How I Finally Learned How to Use my DSLR Camera Featured Image
Creative Family Living

How I Finally Learned How to Use My DSLR Camera!


This is how I finally learned how to use my DSLR camera after years of using it as a glorified point-and-shoot. Learning was easy with an inexpensive online photography class.

How I Finally Learned How to Use my DSLR Camera

This post contains affiliate links. I’ve had my DSLR camera—a Canon Rebel t2i—for years now and, until a few days ago, I used it like a glorified point and shoot.

This is an embarrassing confession for me to make, both considering that photography is a big part of my blogging and um, considering I took photography in college (and never really knew what I was doing).

I can’t tell you how excited and relieved I am to finally learn how to use my DSLR camera properly (or at least start to!) and take it off auto. While a photography class has been on my list for, oh, years now, fitting it in around my other responsibilities and the family schedule just didn’t happen.

Until I decided to try an online photography class called Family Photography.

How I Finally Learned How to Use My DSLR Camera Properly

Learning how to use my dslr camera

Subtitled “Candid Moments & Storytelling,” this Bluprint class by Kirk Tuck was exactly what I needed:

  • A primer in how to use my DSLR camera
  • With a focus on capturing children and family photography
  • A video course that shows me what to do (I may be known to have thrown my camera manual across the room in frustration in the past) and walks me through my camera and photography in a way that I understand
  • An online course that I can take anytime, start and stop at will, and that easily fits my schedule

It’s such a relief to finally learn this! I’m still figuring out how the pieces of the puzzle fit together—aperture, shutter speed, ISO. But I feel much more confident now and I’ve taken pictures that look good!

First Steps: Practicing What I Learned with the DSLR

Riding the Tractor at Skytop Orchard

After the first couple of lessons online, I took my camera along on our family apple picking excursion to Sky Top Orchards and practiced, practiced, practiced.

Apple Picking at Skytop Orchard

I took a lot of fuzzy, ill-lit photos, but I took some good ones, too!

Learning how to use my dslr camera

Not a bad start for my first try on manual.

Improving My Photography with Another Lesson & More Practice

Playing Ride the Rails

Later, I watched another lesson, then grabbed another photoshoot opportunity—playing Ticket to Ride with Maia.

About halfway through the game, we had the (new-to-us) game figured out and I felt like the photography thing finally clicked for me.

Photographing Maia

I kept playing around with the controls and took a ton of photos. So many of the early ones are blurry or ill lit. But the later ones? They may not be professional quality shots, but boy, was I proud of myself for capturing my daughter in the middle of her silliness and seriousness with crisp images and good lighting.

And it wasn’t a fluke!

I was really learning how the camera was working!

How I finally learned how to use my DSLR camera - portrait of Daphne

I could tell that I had gotten it then and felt great.

How I Finally Learned How to Use my DSLR Camera Featured Image

And looking through the photos on the computer later just confirmed it.

Daphne candid photo - learning how to use my DSLR camera

I still have a lot to learn; a lot to practice. But this feels like a cornerstone.

How I finally learned to get off automatic on my DSLR camera - candid portrait of Maia

Why, oh why, didn’t I learn how to use my DSLR camera years ago?!

Learning how to use my dslr camera

With my camera on automatic, it took okay photos—definitely better than my old Canon Powershot—but the potential for capturing my children and life around me with really good photographs has just skyrocketed. This is why I bought a DSLR in the first place. I’m so glad I know how to use it now!

Plus, it means that I can finally use that nifty fifty lens that my husband bought me for my birthday a year and a half ago!

Family Photography Class with Kirk Tuck

If you’re in a similar situation and want to learn how to use your DSLR or just how to take memorable family photographs, I highly recommend giving this Bluprint class a try:

Family Photography: Candid Moments & Storytelling by Kirk Tuck

By the way, I’ve since taken a few of their other photography classes and they’ve all been valuable (although this one has been my favorite).

My reviews of other online photography classes I’ve taken through Bluprint:

More photography classes that I’d like to take:

Pin It for Later

How I Finally Learned How to Use my DSLR Camera


  • Reply
    Bumblebees R Us Day Care Center
    September 17, 2014 at 7:31 am

    Congratulations! It’s good to know that you didn’t give up on your DSLR that easy. It’s a good piece of equipment and I must congratulate you with all the photos you’ve taken! Not bad for a beginner and I’ll definitely love to see more of your works! :)

  • Reply
    Emily M.
    September 17, 2014 at 8:18 am

    That’s wonderful, Jean! I can see a big difference already. I remember this same feeling of elation when I finally learned how to use mine. Have you heard of MeRa Koh? Her DVDs were a major stepping stone for me to getting my own camera off of auto. She has a set of books out now too, which may or may not be helpful for you at this point.

