One of the blogs I follow had a good post for new camera buyers. You can read the original post here.
One point that made me think about the students that came to our recent workshop is this:
DO feel free to leave the camera in the Program or Auto exposure mode while you’re getting used to it. Better to shoot pictures right away than to avoid the camera because you’re intimidated by its complexities. Lots of pros, including me, use the program mode regularly.
When you begin taking control of the camera by putting it in Manual Mode, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Remember that a good starting point is to take a picture of your subject in Program or Auto Mode and take note of the camera’s settings. Then switch to Manual Mode and change 1 ingredient at a time (ISO, Aperture, Shutterspeed) and experiment with the results. Master each component independently of one another and then move onto the next. Avoid changing too many things at once. You will end up frustrated and stay in Auto mode.
Shoot. Shoot. Shoot. Eventually it will become second nature. Manual Mode will ultimately provide you with consistent photographs straight out of the camera.