photography we want to do, so we become confused about what genre of photography we prefer. As beginners, we must try our hands at every kind of photography there is! Only when we shoot enough will we realise what subject we really like photographing, which can eventually become the genre of our choice.

Be Careful of Criticism
Remember when I was telling you about how we start considering ourselves to be really good photographers? Well, this point covers that topic. Facebook is a great website to showcase your photography. However, it also acts as a severe ego boost towards images that might just be sub-standard.

The most important thing to do is to never take any criticism you receive from your friends on Facebook to heart. They may just be saying nice things about your photographs just because they are your friends, or they may genuinely appreciate your work, you’ll never know. The best advice about your work can come from someone you know will give you an unbiased opinion on your work. Always seek for the same.

And that’s it! Before I end this article, there is just one more thing you must do in order to become better photographers–just keep shooting. And remember, rules are meant to be broken!

Senior Features Writer Supriya Joshi loves all things unusual. From Mithun Chakraborty movies to obscure regional songs, from ironic quirks while shooting on the streets to hilarious deadpan portraits, she keeps a keen interest in the bizarre. A follower of pop culture, you can turn to her for any reference… weird and not so.

Tags: DSLR, photography tips, new camera