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      September 19, 2014 at 5:45 am

      I have, Emily, but haven’t seen her books or DVDs. I’ll have to check them out. Thanks!

  • Reply
    September 17, 2014 at 10:08 am

    This class has been sitting on my Craftsy wishlist–thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Your photos look great! :-D

  • Reply
    September 17, 2014 at 11:04 am

    This is prompting me to practice this weekend with this camera, but I could really use a class on it! Thanks so much!!

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      September 19, 2014 at 5:44 am

      You’re welcome for the prompt, Jennifer! :)

  • Reply
    September 17, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    I’m glad to see you used your new camera for a great new photo of you in your header. Its a great one of you :)

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      September 19, 2014 at 5:43 am

      Thanks, Faigie! That photo is actually not one that I took, but rather one taken by a professional photographer, Lenka Hattaway. I need to add her info and photo credit somewhere…

      • Reply
        Pamela Zeman
        June 3, 2020 at 4:45 pm

        How about landscape or macro? I was into family and people years ago. Took a class on how to use my Konica 35mm. Did ok. Then got my first slr in 2005. Never really learned it. Now have a dslr trying to learn it yet all the lessons free that I read are confusing. Thanks for any info you can give me.
        Pamela Zeman. [email protected]

  • Reply
    [email protected] Spirit Mommy
    September 17, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    Thank you for sharing this – I just enrolled in that class! Hoping it will help me get to know how to use my DSLR better. I have been taking great pictures on auto for awhile but I really want to know what I’m doing. : )

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      September 19, 2014 at 5:42 am

      Awesome, Lindsey! I think it’ll feel good to know how to use the DSLR. It certainly does for me!

  • Reply
    September 19, 2014 at 2:07 am

    Thank you, I have just enrolled :)
    Hope I have as much success as you have

  • Reply
    Megan @ The Art Pantry
    September 19, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    This couldn’t have come at a better time! I have literally been searching the web for photography courses this week. I was thinking of taking a class locally, but this must be a sign :)
    Just enrolled, thanks!

  • Reply
    September 21, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    I’m so glad I found this! I too took a photography class in college but can’t really share what I learned. I will bring out my DSLR every once in awhile, but would love a better understanding of how to use it.. and would love to have confidence while using it :) What lens did you use during the class?

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      September 23, 2014 at 11:57 am

      I used an 18-55mm lens during the class, Malory, but then started taking photos with my 50mm lens (and a few of those in this post were taken with the 50mm).

  • Reply
    margaret kaufman
    September 22, 2014 at 1:48 am

    Really helps having beautiful subjects. Good work! And hey, good camera work also.

  • Reply
    September 24, 2014 at 12:30 am

    what precious photos! bravo mama!!!

  • Reply
    September 24, 2014 at 2:41 am

    you say we can take the course at our own pace? I’m not getting a dslr camera til next month. would i be able to pay for the course now and start it later?

  • Reply
    September 25, 2014 at 8:01 am

    Went to purchase the class but it is not coming up at the discounted price. I should have purchased when I looked yesterday but I thought I still had time. ??? Or is there a promo code I am missing? thanks

  • Reply
    September 25, 2014 at 8:08 am

    Is there a code to use for the class? I followed the link since I just found the article and it says the price is $49.99.

  • Reply
    September 25, 2014 at 11:50 am

    I saw it marked down last night but was waiting to get to my desktop to pay, and since it said through Sept 25 at midnight, I assumed I could purchase it for the discounted price today?

  • Reply
    September 25, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    I’m having the same problem, it’s not showing a discount today? Is there something else I need to do?

  • Reply
    Erin Benz
    September 25, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    What is the code? It won’t give me the discounted rate? Thanks.

  • Reply
    September 25, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    im also having the same problem with the discount. Is there something special I need to do to get the discounted rate?

  • Reply
    September 25, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Having the same problem too – is there a discount code to use? Discounted price was there a couple of days ago

  • Reply
    Christina H.
    September 25, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    Did anyone find out if you need a special code for the class? Like other commenters, I went to sign up but it’s not showing the discounted price anymore. I’m so disappointed! I was really looking forward to signing up! Can you help Jean?!

    • Reply
      September 25, 2014 at 6:16 pm

      I’m having the same problem. It comes up full price. I can’t do it at full price. Is there a way to contact crafty? Or the guy directly?I’m not seeing it. Thanks.

      • Reply
        Jean Van't Hul
        September 27, 2014 at 8:17 am

        I just emailed my contact at Craftsy about the sale ending early and will let you all know what I find out!

