How To Use a DSLR Camera Like A Pro Photographer

December 26, 2012

in Andrea Riley, Camera Tips, Holiday Photography Tips, Lighting, Photography Creative Team, Photography Tips, Photography Tutorials

How To Use a DSLR Camera Like A Pro - Great tips and over 50 links to FREE photography tutorials.


Were you lucky enough to get a new camera? Did your dreams of professional quality photos dancing in your head get slightly dashed when the photos you took with your new camera didn’t look much different then the ones you were taking with your cell phone?  (Hopefully it wasn’t that bad!)  

Fortunately, there are tons of great photography resources that can help.  The biggest tip I can give is to go on a quest for learning.  One of my favorite quotes is, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”  This is particularly true with photography.

Enjoy these tips and comprehensive list of over 50 photography tutorials for learning all about how to use your camera!

First off, let me direct you to two great tutorials from I Heart Faces that touch on general tips for starting off with your new camera.


And now, let’s take a look at some must-do’s for getting the most out of your new camera.

1| Read The Camera Manual

It’s a snoozer, I know, but the camera manual really is a wealth of knowledge.  Tutorials online have to be generic to cover all the brands of cameras, but your camera manual is specifically written for, well, your camera!  Everything in it can be instantly applied.

The good news is that you don’t need to read the whole manual all at once.  Try a page or two and then experiment with it on your camera.  I try to go back to my camera manual every once in a while.  The first time reading it, I was overwhelmed.  Now that I have more experience, I’m able to process the information better and learn new features on my camera.  So, bite off a small chunk at a time, and you’ll be an expert sooner than you expect!

2| Ditch the Auto Setting

On a Canon, the easiest manual setting to start on is P.  If you want to control depth of field (aperture), try AV.  TV allows you to control the shutter speed.  M requires that you control all settings.  All manual settings allow you to choose the ISO, white balance, and exposure.

Try Out Manual Mode On Your Camera:

Important Photography Terms You Need To Know:


Shutter Speed

3| Learn about Lighting

The root word “photo” means “light”.  Photography really is all about light, and the challenge for photographers is to learn how to work with all forms of light.  Along the same lines, it really is a good idea to avoid using flash until you have a good handle on working with light that is already available.

4| Learn About Composition

It’s important to learn how to get good composition and interesting perspectives in your photography. There are many important composition rules that can make the difference between a snapshot and a professional photo.  Composition is one of the most obvious differentiators between newbies and pros.

5| Batteries & Memory Cards

Buy at least one extra battery, and make sure you have several fast memory cards. Nothing stinks more than being at an important event and finding you’ve filled up your only camera card or had the battery die and nothing on hand to replace it.  Extras are key to making sure you capture all the important moments.  With the additional memory demands cameras now have (continuous shoot, large file sizes, HD video recording), it is important to have fast memory cards.  I’ve found that with my camera, the only card that is fast enough to keep up with movie recording is one that records 90mb/s.

6| Get The Most From Your Lens

Make the most of your kit lens.  Do not upgrade lenses until you know what you need.  If unsure, rent lenses before buying them.

7| Nail The Focus

You can have the perfect lighting with beautiful composition, but if the photo is not in focus, it’s a tosser.  No amount of Photoshopping can correct an unfocused photo.

8| Editing Your Photos

Invest in editing software.  I am a big fan of Adobe products.  (Elements, Photoshop, Lightroom)  Because it is such a popular brand, there is a plethora of tutorials to help guide you through mastering your skills.  All Adobe products come with a free 30 day trial.    Adobe even has the option to pay a monthly fee for software rather than putting down a big chunk of change.  For students and teachers, a significant discount is available. If you’re looking to get your feet wet in photo editing, there are also free  options such as Gimp and

9| Shoot in RAW

Most dSLR’s have the option to shoot in JPEG, RAW and JPEG + RAW.  I used to shoot in both, but now I only shoot RAW.  This format stores more information and makes it much easier to save photos that may not have had the proper settings (particularly white balance and exposure).  The downside is that RAW files are memory hogs.

10| Calibrate Your Computer Screen

Explore screen calibration options, and invest in a quality computer monitor. The first couple years that I was serious about photography, I didn’t calibrate my screen.  Once I finally invested in a screen calibration tool (Spyder Elite 3), I was appalled to see what my previous edits looked like on a calibrated screen…too contrasty and very yellow.  Using a tool to calibrate your screen is very important because you want to be sure that what you are seeing is what a printing lab is also seeing.  Two very popular brands of screen calibrators are Spyder and X-Rite.

11| Backup Your Photos

It is devastating to lose precious photos!  I just experienced this a month ago when my hard drive crashed and nothing was recoverable.  Luckily, 90% of what I had on my computer was backed up on multiple sources.  It is important to have redundancy in your storage options because more than one storage system can fail.

I backup my photos on the following sources:
  • An external hard drive.  I have used Western Digital for years and, so far, have not had any problems.
  • Automatic backup system in the “cloud”.  For years I used Carbonite.  Recently I switched to CrashPlan.  I have my computer set to automatically upload all my files to this system.
  • Online sites – For a couple bucks a month, I can upload unlimited full size photos to Flickr.  I also have invested in a pro account with Smugmug which not only lets me store unlimited photos but also lets me get professional quality prints at reasonable prices.
  • Print your photos!  This is one of the most forgotten steps.  Many photographers forget to actually produce a physical copy of their art.  Don’t keep those photos floating in cyberspace…enjoy them!  Hang them up on your walls.  Produce beautiful photo albums.  Create tangible memories for your family and friends.  And, if at all possible, invest in quality, professional printing.  If you can’t access professional printing options, an online quality consumer site to consider is MPix.

