Perhaps you just found a shiny new DSLR under the Christmas tree. Maybe your family invested in a nice camera so that you can document all the ages and stages of your kids. Or maybe you have finally decided to really learn how to use that fancy camera that’s been sitting in a box since last year. 

However you found yourself with that new piece of equipment, we are so excited for you! Photography is the foundation of who we are at Clickin Moms and we just love it when someone discovers the joy of taking pictures. 

We also know how overwhelming it can be when you get that new camera in your hands. There are so many buttons, so many menus, a whole new language to learn, and that’s before you even take the first picture!

But don’t worry, we are here to help. Follow these simple steps and you will be well on your way to using that camera confidently.

photo by Clickin Moms Mentor Kristin Dokoza

Open the box

We aren’t kidding! Sometimes just opening the box can be a little intimidating when getting a new piece of equipment.

Don’t be afraid. Open the box and dig in. Take inventory of what is in there and make a list of things that you may need before you start taking pictures.

Most DSLRs will come with the camera body, a battery, charger, user manual, warranty information, and a bunch of protective packaging. Some cameras will come with a lens while others will just come with the camera body.

Pro tip: Keep all of the packaging in a safe place. Should you ever want to sell your camera (and you likely will one day!), having the original box will allow you to sell it more easily.

photo by Clickin Moms Mentor Natalie Greenroyd

Read the manual

No, it’s not likely going to be the most exciting piece of literature you will ever read. However, your manual is the definitive guide on your camera. It’s worth spending a few hours to get to know your new best friend!

The manual will tell you how to safely use your camera, where to find specific functions, and will break down all those menus. You may even find that your camera can do things that you didn’t know it could do!

Taking the time to flip through your manual now will make using your camera easier. And the more comfortable you feel with your camera, the sooner you can start taking the pictures of your dreams!

Pro tip: Most manufacturers also keep digital copies of camera manuals online. You can type in a specific term and the online manual will point you in the right direction.

must haves


A “Nifty Fifty” lens

The 50mm f/1.8 lens is a versatile lens that won’t break the bank. Its wide aperture lets it perform well in low light and get that beautiful background blur we all love and it is perfect for the beginner photographer.

A stylish camera bag

It is important to protect your new camera and while there are lots of options, we like camera bags that have a little bit of style. Not only do they look fashionable, but they also don’t scream, “I have expensive equipment here!” as you take your camera around town.

Memory cards

You will need memory cards to take photos with your digital camera. Read your manual to find out what kind of card your camera needs and then buy one that writes fast and has a good amount of storage. There are lots of options at a wide range of prices, so it’s good to talk to your local camera store about your needs before buying.

photo by Clickin Moms Mentor Chanel French

Surround yourself with inspiration

One of the best ways to motivate your photography is to surround yourself with photographs that inspire you. Keep a Pinterest board of photographs you love and make notes on what you admire about each shot. Follow other photographers on Instagram. Keep photography books on your coffee table.

Of course, your first shots with that new camera aren’t going to look like the shots that you admire so much. Those photographers’ first shots didn’t look like that either! However, keeping beautiful photography around you all the time will help train your eye to see what makes a photo beautiful. This helps you as you seek out your own photo opportunities.

Need some inspiration? Check out our 100 Photographers to Watch list!

photo by Clickin Moms Mentor Chanel French

Get the extras

Not everything you need to use your camera will come in that one box. You may need memory cards, a camera strap, a padded bag, extra batteries, and a lens!

Take the time to do some research on what items will work best for your needs. Memory cards, for example come in various sizes and speeds and you will want to make sure that the ones you get work well with your specific camera body.

We like to go to our local camera store when looking for all the extras as the staff there knows exactly what works and can point us in the right direction quickly. Bring your camera with you and they will set you up with everything you need.

Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to show a little personality! Items like camera straps and bags are where you can have a little fun with your gear and there are no shortage of styles from which to choose.

photo by Clickin Moms Mentor Lisa Tichané

Find educational resources

Photography, while it is wonderful, is not easy. No one picks up a camera for the first time and starts taking the photographs of their dreams!

Instead, photography requires you to invest time in learning. You have to figure out the exposure triangle, white balance, composition, editing, and so much more.

That isn’t to scare you off! Rather, it is to encourage you when things don’t feel intuitive straight away. There is A LOT to learn when it comes to photography and no one expects you to be an expert without some help.

There are a lot of places to find photography education, but of course our favorite is Clickin Moms. With thousands of tutorials written by some of the best professionals in the industry, it’s a one-stop-shop for all things photography.

Even better, we are a community that is ready to help you no matter where you are in your photography journey. If you have a question, you can simply ask it in our forum and our members and team of mentors will be there to help.

Pro tip: The Clickin Moms tutorial forum is broken down into specific categories. Whether you want to learn about camera basics, photo editing, studio lighting, or anything else, start in the forum category that fits your needs and search from there!

photo by Clickin Moms Mentor Meg Loeks

Start taking pictures

You didn’t get that camera to let it collect dust. You got it so that you can take pictures and that’s just what we want you to do!

Once you have your camera battery charged, your memory card in the slot, and a lens attached, turn that camera on and take some photos. Play with your settings and see what you can capture. These aren’t going to be the best pictures you ever take, but the best way to learn is to dive right in.

Practice picking focus points. See what happens as you switch through the various automatic modes. Try putting the camera in manual mode and see what happens. Keep a list of things that work and things that you find challenging.

Pro tip: Try taking your first pictures of a stationary object. We love taking photos of our kids, but when you are trying to learn something new, it can be helpful to have a subject that can’t move or complain!

Getting a new camera is so exciting and we want you to take pictures you love. We know that following these simple first steps will have you well on your way to capturing the world around you and we can’t wait to see where your camera takes you!