Are you satisfied with your camara phone or are you one of those people that insist on having a DSLR camera with the telephoto lens? If you have just upgraded to a fancy DSLR or have one sitting in the corner of your room that you are scared to try, don't be intimidated by the fancy buttons and wheels on the camera. It still does what every other camera in the world does - it just takes pictures. Here are a few pointers for the beginner to help you get started right away:
Keep the camera on Auto (automatic) mode. It is the most popular and easiest thing to do with a new DSLR. Auto mode tells your camera to use it's best judgement to select shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance, focus and flash to take the best shot that it can. With some cameras auto mode lets you override flash or change it to red eye reduction. This mode will give you nice results in many shooting conditions, however you need to keep in mind that you're not telling your camera any extra information about the type of shot you're taking so it will be 'guessing' as to what you want.
There is also a portrait mode on your camera (icon with a big head on it - same dial as Auto). When you switch to portrait mode your camera will automatically select a large aperture (small number) which helps to keep your background out of focus (ie it sets a narrow depth of field - ensuring your subject is the only thing in focus and is therefore the centre of attention in the shot). Portrait mode works best when you're photographing a single subject.
One of the common problems that many new digital (and film) photographers have is 'camera shake' where images seem blurry - usually because the camera was not held still enough while the shutter was depressed. Hold your camera using a tripod if you have it or if not available, hold the camera with both hands to ensure a steady shot.
The "Rule of Thirds" is one of the first things that you will learn in photography class and rightly so as it is the basis for well balanced and interesting shots. The basic principle behind the rule of thirds is to imagine breaking an image down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically) so that you have 9 parts. As you're taking an image you would have done this in your mind through your viewfinder or in the LCD display that you use to frame your shot.
It is time to get that camera, dust it off, or take the tags off of it and give it a try. With these easy tips, it should be enough to get started. Good luck!
For a great resource, check out the Photography Masterclass Review