I Have A DSLR Camera, Now What?

Congratulations on your new digital SLR camera!  It’s such an exciting grownup toy!   But where do you start?  By reading this post, of course.  I’ve been practicing photography off and on for 15+ years, and while I’m far from a professional, I compiled my biggest tips for what to do once you have your paws on a shiny, new DSLR camera.  But don’t run away if you’ve had your DSLR for some time– many of these tips are beneficial to you too!

I have a DSLR camera now what

Insure your camera and equipment.I don’t know about you, but it makes sense to me to insure a $500+ piece of equipment that can be easily dropped or stolen.  Add your camera and all your equipment to your homeowner’s or renter’s policy.  To give you an idea of the cost, it’s $27 per year for me to insure $1,800 worth of equipment.  And that’s with no deductible.  Completely unrelated: another item you should insure?  Your engagement and wedding rings.  Now give your insurance agent a call.


Get a UV protection filter for your camera.I cringe when I see people using their DSLRs without UV protection filters, especially those who tout themselves as photography and camera savvy.  It takes everything in me to keep my mouth shut when I see this.  Why do you want a filter for EACH of your lenses?  Because if you happen to drop your camera or a lens, the filter will break and not the lens glass.  It also protects the lens glass from scratches, fingerprints, dust, dirt, sand, etc.  There are different grades of UV protection filters, ranging in price from $5 to $130+.  I have $7 Tiffen filters on all of my lenses.  I may upgrade one day, but for now I’m good to go with my inexpensive filters.


Read your DSLR camera manual. Like with any sport or hobby, practice makes perfect.  Sorry to break it to you, but just because you have a fancy schmancy DSLR doesn’t mean you’re going to be an amazing photographer over night.  Just because Joe Schmoe buys an expensive guitar doesn’t mean he’s instantly going to be the next Jimi Hendricks.  Pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down?  Want to learn how to take awesome photos?  Read your manual.  Learn about your camera and its capabilities.  Yeah, it can be boring, but have your camera with you while you read and play with the settings and practice as you read the manual.


Play around with your DSLR camera. This goes along with reading the manual– play around with your camera.  You’re never going to get better at photography, especially shooting in manual, if you don’t put your camera to use.


Read online photography tutorials. There are so many free photography tutorials out there.  Start a photography Pinterest board (here’s mine) to organize all the tutorials you’d like to read and try out with your camera.  Just with reading the manual, have your camera with you while you read tutorials so you can try out the settings mentioned in the tutorial you’re reading.


Invest in extra DSLR camera equipment. Yeah, your camera is great, but add some extra equipment and your photos can be even better.   Here are my top 4 additional pieces of equipment: tripod, remote shutter release, 50 mm lens, and Photoshop.  Why buy a tripod?  Because when you’re shooting in manual you’ll need a longer shutter speed for some shots.  If you’re holding your camera the photo will come out blurry, if it’s on a tripod it’s less likely to be blurry.  Tripods range in price from $30 to $200+.  Why buy a remote shutter release?   Well, you don’t absolutely need one of these because you could use the 2 second timer on your camera, but I’m impatient.  You want a remote shutter release because when you snap a photo using your finger you can vibrate the camera, causing the photo to come out blurry.  You’ll use your remote shutter release with your tripod.  Remote shutter releases range in price from $2 to $100.  Mine was $15.  Why buy a 50 mm lens?  Because it’s a great lens for under $125, and it’s the favorite lens of many photographers.  Why invest in Photoshop?  Because SOOC (straight out of camera) shots will only take you so far.  Can’t afford the $550+ price tag?  Check out Photoshop Elements ($70) or Photoshop Lightroom ($120).


Write off your DSLR camera on your taxes.Are you a blogger?  Will your camera primarily be used to take photographs for your blog?  Do you make money off your blog and file taxes as a small business?  Then write your camera and additional equipment off as a business expense.


Disclaimer: Unfortunately, I’m neither a CPA nor an insurance agent.  Disappointing, right?  If you have specific questions please consult your accountant or insurance agent.

I hope you found these tips to be helpful.  As with purchasing anything, please read reviews and do your research before buying specific photography equipment.  I can only speak for the items I’ve purchased for my specific DSLR cameras (Canon Rebel XT and Canon 7D).  Best of luck with your DSLR!


Were these tips helpful to you?
Do you have a tip you’d like to share?


  1. says

    Thanks for posting this. I got mine a few weeks ago, and I’m happy to say that I’ve done several of the above! I’m glad you mentioned about the insurance thing, having a schedule for high dollar assets like cameras, jewelry etc. It’s so cheap to insure such valuable items!

  2. says

    Great tips! It was such a disappointment to me to buy my DSLR and not be instantly transformed into the Jimi Hendrix of the photography world. I really thought they just took great photos, period. Oh well, now I know and am learning. There were quite a few tips here I hadn’t thought of or heard about, like insuring the camera (didn’t even know you could do that) and UV filters (never even heard of them before).

