IF Santa was kind enough to give you a new camera or gadget then you’ll probably be itching to get out and give it a test run.

This month marks a year since the Maldon and Burnham Standard launched our very own camera club.

In the space of a few weeks hundreds of our readers had signed up to share their snaps.

The Mid Essex Camera Club now has more than 450 members, so who better to go to for some top tips.

John Guiver believes you don’t need fancy equipment to get out and about practising your skills.

He said: “Most people are photographers, thanks to the smartphone. So look around you and take lots of photographs.

“You will soon find out what subjects and styles interest you, and whether your phone or camera is limiting you.

“Before you buy anything else, make sure you are using what you have to its full potential.

“Get advice from other users, research online or join a club.

“A different camera will not make you a better photographer, but it might enable you to take photos in a low light or at a distance, for example.

“Don’t buy a camera without playing with it first, preferably at a dedicated camera shop with knowledgeable staff.

“Finally, if you look at any photography group on social media, you’ll see some amazing images.

“Don’t let that put you off sharing yours unless, of course, you want to keep them hidden away where no one will ever see them.”

For Steve Thomas the best way to learn is by trying different settings.

“Don’t spend too long in auto mode,” he said.

“Start playing around in manual mode, don’t be afraid to make misakes and keep an eye on your light meter.”

Lee Smythe agrees a smartphone is a good place to start.

He said: “Take a tonne of pictures! Never mind about fancy cameras – use your phone and get snapping.”

David Purkiss believes the best way to learn more is from others.

He said: “The best advice I can give if you are new to photography or wishing to develop your hobby is to join a local camera club.

“Online clubs are great for showing your images or discussing places to photograph, but for practical knowledge there is nothing better than a local camera club”

To become a member of the Mid Essex Camera Club join our dedicated Facebook group where members can share their best snaps and tips, get feedback and ask for advice.

Simply visit Facebook and search for Mid Essex Camera Club.