12| Capture Life

Work to photograph natural smiles and everyday moments. Never get in the habit of asking for “cheese”.

13| Get Involved

Share your photos and get feedback. Once I was willing to make my photos public, my skills started improving.  There are experienced photographers out there who can be crucial to leading you on your photography journey, but pride has to go to the wayside.  None of us are perfect with our photography, and what we produce at the beginning often has many beginner mistakes.  It is so much easier to zip through that beginner stage, though, when a seasoned photographer can help us figure out what is holding us back.  Get a steel backbone and accept criticism!

Ways to make your photography public:
  • Make friends with photographers.  If you can’t find anyone local to you, explore photography forums.  I Heart Faces has a kind, encouraging photography community that everyone is welcome to join!
  • Go on photo walks.  I’m lucky to have a strong base of photographer friends, and it is always fun to go out together, shoot at the same location, and then see photos from many different perspectives.  There are many online sites that can help you find local photo walks (Meet Up and Worldwide Photo Walk are two I can think of.)  Of course, use discretion when meeting up with strangers.
  • Submit work for formal review. Sometimes friends have a hard time being brutally honest.  In this case, an online forum designed for critique might provide the input you need.  If you get into an unhealthy forum, you’ll quickly recognize it.  There are some forums out there where the goal seems to be to belittle work and make the photographer feel small.  This becomes a discouragement instead of a healthy relationship.  Instead, look for forums that will provide feedback in neutral, non-combative language.  Good critique points out the positives along with the negatives.  It points the photographer toward changes that can be made the next time the photographer takes a similar photo.  It should never make a photographer feel like quitting!  Consider trying out the I Heart Faces Constructive Feedback Group.
  • Join photo challenges.  I Heart Faces is a perfect place to start!

14| Enjoy The Process!

Have fun and use your camera!  You can have all the book knowledge in the world, but if you’re not taking photos, no improvement will take place.  Keep your camera with you and practice honing your skills with those everyday moments.  Shoot, shoot, and shoot some more.

Andrea RileyAndrea Riley is a photographer and teacher from Ohio and a proud member of the I Heart Faces Creative Team.  She and her sister Angie currently specialize in fusion high school senior photography with their company The Picture Show. When not in the role of photographer or teacher, Andrea enjoy spending time with her husband and three children and their dog.  Follow her on her blog Happy Chaos or on Twitter at

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

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KHAWAJA AHMAD September 28, 2016

i take the dslr


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This would help you photographers out there….
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Cameraable July 4, 2016

Hi, thank you for sharing this achievable guide for me about how to use a DSLR camera like a pro photographer.

The 14 outlines above are really impeccable, which I have to consider about read the camera manual, ditch the auto setting, learn about lighting, learn about composition, batteries & memory cards, get the most from your lens, nail the focus, editing your photos, shoot in RAW, calibrate your computer screen, backup your photos, capture life, get involved, enjoy the process.

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Cassie December 8, 2014

This blog “How To Use a DSLR Camera Like A Pro Photographer” is very detail and graphic, I enjoyed it. Thank-you. It gets down to the point with 14 fun steps! “Reading the Camera Manual” is something that is always important and was great for you to tell us all, but what was even more great was how you pointed out how we do not have to sit and read the entire thing. Reading what you need at the time is perfect. What I really found awesome is how you also lead each of your headings to a link that explains the topic even more. Thank-you very much that is great! Great photos, amazing information, just perfect. What helped me out the most out of all the tips was number 4, “learn about composition.” This is because of how you explained that there are many composition rules and lead this page to so many links that went right into depth about different perspectives.


Jess February 8, 2014

I Love, love , love all the tutorials. Not only are they great refreshers for me – when I am helping my own clients with photos these are great references to send to them as well. Thanks so much!


Amy September 25, 2013

Thank you for this post!!!! I’m about to take the plunge and get a dslr and am so nervous but I can’t wait to read through all these great links!


Kara July 23, 2013

I’m loving the help.. I just got a good camera so that I can get back into everything back in high school I was using a awesome film (yes back then I learn with film..) camera.. But now I got a Canon digital that’s really good..


Lacey R. April 3, 2013

My Canon Rebel DSLR , has been taking photos at 3 megapixels instead of its typical 12 etc… , I’ve tried all sorts of settings to try and fix the issue. .. any words of advice??


Angie Arthur December 27, 2012

Did you get a new camera & aren't sure what to do with it? This post from @iheartfaces is just for you! Great tips!


Declan Mc Glone December 27, 2012

How To Use Your Fancy New Camera Like A Pro #photography


rachidH December 27, 2012

RT @screek: How To Use Your Fancy New Camera Like A Pro


Steve Creek December 27, 2012

How To Use Your Fancy New Camera Like A Pro


Katerina December 27, 2012

Great! So many useful links in one article!


Pablo Lara H December 26, 2012

How To Use Your Fancy New Camera Like A Pro | @iheartfaces


Angie Arthur December 26, 2012

RT @iheartfaces: How To Use Your Fancy New Camera Like A Pro


Life with Kaishon December 26, 2012

This post was just filled to the brink with great ideas! Thank you so much for sharing all of this information! I know a lot of people got a new camera over the holidays so this will be so helpful for them!


Tracy P. December 26, 2012

Awesome set of links! Thank you so much!


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