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12 tips every photographer should know

CNET has plenty of photography tips, tricks and tutorials for snappers of all skill levels. Here are a couple of our top tips in one handy guide.

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Lexy Savvides
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1 of 12 Lexy Savvides/CNET

Start off with the basics

A big dSLR can seem daunting for beginning photographers. Before you get going, make sure to take the time to get to know your camera. Preparation includes strapping your camera correctly, formatting memory cards in-camera and changing the image quality setting so you’re not shooting in low-quality JPEG.

For more on setting up your new dSLR, click through to this guide.

To learn more about exposure, read up on shutter priorityaperture priority and full manual modes.

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2 of 12 Lexy Savvides/CNET

Make the most of sunrise and sunset

There’s a reason why photographers call the time immediately after sunrise and before sunset the “golden hour”. The light is softer and appears warmer than at any other time during the day, making it ideal for capturing on camera.

While landscapes are ideal to capture during golden hour, also try out portraits too for the ultimate in natural light.

Many apps exist to help you determine when golden hour occurs for your location, so you can get out and make the most of the available light.

Here are some tips to get great summer photos.

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3 of 12 Lexy Savvides/CNET

Celebrate with firework photography

Taking photos of fireworks might seem tricky at first, but it is quite simple to master with a few tips. To start, you will need to stabilize the camera, ideally using a tripod. A remote shutter release can also help reduce any possibility of camera shake.

The exact exposure will depend on the particular situation, but try using a smaller aperture of f/8 or above, then adjust the shutter speed accordingly. Keep your ISO low for cleaner images.

More tricks for taking photos of fireworks can be found in this tutorial.

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4 of 12 Lexy Savvides/CNET

Use a tablet (or phone) as a light source

Ever thought about using your tablet as something more than just a tool to view photos? Turns out, your tablet or smartphone is actually a great light source for photography. From using it as a fill light for creative portraits, to tracing shapes and outlines in the sky for long exposures, the humble screen can be used in many different ways for creative images.

Here are five ways to use a tablet as a photography light.

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5 of 12 Lexy Savvides/CNET

Experiment with photo filters

Photographers know the value of using filters to alter the light entering the lens. But did you know you don’t need to spend tens (or hundreds) of dollars on expensive filters to have a bit of photographic fun?

Here are a few creative ways to alter the look and feel of your images using common household items, or even a glass prism.

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6 of 12 Lexy Savvides/CNET

Learn to love bokeh

Bokeh is a term that refers to the quality and appearance of out of focus areas of a photograph. It’s often also referred to as that dreamy background blur in portraits.

The shape of bokeh is generally influenced by the shape of the aperture blades of a lens, but you can change that shape by making a customized lens hood. Turn background lights into hearts, stars, or any shape you like.

Here’s how to make your own custom bokeh lens hood with nothing more than black cardboard and some tape.

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7 of 12 Lexy Savvides/CNET

Deep dive into your dSLR

The best way to take your photography to the next level is to learn more about your camera. For dSLR owners, did you know about the depth of field preview button? This article explains what it is, and how to use it.

For Canon dSLR users, a custom firmware modification called Magic Lantern can unlock extra features. Here is a guide on how to install and use Magic Lantern.

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8 of 12 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Long exposure photography

Slow your camera shutter speed down to get some great long exposure photos. One of the great things about long exposure photography is that you can use the technique during the day or at night.

Want to make water looks like silk as it flows over rocks or a waterfall? Or capture light trails in the night sky? That’s all possible with a long exposure. 

Here is CNET’s guide to taking dreamy long exposure photos -- all you need is a camera with manual exposure control, and a tripod.

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9 of 12 Lexy Savvides/CNET

Experiment with double exposures

Double-exposure photography is when you overlay one image on top of another. While this was most common in the days of film cameras, digital users can still achieve this cool effect.

To find out more, and learn if your camera is capable of making multiple exposures in-camera, check out this tutorial.

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10 of 12 Lexy Savvides/CNET

Special techniques

The great thing with photography is that anything can be a subject -- including smoke. The best time to experiment with capturing wisps of smoke is at night, when ambient light is low. You will need a tripod, a separate flash unit that can detach from the camera, and a backdrop for your smoke source.

Here is a step-by-step guide on the technique.

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11 of 12 Lexy Savvides/CNET

Android photography

For photographers who also own an Android handset or an Android Wear, there are a few tricks that you can use to enhance your photographic experience.

If your Android phone has an IR blaster, you can use it to trigger the shutter in your dSLR.

For Android Wear users, try using it to remotely trigger your smartphone camera.

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12 of 12 Lexy Savvides/CNET

Back up your memories

With all those creative photos under your belt and on your hard drive, make sure you have a backup plan in place. But, just in case something goes wrong and you accidentally delete photos from a memory card, here is an in-depth guide on getting them back.

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