Whether your camera is a DSLR, Compact, or Smartphone you will be keen to take pictures right away. When you look at them, the pictures are, OK, but they don’t look as good as you hoped – right?
So, before you use your camera for cat eye photos or pictures of a cat running or doing crazy things, let me give you some tips on getting a better start in photography before you start taking pictures. These work for smartphones, compacts and DSLRs.
I start with a list of useful tips that will be a quick refresher if you already unpacked your camera, then add some important hints to help you make better use of your own device when you start using it in the real world.
Tips for Every New Camera User
Before you use your camera, read your manual
Pick up the book, or open the pdf that you downloaded and read it from cover to cover (even the bits you don’t understand yet). This will make a difference to how to start to use your camera when you photograph a cat or dog..
- Look at the location of buttons and switches – on/off, focus, zoom.
- Use your manual to navigate through your camera’s screen options. [You will not know what everything is immediately but give yourself permission to play with features, filters and options].
- Know how to hold your camera.
- Decide on your picture resolution. Do you need high res for printing, or will you share on social media? Adjust the quality of the images to reflect this use. Social media does not need large print sized files.
- Remember to take the lens cap off or open your camera’s shutter. (Yes, I have forgotten to do this.)
- Find out how many pictures you can take with your camera. This will depend on resolution but it helps to know roughly how many you can take especially if you take a lot of photographs.
- Take a moment to compose your shot so it looks pleasing. Imagine showing it to a friend – what do you want them to see?
- Do you need a spare battery? If this sounds a silly question let me explain. My DSLR battery lasted me a week on one
charge,until I started taking lots of pictures, exploring different settings and generally using it much more. Now I realise I need a spare battery. Be aware if you amp up your picture taking you may need a spare too.
Do you have a favourite subject you photograph?
Do you love taking pictures of cats, dogs, landscapes, or live action events?
Find print magazines, ebooks or watch tutorial videos on YouTube for advice on helpful settings. There are lots of experts ready with great advice in your niche. I have even done basic help posts and advice for social media movie tips and posted videos are hosted on YouTube.
A Compact Camera for Cat Photos
How do you hold your camera when you take a cat photo? A compact camera can be much harder to hold than a DSLR.
Your camera is very light and portable which is good for carrying but which makes it more prone to camera shake especially if you are down at cat level trying to take photographs.
The best way to keep yourself stable is to hold your compact is to brace your elbows gently but firmly against your body and hold your camera in front of you. You can brace against a door jamb, window frame or the floor. Simple and it all works.
- Zoom with your feet rather than use a digital zoom which magnifies wobble. You can approach a cat more quietly this way.
- Find your shutter button. It’s usually on the right-hand side. It may be on the front of the camera, or on the top. Practice squeezing the shutter. Don’t press hard as you might tilt your camera and your cat will lean much further than you imagined.
- Hold your camera and see if you can find the shutter with your eyes closed. This is the same as finding the shutter when you are also trying to wrangle a playful cat into a fun pose.
Don’t always use the ‘auto’ setting. Experiment with changing your ‘mode‘ e.g. landscape, close up, or sport. (Your manual can help with this). Sport is ideal to capture a fast-moving cat or a running dog. You may need to practice or your picture may turn out like my first effort. I am getting better with practice and you will too.
- Distance or Landscape mode is great for pictures of a cat
show,or capturing the countryside on a trip.
- Self-timer for the selfies with YOU in.
- Portrait mode, for close-ups of a cat face.
- Macro mode for exciting super close focus images Panorama mode. This is great for shooting a very wide image, maybe a range of hills or a large interior like a cat show in an arena.
How Big is Your Compact Camera Memory Card??
Find out where your camera saves your pictures and now many pictures you can take. The higher your resolution, the fewer pictures
Beginner DSLR Camera Tips
Buy the best camera for photography beginners that your budget allows.
If you are thinking about buying a Digital Single Lens Reflex camera [DSLR]. You should get advice from someone you trust so that you make an informed choice. Ask a specialist at your local camera shop or a camera club.
NOTE My camera is a Canon 1300D with an 18mm – 55mm zoom lens, which is at the budget end of the range. I am learning a lot with it and do not feel at a disadvantage to more expensive cameras. So buy what you can afford not what everyone seems to have.
Read Your DSLR Manual
Most DSLR cameras come with a proper printed manual and this is your best friend. Everything you need to operate the camera and navigate the menus is in your manual.
How do you hold A DSLR?
A DSLR camera is heavy and professionals hold their camera is a specific way to support the camera body and lens. Learn this because it keeps you stable and helps you get a sharper image.
I know this is not easy when you are also trying to wave a wand toy or cat treat, then you do whatever works to get your picture.
- Remember to take the lens cap off and how to clean your lens properly.
- Explore your camera menus. You don’t need to know what they do right now, just get an idea of what your camera has. Your manual is a big help here.
- Learn how to adjust basic settings. Here is a ‘Dummies’ blog post that will help.
- Exploring Auto which is where most people start then branch out into using the different ‘modes’ e.g. Sport, Landscape modes.
- Read about ISO, Shutter and Aperture – the exposure triangle. Don’t panic, this will become clearer as you practice but the phrase comes up often so it’s worth knowing.
- Get advice on what kind of memory cards you can use. The higher the resolution of your photographs the fewer you will be able to store, so you may need more than one card.
Ignore anyone telling you to use Manual immediately
As you learn more about your DSLR you will realise that manual shooting comes with time and practice.
Shooting in ‘manual’ is a real skill that grows from an intimate knowledge of your camera and the situations you find yourself in.
Don’t believe me? Check out Simon Ringsmuth on the positives of using Auto. Start where you will be able to achieve something positive – this means your automatic mode, then try ‘sport’ mode or ‘macro’ (close-up).
Keep Your Lens Clean
It can affect every picture you take. This short video takes you though the best way to clean a lens.
Smartphone Cameras for B
Your smartphone will probably be with you more than even a small compact so learn how to hold your device to take good photographs. Your smartphone is as good as many compacts and DSLRs so be proud and happy to use it for
Smartphones are light so you need to keep your device stable. You don’t need to keep your phone at eye level but you will find it easier to take a good picture if you brace your arms against your body.
- See if your camera has a three by three grid overlay. This lets you position your subject according to the rule of thirds. This can help you compose pictures better. The mind finds images with the subject slightly off centre more pleasing.
- Check if you have an autofocus option, it can help when you style a cat or product, then step back quickly.
- Be conscious of the amount of light around you when taking your first smartphone photographs. Natural light is great for beginners.
- You need square images for Instagram, landscape rectangles for Facebook and Twitter.
- Know how to use your apps for social media sharing and make sure your photograph format fits.
- Top SM Tip. Don’t stress about the exact image size in pixels. The internet has been around long enough for most major companies to be able to resize photographs on the fly (although really big images may be thrown back at you).
- Check the resolution setting on your smartphone. Some have a ‘standard’ setting and an option HDR setting.
HDR lets you help your camera balance the highlights and shadows of your picture and allows it to create images that better resemble how the human eye sees a picture.Digital Trends
- If you are going to explore smartphone videography then check your smartphone’s movie settings and explore some of the great apps for editing ‘in camera’.
- Smartphone videos are worth exploring to showcase fun moments, blog products in sponsored posts and simply for online fun.
Camera Tips Summary
There are plenty of things to discover before you use your camera, or as you take your first steps using the camera you have.
I hope these tips help you focus on some of the things you need to be familiar with to capture the magic moments your cats create for you. Any problems? Give me a shout in the comments.