Now that you have taken the plunge and put down the money for an entry-level DSLR camera, you might be thinking, "Now what?"

Now that you have taken the plunge and put down the money for an entry-level DSLR camera, you might be thinking, "Now what?"

Granted, these cameras often include many of the features of point-and-shoot cameras and they generally are intuitive, but if you take a little time, you can get maximum benefit   and lots of fun   from your new purchase.

First, discover as much as you can about your camera. Undoubtedly, you checked around before you spent anything, but even after the sale is completed, it might seem like there is so much to learn.

Don't worry, there are plenty of resources to enhance the pictures and the pleasure that come from your new digital SLR camera. First, your camera manufacturer's website can be a treasure trove of information and would be well worth your time to log on and explore.

Most high-quality camera manufacturers offer tutorials, knowledgebases and frequently asked questions sections. Some are a bit dry, while others are fascinating.

However, some manufacturers go the extra mile. Canon, for example, provides a community forum for its consumers to ask questions and respond to one another. In an age of snarky online posts, this forum stands out with the respectful and helpful tone of camera lovers sharing information.

Nikon, another industry leader, provides a wealth of free articles accompanied by stunning photographs on its website. These discuss everything from how to improve your sports photography to photo composition guidelines   and Nikon thoughtfully provides links to the authors' websites. In addition, you can subscribe to Nikon's magazine or take classes offered by the manufacturer, although these choices are not free.

While you are moving through the learning curve of your new camera, consult the user manual whenever you are unsure about something. If you are highly motivated, you could read it from cover to cover. That sounds like quite a chore at first blush, but it would be enormously advantageous.

Barring that, simply checking the manual's index can be a great benefit. If you are baffled by controls that do not work like the ones on your former camera, or you want to achieve a particular effect but cannot seem to manage it, the user manual frequently will contain just the information you need to get what you want.

With a new entry-level DSLR camera in hand, try something new just for the experience. You might attempt shooting in dimly lit settings with no flash to see what effects you can create. Although the automatic controls can be delightful and an enormous time-saver, test the manual controls from time to time.

You will certainly get a several duds, but no doubt there will be a surprising number of creative and unusual photos that come from just getting away from the tried-and-true approach you may have been using for years.

With these new and reasonably priced cameras, you let your creativity take off and experiment as you please. You no longer have to worry about the cost of film, so let loose and try new approaches. What have you got to lose?

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