This is for you! I'm going to start a series on how to use your dSLR. Keep in mind, I'm not a professional teacher and I have the attention span of a Cocker Spaniel, but I'll do my best. I also don't know everything there is to know, so I'm just going to give you what I think may help those of you who are beginners. This will in no way make you a photographer. I just want to help you use your fancy new camera.
First, read your manual! I know it's tedious & is about as interesting to read as a tax law book, but this will help you. Trust me. It includes diagrams & troubleshooting that will come in handy if anything goes wrong. I have a Canon. I love it, but there a few Nikon users out there. The instructions and such I will give will come straight from my camera, but the same things are available for Nikon, I just don't know how to use their menus and such.
Even though I just told you to read your manual, I know you didn't. It's okay. We're going to get you started anyway. Make sure your battery's nice and charged. Also, make sure you have a good memory card. Size doesn't matter at this point. Don't ever take your memory card out while the camera is writing on it. To be safe, don't take the card out until the display screen is completely black after you turn it off. My camera goes through a sensor cleaning after I turn it off every time & I just wait till that's done.
Next, unless you have Photoshop there's no need to shoot in RAW. JPEG is fine if you're taking snapshots or if you're just going to upload something onto a blog or facebook. Taking pictures in RAW is great if you need to preserve every single bit of data that's included in the picture. For the most part, this isn't the case. JPEG is okay to use and doesn't take as much memory. It also is great if you're taking lots of pictures in rapid succession. Sometimes it take the camera longer to process RAW files and it can only handle so many pictures at a time. Also, you need a program to be able to read a RAW file, something along the lines of Photoshop because it has CameraRaw. So, for now, (if you have a Canon) press "Menu", select "Quality", and get it off of RAW. I usually shoot large JPEG:
unless I'm shooting something I'm getting commission for (or if it's required by a professor). Then I'll shoot RAW. If I'm just doing some quick pictures of my food/craft blog, I'll shoot medium or even small JPEG to save some memory.
While we're in the menu, let's change something else. If you scroll over to the second menu (again in Canon, you Nikon users may need to use your manual to find this), you'll see something that says "Color Space". More than likely to the right of that you'll see "sRGB". Hit "Set" and select "Adobe RGB". This will allow you to capture more colors. This may help if you're a visual learner:
Next time, we'll discuss your kit lens and depth of field.