A couple of people have asked me about how to use their camera better. Here are a few of the things I found helped me when learning about my first DSLR.
1) Read your manual - put sticky notes in it - keep referring back to it if you don't understand a button or a word.
2) Google and find a DSLR dictionary and print it out - will give you a list of words you might read about your camera - you will have many 'ooooooooooooh that's what that is' moments. Well worthwhile.
3) Be brave and take it off Auto! Go out to do a few purpose shots using full M (manual mode). Try to use subjects that do not require speed for this. (Avoid children and animals - think still life!) Also revert to Manual for your lens (that is - take it off Autofocus). It may take a while but eventually you will get good at taking a photo this way. I shot in manual only for the first 3 months of owning my camera. It only got easier from there!
4) Av (Aperture) and Tv (Shutterspeed) - You will see these two options for shooting on your mode dial. I currently shoot in Av mode at all times. And work with my lens on autofocus usually. Aperture was something that perplexed me the most!
Basically the easiest way to explain it is the amount of the photo that will be in focus. How low in f stop you can go is based on your lens (not your camera). You will see with your lenses that there are numbers like this f4.5 on it. Basically the f stop (number) shown on your lens is the lowest value it drops to. Generally the more expensive the lens the lower it can go. All lenses will function from this lowest aperture to a much higer one. The smaller the number the faster your lens can go in low light. Av mode will use the aperture you select and automatically adust shutter speed to match. Generally portrait style photos use a lower aperture around f7 or f8 and landscape photos use higher aperture.
This is based on the fact that for portraits you will want the person in focus but the background not - and for landscapes you will want pretty much the whole picture in focus.
A quick note though. I always watch my shutter speed- try not to drop below 80...you run the risk of blur with handholding. Adjust your apeture and lose some of the focusing depth or change your iso.
5) What the ISO?
ISO is the same as when we used normal cameras and used different 'film' values - its the speed on which the image is transferred from the cameras sensor to the 'film' per say. Remember when we bought 100 or 400 film? For nice clean crisp images without lots of 'noise' - try to keep your iso around 100. Digital cameras have the ability to use high iso speeds however the higher you go the noisier or 'grainier' the image will get and the worse it will enlarge. Unless you have a very high quality camera and good editing software this will always be the case.
When I mentioned that you can up your iso to keep your shutter speed above 80 in Av mode - up it a little bit - see how it changes the shutterspeed automatically. See if it's enough and up it again if you need to. Don't forget to change it back though.
6) How do I do all this? Read your manual and see which dials do this. I could go into details but I own a Canon and not everyone does. :)
7) And last but certainly not the least! TAKE PHOTOS! Take them all the time. ALL THE TIME. I have taken millions of photos on my trust worthy 'ol 50D.
It also helps to use RAW mode so you can edit more in your photos - use digital photo professional or the software that comes with your camera for editing.....but I'm not going to harp on because if you wanted to read this for info I have probably just filled your head with enough for the moment!