  • Reply
    September 25, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    I just saw this and I’m very excited. I just decided to buy a beginner camera from my friend, who is a photographer, to learn on. I was going to look into classes and saw this. Thanks for sharing. I want to enroll tonight but it doesn’t say how to get the 50% off. Is there a code?

  • Reply
    September 25, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    Wanted to sign up, but not 1/2 off anymore…it’s not midnight yet. Have I missed something?

  • Reply
    kelly k
    September 25, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    i would like to sign up also but there is no discount. help!

  • Reply
    Adrienne Gager
    September 25, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    I’ve had my DSLR for almost 5 years, and I only half know what I’m doing. I’d REALLY love to take the class, and that discounted price is AWESOME!! I followed the link, but I am also not seeing the discounted price, even though it is not yet midnight. Can you please help? Thanks!!

  • Reply
    September 25, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    I also tried to enroll but no discount! Very disappointed because after reading his post I was excited to sign up! :(

  • Reply
    September 25, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    Ahhhhh!! Same deal! What is going on with this class?? Can we get an extension some how? I need to get to bed but was definitely banking on being able to sign up tonight : (

  • Reply
    September 25, 2014 at 11:00 pm

    Bummed!! This is exactly what I need. Was so excited to enroll after getting kids to bed tonight and it seems the offer has expired prior to midnight. :(

  • Reply
    Amber Sheaves
    September 25, 2014 at 11:16 pm

    Looks like a great class but the sale price is gone already. I know it was there before :(

  • Reply
    Laura Johnson
    September 25, 2014 at 11:32 pm

    I was really hoping to get the discount, too, but it looks like the deal expired early? It’s not midnight MT yet. So bummed! Please let us know if the deal can be extended somehow! Thanks!

  • Reply
    September 25, 2014 at 11:46 pm

    Not midnight yet but no discount…guess that’s what I get for waiting! Hope price goes down again!

  • Reply
    September 26, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    Darn! I missed the discount by a day. Do you know if they will offer another discount again soon?

  • Reply
    Renee Gabbard
    September 26, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    Hoping the discount can be figured out. It wasn’t there last night. Thought I’d check again today just in case…

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    September 27, 2014 at 8:11 am

    So sorry about the discount disappearing early everyone! I’ll contact the folks at Craftsy and try to figure out what happened.

  • Reply
    September 27, 2014 at 9:04 am

    Hey y’all – Craftsy is having a sale on their own right now and the class (& many other photography classes) are on sale @ the $29.99 price!!!

  • Reply
    kelly k
    September 29, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    i thought maybe that’s what the problem was….thank you for getting the extension! i am excited to take the class and hopefully make some progress on knowing how to use my camera!

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      September 30, 2014 at 6:30 am

      You’re so welcome, Kelly! Hope you get a lot out of the class!

  • Reply
    Sassy Deelish
    September 30, 2014 at 8:33 am

    This post could alternatively be titled, “How I learned to write an ad for somebody’s photography class.”

  • Reply
    October 13, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    I saw in the precious post that it looks like the sale was extended. I never got an email. Is it too late??

  • Reply
    February 23, 2015 at 1:42 am

    Dear Jean, I L.O.V.E your photos. There is one of your younger daughter that looks so much like my younger one…except mine has brown hair. Such lovely work. I hope you keep enjoying it and I want to thank you for your posts on FB as I love using and sharing them. Many Thanks, Shalini (Singapore)

  • Reply
    Janiarto Paradise
    February 28, 2015 at 5:45 am

    trying and trying, thats all i can do since it’s hard enough to understand what the manual books want to say… :p

  • Reply
    April 17, 2015 at 9:34 am

    I just got my first real camera (NikonD3200) and have been litteraly obsessed w learning it since it arived in the mail.I just had my second child and am getting that stir crazy stay at home mom feeling.I needed something to do that is just for me.Your blog was the perfect thing for me to stumble upon and be inspired by.Im only 1 week in but Ive managed to learn my camera and learn the basics of manual.I challenge myself not to shoot in auto unless Im using it to learn and switch right back.Your photos on this blog are beautiful as are your girls!I hope that some day I can shoot like this.Thanks for sharing:-)

  • Reply
    October 30, 2017 at 10:36 am

    Thank you for posting/writing this. I usually put my DSLR in Auto mode too. But currently I am learning how to use the manual mode. It is definitely frustrating at times but I am improving. I used to go on photo shooting outings with my Father when I was younger but we used a SLR from the 70’s and used a light meter. It was fun and the photos came out amazing. Now with Digital photography I feel totally useless. But I love that I can see the photos instantly and can delete photos that I don’t like. Thank you again for posting this.

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      October 31, 2017 at 5:21 am

      You’re welcome, Melissa! It’s definitely a learning curve, isn’t it? And how great that you have the memories and experience of manual photography with your father!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.