Learning Photography – 3 mistakes beginners make using a new DSLR camera

Shooting only Auto Mode

If you switch your DSLR camera to Auto Mode do you know that you are only using about 20% of its functionality?  That’s like having a zippy sports car and keeping it parked in your driveway (as one of my students rightfully stated!)  Why spend all that money on a wonderful piece of photography equipment to do that?  When you shoot in auto mode the camera takes over all of the control of your camera settings. It decides on exposure, ISO, WB and whether or not you need flash amongst other things.  While you think this might be a good thing when you are just starting out, when you are learning photography you must challenge yourself a wee bit more.  If you want to improve and have control over your camera you need to move out of auto mode learn to shoot in the Creative Zone.

Learning Photography - Mode Dial Using the P, Tv (S), Av(A) and M modes correctly will bring your photography to the next level and although every shot may not necessarily be a winner you’ll be a step closer to improving your photography. Remember; we all learn by our mistakes, so don’t be afraid to make ’em.

Using Flash Inside

Using Flash inside is something that most people think is a necessity. In many cases this is true as the light is just too poor or your subject is a wiggly 2 year old.  There are many times however that it is possible to shoot without flash indoors – If you have lots of natural light, very strong artificial lights or when you want to capture the lights in your picture.  These lighting conditions work well without flash especially if your subject is not moving, for example if you are shooting ingredients for a recipe.  So to shoot with out flash inside you simply need to turn it off. However, if you are shooting in Auto Mode you will have no control over when your flash turns on and pops up.  This is always the great giveaway as to when a photographer is using Auto.  I’ve seen countless students who initially think the only way to keep that flash off is to press down against the pop up action of the flash unit … eh way to break your camera by the way.

Go ahead and turn the camera to P and simply don’t turn on your flash. In P Mode the flash will only pop up if you tell it to do so.  The camera will make adjustments so that it will compensate for the lack of flash and you should get a correctly exposed shot.  Shooting in low light can of course be improved by using better lenses and changing some other settings such as ISO but by just doing turning off the flash in P Mode you will have a good jumping off point to see which settings you can further tweak to improve shooting indoors with no flash.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while you’ve probably already taken my free mini-course on taking Better Photos where we cover all of this stuff.  If you haven’t signed up yet here’s the link t do just that:
Sign up for my free mini-course on Taking Better Photos with your DSLR


Failure to have a specific Focus Point

When your photograph lacks a focal point the viewer of your image doesn’t know where to look in the picture and ultimately their eye leaves the image.  Having a definitive focal point ensures that your photo is engaging and the viewer of the image gets what it is  that they are supposed to be looking at.  Usually the Focal Point of the Image is where your FOCUS POINT is.

 Your FOCUS Points of your camera are highlighted to you within the viewfinder as red spots when your press your finger on the shutter button.  Always make sure that your focus points are over the area of the image that you want to be in focus.  If they are not, then you can reframe your image so that this is the case or  you can manually set the focus point by accessing the focus point selection function of your camera. Personally I always like to have my focus point set to the middle point.  I can then use Focus Lock method to reframe my image exactly how I like it.

If you’d like to find out more about learning photography and how to use your DSLR camera check out my Demystify your DSLR course which accepts new students in March and September throughout the year.

Happy Snapping




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Jai Catalano

A great way to learn manual mode is to shoot in auto and use the EXIF data to recreate the same shot. Then from there you can tweak the settings because auto can get jumbled up if too many things are competing for its attention.

asha k

i’m new to photography, but i don’t own any dslr yet.. just bought an milc.. been reading this blog few days by now.. very much helped.. thanks.. and yeah, i don’t do auto anymore.. trying to learn how to do manual focus..

james samy

Hi Ingrid,

This is my first visit here and you just gave an awesome lesson of how make use dslr camera. Thank you and definitely I make frequent visit here.
Keep your good flowing.


Thanks James! I appreciate the feedback :) Makes it all worthwhile when I know it’s helping someone.


Hi Asha – thanks for stopping by. Don’t worry too much about Manual FOCUS – it’s Manual and semi-manual exposure modes that will make the difference. Auto focus is excellent for 99% of most shooting situations. Good luck with the new camera!


Good tip Jai


Hi Ingrid!

I just found your site while looking for some intro DSLR blogs. I just started my own photography blog about my journey of understanding digital photography with my new camera. Your site has great tips and you really explain things thoroughly in a way a beginner can understand and apply. I’ll make sure to keep checking your blog for more tips to improve my shots!


Thanks Lisa

Good luck with your new hobby!

Chroma Coat Green Screen

I just purchased a DSLR and I found your blog really interesting thanks for the tips.

Matthew Bamberg

Good advice, Ingrid. I think you mean 20% in the first paragraph, not 80%.

I’ve been photographing for years and am still learning about the dSLR.


Thanks Matthew – amended!


Hey There. I found your blog using msn. That is a really smartly written article.
I’ll be sure to bookmark it and come back to read extra
of your helpful information. Thank you for the post.
I will definitely return.

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