by Marcus Leach
So you just got the new Nikon D5300 DSLR camera that you were hoping for at Christmas. Just one problem, you don’t really know what you’re doing with it. Well never fear, the photography experts at SmugMug are here to lend a hand.
There are lots of things you can do to inspire and motivate yourself to pick up your camera in 2015. Here are some top recommendations for Digital SLR newbies:
1. Shoot something new: You probably take lots of pictures of your family and friends; those are the shots filling up your SD card. Why not point that lens at something else: A sunset, people on the street, flowers in your garden, skateboarders at the park, the Milky Way? You may discover new ways to use your new gear that you never would have thought of before.And who knows, you may even end up finding a new niche.
2. Find a group to shoot with: Source inspiration from others; why not join a photo walk? Social sites like Meetup.com and Google+ are only two of many options where you can find like-minded new photographers like you getting together to shoot something fun and learn from each other. It's always inspiring to see what other people are using and doing, and you may end up making a few new friends, too.
3. Shoot a theme: Sometimes the way to stretch yourself is - yes, it's weird - to limit your boundaries. Try taking pictures of just red things, a series only looking upwards, or any series you can think of with a common theme. You'll find yourself liberated by the rules, grounded by great focus, and perhaps even seeing something new in what you thought were mundane surroundings. Try uploading those photos into a single, themed gallery, too. You might like the result.
4. Rent something new: You may have just been gifted some great kit, but as you start experimenting you’ll see that this is just the beginning of a very expensive – yet gratifying – hobby! However, with companies like lensesforhire.co.uk out there, it's so easy to take your dream lens for a spin. From macros to mega-zooms, you can get anything you want shipped to your door and enjoy it for as little (or as long) as you like. Especially great for getting to use highly specialized lenses like fisheyes, which pack a lot of punch mixed up in with your regular shots.
5. Take a workshop: Some people thrive in the formal education environment. Is that you? With the boom of digital photography workshops of all types, you're bound to find a way to learn something totally new, and find the best environment for you, to boot. From one-day classes to week-long trips, you can take up a brand-new photo skill and actually get good at it in a relatively short time. Check out training courses at Nikon School in London www.nikon.co.uk/training.
6. Look at other people's art: Taking an afternoon to the museum could be the best thing you ever did for your craft. The timeless work of old masters or the trailblazing pieces of new ones will inspire, stretch and get your brain thinking in great new ways. Why don’t you start with the National Portrait Gallery, or the Photographers Gallery?
Similarly, take a look through photo blogs and social channels to see what other amateur and professional photographers are doing. You may be inspired to try something new in the format you're already familiar with.
7. Travel: Nothing gets the soul going like travel. Speak, eat, look, immerse yourself in new cultures and notice new things. And you don't have to go far, unless you want to: You can experience a whole different side of your own town that you've never even noticed by volunteering at an organization, taking a walk to that park you've never visited or take a different route or mode of transport.
What's around your next corner?
8. Enter a competition: Sometimes a little friendly competition is just what you need to hone in and focus on your hobby. Get the blood pumping with a photo competition where there's a set theme and (if you like) a tasty prize. Make sure you check the rules and be sure that the way the organizers handle ownership of submitted images is OK with you. Some of the most reputable are hosted by The Royal Photographic Society.
9. Privacy: Backing up and storing your photography is the most important element to consider. Not only do sites such as SmugMug offer completely unlimited storage, you also have complete control over who sees your photos. You can set the level of privacy at any level: across your whole site, for your folder, for each gallery and/or your pages.