Within just weeks up upgrading to a fun digital SLR kit, most aspiring photographers start to research digital SLR lenses and bemoan the weakness and shortcomings of their kit lens. This is a natural progression. The kit lens does have some shortcomings, and of course new lenses are exciting and powerful. However, if you’re looking at picking up a DSLR kit, you don’t have to shy away from the decision because of the expense of additional lenses. These tips can help you get more from your first DSLR kit lens so you can grow your skills before you break your budget.

1. Use it when you want the versatility to shoot a range of subjects as you walk around.

Kit lenses do have limitations. But they also have advantages. They are designed for new photographers who may want to experience with both wide angle and zoom photography, so they are quite versatile. Kit lenses are also lighter, making carrying them more convenient. You’ll get the most from yours if you use it when you’re just walking around with your camera with no specific type of photography in mind, when you don’t want or need the encumbrance of other digital SLR lenses.

2 . Learn the limitations of your lens’ performance and work with them.

Three of the main limitations of kit lenses are a variable aperture with a relatively narrow range, slower autofocus, and the maximum and minimum angle available for zooming in and out. Working around the second two is easy. You have to plan your shots out a bit more and maximize settings or shoot with manual focus to deal with slower autofocus. Learn to use your feet and frame shots differently when the wide angle isn’t wide enough.

Exposure is one of the most important aspects to shooting good photos, and the limited aperture makes this more difficult. One way to learn the functional limitations of your lens is to zoom it out as far as possible, set the aperture to its maximum opening, and test it in various lighting conditions. Then do the same at the other end of the zoom. This gives you a sense of the two ends of the lens’s capabilities and what conditions are best and worst for it. Once you know what it can and can’t do, it is easier to optimize its performance in a range of lighting conditions instead of being surprised by shots that don’t turn out how you expect.

3. Learn to shoot in full manual.

No matter what digital SLR lenses and other gear you’re using, shooting in manual mode gives you the most control to take better photos and work with the strengths and around the weaknesses of your gear. Using all the exposure settings available helps combat the primary shortcoming of kit lenses, the variable aperture. For example, you can use shutter speed and ISO to compensate for the limited aperture size even at the widest angle.

4. Slow down.

Some people complain about the lack of crispness with a kit lens, but that’s often just a function of the slower focus. If you slow your process down you can get better focus and adjust for conditions that force a slower shutter speed, you can take nicely exposed, crisp photos without resorting to pumping up the ISO. This will also give you the time to adjust if you need to change the zoom. When you zoom in with a variable aperture, the maximum aperture size decreases, requiring you to adjust your other settings. So either don’t change your focal length between similar shots, or get used to fine-tuned settings adjustments.

Digital SLR lenses are a fun, but expensive aspect of growing and improving as a photographer. However, you can get much better photos with your kit lens than you may think.