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10 Tips For Your New DSLR

7. Use Depth-Of-Field Preview

When photographing landscapes, I often need to maximize my depth of field in an image. I may need everything from two feet to infinity to be in focus. The big question becomes where to focus in the image to get the most depth of field. I used to do this by calculating my hyperfocal distance and using the aperture scale imprinted on the lens. But as lenses have evolved, the aperture scale on the lens has disappeared. How can you calculate the best focus point without this reference on the lens? Try your depth-of-field preview button.

When you’re not shooting, your lens aperture is normally at its maximum setting to allow light into the lens for a brighter viewfinder. When you press the depth-of-field preview button, the lens closes down to the aperture chosen, showing you in real time what areas are in focus in your image.

When I want maximum depth of field in an image, I set my aperture to ƒ/16 or ƒ/22, compose the shot and focus about a third of the way into the frame. Then I press the depth-of-field preview button, let my eye adjust to the darker viewfinder and actually focus while holding the button down. Once my eye adjusts to the darker viewfinder, it’s easy to focus exactly where I need to be to get the best depth of field for a scene.

8. Use Image Stabilization

Many of today’s lenses and cameras have image-stabilization capability. This technology has dramatically improved the chances of getting a sharp image in low light while handholding the camera. Combine image stabilization with high ISO, and you’ve entered a new dimension of digital photography.

Handholding a camera at 1?15 sec. at ISO 6400 allows you to shoot practically in the dark!

Some camera systems have stabilization built in to the lenses; other systems have it built in to the sensor. I always have my stabilization on, unless I’m shooting from a tripod. Depending on the generation of image stabilization you have, some camera manufacturers recommend turning the stabilization off when on a tripod. You’ll need to research your camera and lens to find what works best for you.

9. Use A Rain Cover

You just unpacked your new camera from the box, charged up the battery and put in a new memory card. Excited about using your camera, you burst out the door into a howling blizzard to photograph the drama of the storm. You remember reading somewhere how most new DSLRs are built to fend off snow and rain, and are completely sealed against the elements. About a half hour into shooting, you notice an “Err” sign blinking on the LCD panel. Your new camera has just become a paperweight.

Cameras today can take a lot of punishment. Many models are well sealed against the elements, and some pro models have fantastic weather sealing. But why push it? I’m always amazed that some photographers leave their cameras completely exposed to the rain sitting on top of a tripod. I use a Nikon D3, and it seems almost indestructible. I’ve dropped it on cement floors and shot it in blinding Gobi Desert sandstorms and Alaskan blizzards, and the camera has never let me down. But I still use a rain cover to protect the camera from the elements. Better to be safe than sorry.

10. Read The Manual

If you’re like me, you never read instruction manuals. I like to open the box, turn on the camera and figure things out. Chances are, I can take photos pretty fast without looking at any manual. But what about those features that aren’t obvious? What new features am I completely missing?

Since camera technology and features are rapidly advancing, it’s more important than ever to read the camera manual. Many DSLRs offer video, which is new to many people and worth reading about in the manual. New focusing patterns, metering modes, ISO settings and noise reduction make reading your instruction manual a worthwhile activity. And don’t forget to throw it in your camera bag for the next big trip!

Tom Bol is a freelance editorial and commercial photographer based in Colorado. You can see more of his photography at

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