You've just unboxed your brand-spanking fresh DSLR, and all you want to do is start playing with the new toy. You can't wait to take your shooting skills to the next level.
But here's a small piece of advice: Glance through these 25 super important tips first. They'll radically improve your Nikon camera experience — promise.
1. Read the Manual
Let's get this one out of the way first. Before you start swinging your new camera around, take a minute or two to look through the (no doubt boring) manual and get your camera set up correctly. It won't take much time and it'll save you headaches later. You'll likely have to do a few quick, basic things — like set the date and time, and upload some camera software to your computer — then you'll be good to go.
2. Pick Up a Few Pointers
If you're still a little new to photography, brushing up on skills will prepare you for all the cool things you can do with your DSLR. Get yourself up to speed with useful tips on digital photography.
3. Find Your Tribe
Surrounding yourself with other passionate photographers is the best way to keep honing your skills. Join online communities like Flickr or Nikonians.org and share your work. Even better, find a local group that hosts photography events and gatherings.
4. Get Insurance
What if your brand new DSLR gets broken, lost or stolen? That would be horrible — but a lot less horrible if you have insurance. Protect your purchase, and make sure you and your camera can get right back to business if the worst happens.
5. Invest in Good Lenses
An excellent camera is nothing without great glass in front of it. Invest in a high-quality lens so your camera can do its thing, and do it well.
6. Buy a Large Memory Card
You'll need one if you're planning to shoot a lot in between uploads (like at a wedding or on a big trip). Large, fast memory cards will make all the difference.
7. Keep Your Camera Clean
Clean your DSLR on the regular, and store it in dry, cool places. The last thing you want is for dust spots to start ruining your perfectly blue sky.
8. Use Aperture Priority Mode
A DSLR lets you have as much or as little control as you want — and that's one of its biggest pluses. Taking control of your aperture is a smart way to go if you want to do stunning portrait photography.
9. Don't Forget Shutter Priority Mode
When things start to speed up, or you want to lengthen your exposure for dark scenes, remember these three words: shutter priority mode.
10. Shoot in Full Manual
If you want total control over your photography, your DSLR will let you have at it. Experiment with full manual and see what it's like to have all the power.
11. Pre-Program Your Settings
Have a favorite exposure? Save it in your camera as a pre-programmed priority setting.
12. Check the Histogram
Your DSLR's built-in histogram will let you check your pixel data so you can get your perfect exposure.
13. Enable the Built-In HDR
Having contrast issues? Take advantage of the built-in HDR (on select Nikon models), and your camera will automatically combine a light and dark image to create a more balanced exposure .
14. Play with Creative Effects
From color sketches to selective color, there's a whole world of creative effects waiting for you on many of Nikon's DSLR models.
15. Explore the Interval Timer
The interval timer is a Nikon DSLR feature you definitely shouldn't overlook. It lets you set up for multiple images taken within any interval over any period of time, so you can make a stop-motion or time-lapse movie like a pro.
16. Make HD Videos
Recording in full HD? Yup, you can do that now. Nikon DSLRs have come a long way with their video capabilities.
17. Choose Focus Area Settings
You won't believe the crisp, clear photos you can get every single time by using focus area settings. Pick your option: single, multiple or 3D.
18. Use Continuous Focus
If the subject you're shooting is moving around sporadically, continuous focus will let you keep up.
19. Shoot with Continuous Shutter Release
Don't miss even a moment of action. With continuous shutter release, you can take pictures back-to-back within fractions of a second.
20. Customize for Back-Button Focus
When you're shooting with a Nikon DSLR, you can even customize what the buttons do. Many professionals like to use the shutter as the exposure lock, and focus separately using the back thumb button for ultimate precision.
21. Shoot RAW
Don't lose precious data to jpeg compression. Shoot RAW files you can edit later for beautiful, undistorted photos.
22. Get an External Flash
Need a little extra light? Pop a powerful external flash right on top of your Nikon DSLR. Want even more flexibility? Get a Nikon Wireless Speedlight Commander so you can control your flash from anywhere.
23. Share with a Wireless Mobile Adapter
Stick a Nikon WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter on the side of your Nikon DSLR, and you'll be able to automatically transfer images to your smartphone or tablet. Boom: instant sharing.
24. Shoot in Quiet Mode
"I want to hear the shutter release ringing out through the wedding hall," said no one ever. Use Quiet mode, and the guests won't even know you're standing right behind them.
This is arguably the most important tip of all — and definitely the most fun.
Now it's time to grab that new toy, get out there and have a blast exploring all the new things you can do with your Nikon DSLR.