So you got a nice camera for Christmas and you want to start taking nicer looking photos. Pouring through photography books and chasing good advice down the endless hallways of the internet can be time-consuming and can frustrate even the most patient people. I say there’s time for all of that later. I’m a self-taught professional photographer I think the best thing you can do is take a little advice and from a trusted source (ME!) and get out there and start gaining experience.

Step 1: Throw away your lens!
Well, don’t throw it away, but if your camera came with a zoom lens you should try selling it. With the money you make invest in a 50mm lens in the $100 range. The problem with those zoom lenses that come with your camera is that they will produce photos that will look similar to the point and shoot you got for Christmas last year. The whole point of upgrading your camera is to take better photos. The 50mm lens you get will allow you to actually see the difference.

If you have a Canon try this lens:
http://goo.gl/4jALF

If you have a Nikon try this lens:
http://goo.gl/AnhVt

Step 2: Drop that F Number!
There should be a little dial on the top of your camera with different letters. Switch it to ‘A’ for Aperture Priority and use your scroll wheel to drop that aperture as low as it will go. With your new 50mm lens it will be 1.8. With other lenses it could be 2.8, 3.5, or higher. The lower that number is the more blurry the background will be.

Here is an example of a photo shot with my aperture at 1.8

Step 3: Are your photos a little blurry?
So you’re shooting in aperture priority and you’ve set your aperture to 1.8… but you’ve gone from shooting in bright light to shooting in dim light and now your photos are blurry? Don’t panic!

The next setting you need to learn is ‘ISO’. This is displayed as 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, etc… In Aperture Priority the higher this ISO number is the less blurry your photos will be. The tradeoff is that with the increased ISO you will also have increased noise in your photos. This noise on most new cameras is only really noticeable at ISO1600 or above.

Here is an example of a couple photos where it was important to freeze the subject. My ISO number was high.

Conclusion
Take your time and have fun! Before hitting your shutter button and taking a photo, think about how the photo will look. Move around and experiment with different vantage points. Nobody ever learned the intricacies of photography in a day. Good luck!

-GB

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