Move from Point and Shoot to Digital Slr

As you go around with your little point and shoot camera, you may see people with their big fancy digital SLR cameras and all the lenses and flashes and think you need one of those. But how do you get from a little camera to which you are accustomed, to one of those with all the fancy knobs and switches? That is what this article is all about. This article will lay out a migration path from shooting with a point and shoot to taking pictures with a DSLR.

The first question that needs to be answered is why make the move to begin with. What is wrong with the pictures you are taking now and what problem will be solved by getting a new camera? If you just don’t like the pictures or think they don’t look as good as others you have seen, you need to start with the photographer. Get a basic book on photography and composition and learn some of the rules and guidelines for taking good pictures. If you are making mistakes with your point and shoot, a DSLR is only going to make your mistakes more expensive.

Okay, you have decided that a new camera is really what you need. Maybe you like shooting wildlife or sports and need to get in close with a big zoom lens, or you want some other functionality that is only offered on a DSLR. The next step is to buy one. There are two parts of a DSLR, the camera body and the lens. Both components have inexpensive versions all the way to outrageously expensive versions. Where do you start? If you aren’t sure about this, get a starter kit with the low end in both components. But if you want to spend more money and have to decide on an expensive body or an expensive lens, go with the lens. A high quality lens will outlast the camera body, so buy it right now and you will never have to buy it again.

Now you have a camera with a lens attached. We don’t care what lens at this point. How do you get started? All DSLRs have a full auto mode. Put the camera there while you are learning and you have an expensive point and shoot. This does all the thinking for you. Go out and shoot a lot. Look at what you have done, and learn how to improve on it. Read the manual. Shoot some more. Read the manual again. Learn every control on the camera by playing around, but leave it on full auto while you are taking pictures. This gives you the safety and security of a point and shoot while you learn the bells and whistles of the DSLR.

During this time, also experiment with the other programmed modes. These will be marked by a little flower, person, mountain, etc. Read the manual concerning these modes, but they will set the camera to different settings to give you the best image of portraits, close-ups, landscapes, etc. It allows a little bit more flexibility while still giving you that point and shoot safety net.

Next move the camera from Auto to P or program mode. This is usually marked by a green bar on the selector dial. This still picks the shutter speed and aperture for you (you know what those are from reading the manual, right?), but it allows you to change and experiment with other settings, such as the ISO and white balance. At this setting, you can play and experiment with all the other settings on the camera without having to think about exposure. Get familiar with these settings and understand how each affects the picture before moving on.

Now you are ready to learn more about the exposure. As you know from your reading, this is based on the relationship between shutter speed and aperture. So now you are going to work on these a bit. Start with Aperture Priority mode. Set the camera there and change the aperture to f8 or f5.6. Now go shoot different subjects under different lighting conditions and watch how the camera changes the shutter speed for each one. Also look at the final result and see how the combination of these apertures and shutter speed affected each picture. Look at the ones that didn’t come out at all and determine from the shutter speed and aperture what went wrong. Was it blurry because the shutter’s speed was too slow? Once you are comfortable, change the aperture to all the other settings. Experiment with the extremes your lens allows from 2.8 to 22 and see how these affect the final image.

Now do the same thing with Shutter Priority. Start at 1/200th or so. Observe how different light affects the aperture and do the same experiments you did with aperture priority. Now move the shutter speed down and learn how slow you can set it and still get good hand held images. Move it up to the fastest speed you can and see how this stops movement and affects depth of field.

And finally, once you have mastered these two techniques, move it up to full manual mode. Don’t worry, the camera will still meter the light and tell you if it is too dark or too light. Also remember, it’s digital. You get to delete your mistakes. Learning manual mode will greatly enhance your understanding of how shutter speed and aperture work together to change the way an image looks.

The main things to remember about all this are to read the manuals, experiment, and then learn from your mistakes. Owning and using a digital SLR camera can be a very rewarding experience, but there is some time and learning involved. At the end, though, you will be a better photographer.