  3. Amanda says

    Great tips! Just got my DSLR a couple weeks ago (after a year of trying to decided which body and lenses to get! decision paralysis…) and I’ve heard different things about the UV Filters. Do you ever photograph with the filter and then without to see the difference? One thing I read that stuck with me was why would you buy a $700 piece of glass of then stick a $10 piece of glass, which wouldn’t have nearly the quality, over it? Wondering if the filter would actually have that much of an effect on the quality of the photo.

    • chelsea says

      Congrats on the new camera! I understand that point but I’d rather protect my lenses than risk breaking or scratching them. I’ve never shot without filters. I think my photos come out fine with the filters, and I’ve never had someone say my photos look less sharp or the colors look distorted because of the filters. If there is a difference between shooting with a filter and shooting without I doubt it’s that highly visible to the naked eye. I like to err on the side of caution.

      • Jackthe7th says

        Have you ever tested this? I tested the effects of a hoya 77mm multi coated UV filter on a Nikon 70-200 vr 2.8 mounted to a d800 and on a tripod with shutter release. I took dozens of test photos with the filter on and off. Every time the UV filter caused the image to be blurrier, and not just a blurriness, but a fuzziness. The difference wasn’t quite as noticeable if you were shooting at high shutter speed, medium aperture size on a bright sunny day, but in more difficult lighting conditions (like the ones I almost always shoot in) there was a clear difference in image sharpness. I understand the desire to “protect your glass” but if it reduces image quality there’s no way it’s going on my lenses. Also if you do drop it and the filter shatters it can damage the front element anyways. The only time I might consider a UV filter is in a sandstorm, but at that point you might have other more important things to worry about…

    • chelsea says

      The T3i is a great beginner DSLR. The T3 is another great beginner camera, and it’s half the price of the T3i. A friend of ours has a T3, and I borrowed it to take the photos of my dresser turned TV stand.

      • says

        Thanks for the advice. I just looked it up on Amazon and your right it’s so much cheaper! Do you have any advice on where to buy it? I live in Indianapolis, near Avon/ Plainfield area or would you suggest online or in-store?

          • Lauren says

            Tawny, I’m from Brownsburg and I just got a DSLR a few weeks ago from Roberts. They have a downtown location and a Carmel one. They offer a camera specific intro class free with the purchase of the camera. One of the many reasons I went there over Amazon. HTH

          • chelsea says

            It’s overwhelming, isn’t it? If this is your very first DSLR camera, and you’re feeling really overwhelmed, I’d do as Lauren and look into Roberts Camera since they offer the intro class for free. I just looked up the T3i with the 18-55mm kit lens and it’s the same price at Roberts and Amazon ($599).

  4. says

    Thanks for these great tips! I got my DSLR a few months ago, but I’ve been pretty busy so I’m just now playing around with it. I’ve done most of these already, but I’ve never even heard of the UV protection filter before. I will definitely be buying one right away!

  5. says

    Playing around is what I’ll mostly do with a new DLSR on my hand. I just can’t wait to try out all the options to take a picture. I hate reading the manual though, so I just try it my way. Ya, writing (or boasting) about it comes in parallel; I usually share in Facebook!

  6. says

    This is awesome! I cannot tell you how many times it crawls under my skin to see DSLR newbies desperate to create stunning photos three days after getting a new camera. I admire the ambition but hold your horses! I’ve been shooting for 4 years and I am by no means a pro either (married to one but I’m not one!). Very useful and practical advice for DSLR users of all levels of experience.

  7. says

    Thanks for this! We’ve had our DSLR for over a year now but I haven’t taken the time to read the manual and really practice, so my shots are hit and miss. You’ve encouraged me to really work at it.

  8. says

    One of my goals this year is to learn to shoot in manual. Thanks for all the helpful tips, Chelsea. I’ll be checking out your Pinterest photo board. (And buying some lens filters!)

  9. Jessie G. says

    Hi There! thanks for all the information!

    I will be calling my insurance agent!

    I do have a question concerning the UV protection lense. How do you know which size to get? I have a 18 – 55 mm lense. Should my UV protection lense be a 52 mm or 55?

    thank you so much!

  10. JJ says

    Borrowed a friend’s and think DSLR isn’t the way to go for me (although I loved my film SLR). It’s a huge amount of camera, and all I want to do is take a clear pic, fairly quickly (have kids). Also, it’s kind of a hassle to do the lens close up/far away after having the easy little finger switch on a point-and-shoot to do that. Do you have any recommendations for a nice point-and-shoot? Thanks.

    • says

      I LOVE the Canon S95 Powershot. It is incredibly powerful, versatile, rugged, and easy to use. When I don’t want to lug around my camera system, I take my tiny powershot and have a blast.

  11. Diane says

    I have a slight vision impairment. I really want a dslr but I’m not sure if it’s a realistic endeavor. Can someone without perfect or average vision turn out decent photos with a dslr?
    My vision is not normal, but I cope pretty well. I’m turning out decent pics with my point and shoot camera and iphone.
    Thanks for any input you can share.
    PS – Love your blog. :) Wish I’d found it earlier.

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  13. says

    Hello, just read over your tips and they’re certainly good ones! I have an old camera, Canon XTi and am looking to upgrade. I love Canon! I may already know the answer to this question but its always good to get more opinions! So any suggestions on what my next Canon should be?

  14. says

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