It’s not uncommon to see people toting around expensive photography equipment at everyday events. Many, from soccer moms to classroom parents, are using cameras in the $1,000+ price range to snap a few shots of the kids on the field or indulge in a little amateur photography at home.

That pricey piece of equipment is known as a digital single-lens reflex camera, or DSLR. In the past decade, it has seen double-digit market growth and was the most common type of interchangeable lens camera in use in 2014.

But despite the DSLR’s popularity, many people don’t know what they are doing with their expensive piece of photo equipment. A survey of non-professional photographers conducted by Sony in 2012 found that roughly two-thirds of DSLR users never or rarely take their camera out of full-auto mode. Another third admitted not knowing how to use their DSLR, and three-quarters thought they needed formal education to get beyond using the camera in Automatic mode.

Don’t have time for a class to learn how to harness the true power of your DSLR? No problem! We asked three photography and DSLR experts for their tips on getting the most out of your fancy camera.

1. Go Beyond Automatic

“If you are truly a newbie, the basic Automatic mode will take care of you, but the camera will control everything,” said Lynne Damianos, a photography instructor and owner of Damianos Photography in Framingham. “Switch to Program mode to maintain most automatic features, but to have more control and more menus to choose from.”

“Learn in Manual mode,” advised Louise Michaud, a professional photographer based in Salem, who also teaches photography. “The fantastic thing about digital is you have meta data. You can look on your computer and see exactly how you took a picture, then recreate it if you like the outcome. You can also look instantly at the back of your camera and view how it just came out.”

2. Read the Instructions

“Read the manual. Then read it again — and again,” said Bob Atkins, the technical editor at Photo.net, who also publishes his own photography Website at bobatkins.com. “These days only a brief starter manual is included with the camera, but a full manual is usually provided either on a CD or is made available via download from the camera manufacturer’s Website. Pretty much everything you’ll ever need to know about the camera will be in the manual, but at first read it will seem full of confusing information. However, after you use the camera for a while, and make a few mistakes, it will become clearer. “

3. Let There Be Light!

“It’s all about the light!” Michaud said. “Most often newbies focus on the subject and forget the background. Look at your background, compose and take the photo.”

“Portraits are typically pleasing with soft light,” Damianos noted. “Photograph without flash outside on an overcast day, in the shadow of a house, or during the ‘golden hour’ just before sunset when the sun dips below the horizon. The sky is still bright and there are no harsh shadows. Inside? Try bringing your subject close to natural window light.”

4. Use a Tripod

“While many lenses now have image stabilization built in and so lessen the need for a tripod, under some circumstances a tripod will enable you to get the very best images from whatever camera and lens you have,” Atkins explained. “You can take more time framing a shot. Since the camera is very stable, you can use longer shutter speeds or lower, higher quality ISO settings. You can get a decent tripod for under $100, probably even under $50. While big, heavy tripods are more stable, small light tripods are less trouble to carry and can still be very useful. A tripod you carry with you and use is better than a big, heavy tripod you leave at home!”

5. Consider Composition

“Pre-focus on your subject and then shift your camera angle so your subject is not centered,” Damianos advises. “This is usually a more interesting composition than centering your subject.”

6. Practice, Practice, Practice

“Each of us is drawn to different subjects. Take time to practice photographing what matters to you at non-critical times where you are not rushed,” she added. “Perhaps set up a situation similar to what you want to photograph later. For example, if you will have a birthday party for your son in your dining room, experiment creating photographs at the same time of day that the event will be held, perhaps with family members sitting at the table. Experiment with the room lights turned off and on, using flash or using natural light. Determine what looks best to you, and use the same combination of room lighting and camera settings as in your practice during the birthday party.”

“Take your camera with you whenever you can and take pictures,” Atkins said. “The more you shoot, the better you’ll learn how to use the camera. You’ll make mistakes, some of your shots will be terrible, but some you’ll like. Try to analyze what it is about the good ones that you like and use that in shooting your next images.”