One thing I’ve noticed this year is that many of my clients have their own dSLR cameras. These Digital Single Lens Reflex (or dSLR) cameras have come way down in price in recent years and are now much more easily accessible to all of us.

What makes these cameras different from the point and shoot digital cameras? Well, many things, really. But one of the key differences is the ability to switch lenses and to shoot with many more options – including fully manual. These cameras also offer much more customization, like custom white balance and the ability to change ISO and exposure compensation. Bottom line – they’re great cameras.

And with the holidays right around the corner, I know more dSLR cameras will be showing up.

A lot of my clients have asked me for tips on how to get started with their dSLR. I’ve put together some basic tips for getting started – all of these are steps that I myself took back when I got serious about learning more.

If you have other questions – please feel free to leave a comment or email me.

Getting started with your dSLR camera:

1. Understanding Exposure , by Bryan Peterson – I recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand more about how your camera handles light – and how to really personalize the photos you take. I still refer to this book sometimes.

2. – Definitely join Flickr and start interacting with others. Join some groups – there are groups specifically for people who own the same type of camera you do. Start paying attention to the exif data of the photographers you really like – you will see that on the page with their photos if they’ve chosen to share it on Flickr – this will tell you what their camera settings were on when they took the photo.

3. Invest in the 50mm 1.8 lens – it’s only about $80 and is one of THE BEST lenses for day-to-day photography. (Note: Be sure to get the correct brand of 50mm 1.8 lens for your specific camera.) The 1.8 aperture will let you use it in lower light situations and will let you really blur the backdrop of photos to get a more artistic feeling. (Really pretty blur is called good “bokeh” – you’ll see photographers mention this on Flickr!)

4. Read Your Camera Manual – Over and Over again! – Seems obvious, but there’s a wealth of info in that manual. Take test shots with your camera on different settings as you learn about those settings in the manual. Set up time each week to practice and keep your manual next to you to refer to. Learn what each function on the camera does, even if you don’t plan on using it.

Learn how to adjust the following on your camera:

*Exposure compensation – Most dSLR cameras will do their best work when you adjust the exposure compensation between 1/2 to a whole step above the middle. Read your manual and experiment with this to learn how to experiment with exposure compensation. It makes a world of difference.

*Aperture – The lower your aperture, the more blur you get in your background. Lower aperture is called “wider” so it’s a little confusing. I shoot “wide open” for detail and close-up shots at around 1.8-2.2 aperture in order to really blur out the background. When you are in AV mode (aperture priority) – experiment with taking the same photo at multiple settings – then download them and you’ll see how the background blurs differently.

*ISO – If you are in lots of light – 100 works great. Go as low as you can to avoid getting “noise” in the photo. When you are shooting inside, raise your ISO to allow your camera to function better in lower-light situations. If you are trying to take a photo and your shutter speed is too low – causing blur – try raising your ISO – this will allow your camera to keep a higher shutter speed while effectively working in that low-light situation.