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So you’ve decided on photography as your career choice, and you’ve purchased your first DSLR camera.  And now you’re overwhelmed with all the settings and options, and you don’t know where to start.  This article can help you understand your camera and how to use it.

Getting A DSLR

Make Sure You Have the Right Accessories

You might think you have everything you need by just buying the camera, but there are a few other items that you need before you get started.  Extra batteries and memory cards will be useful, particularly if you will be taking a lot of pictures.  Invest in a quality camera bag, one that is big enough to store both the camera and the extras.

Read the Manual

The manual that accompanies a DSLR camera can be a small book, but you really need to read it in order to understand how to use your camera.  It sounds like it should be the obvious thing to do, but many people only look through the manual when they need to know something specific.  In order to get the best photos from your camera, you need to read the manual.

Understand the Exposure Triangle

Exposure Triangle

The Exposure Triangle is comprised of ISO, shutter speed, and aperture, and those three things work together to allow the proper amount of light into your photographs.  In order to take full advantage of your DSLR camera, you need to understand the importance of these three things.  If you do the research  online, you’ll easily find more information.

ISO stands for the International Organization of Standards, and with regards to cameras, this is the measure of the sensitivity of film or a digital sensor to light.  This allows you to take photographs in settings with limited light.  On a sunny day, you can set the ISO to a low setting, but you’ll want to set it higher on cloudy days, and even higher in dimly lit areas.  Keep in mind that the higher the ISO, the more digital noise that will appear in the image, so the images won’t be quite as high in quality.

Shutter speed refers to how long the shutter stays open.  The longer the shutter stays open, the more motion it will record.  The shorter the time the shutter is open, the more motion it will freeze in a single shot.  The longer shutter time usually results in a blurred photo, due to the inevitable shaking of the camera.  However, this blurring can also be deliberate on the part of the photographer.  In low light and night photography, you can use a longer shutter time to allow more light into the camera, in order to capture the pictures.  A faster shutter speed is more appropriate for action shots.

Aperture refers to the size of the opening in the lens.  This opening can widen and constrict in order to control the amount of light that passes through the lens.  Aperture controls the depth of field, which is the portion of the photo that appears sharp and focused.  The smaller the number of aperture, the wider the opening in the lens.

Understand the Shooting Modes

A DSLR camera offers a variety of shooting modes, which use aperture and shutter speed to calculate the proper exposure for your photos.  The standard shooting modes on a DSLR camera are Aperture Priority Mode, Shutter Priority Mode, Manual Mode, and Programmed Auto/Program Mode.  In the Aperture Priority Mode, you can set the aperture, and the camera will set the shutter speed according to that.  This mode will provide consistent depth of field in your photos.  In the Shutter Priority Mode, you set the shutter speed, and the camera calculates the aperture.  This mode is best to use to freeze fast-moving action, or if you want to allow blur and movement to appear in the image.  Manual mode allows you to set the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, but the camera will still provide a meter reading.  The Programmed Auto/Program Mode is where the camera pairs aperture and shutter speed, but you can change the settings as needed.

Pre-Programmed Shooting Modes

Some cameras offer a number of pre-programmed shooting modes.  These are useful if you’re not certain how to manually select your own settings, and certain modes are appropriate for certain kinds of photos.

Portrait mode makes the camera think there’s a subject in the foreground of the photo, so it will choose a shallow depth of field in order to keep the subject in focus, with the background blurred.  This mode works best in well-lit conditions.

Macro mode is useful for taking pictures of things that are smaller than a hand.  It will not give you super close-up images, and you must be careful with focusing in order to get a quality image.  Macro mode words best in bright conditions.

Landscape mode uses a small aperture that allows for a focused image from the foreground into the distance, and this is mostly used with outdoor shots.  This mode is suitable for wide lens photos, and works best with good lighting.

Sports mode uses a high shutter speed for fast action shots.  The camera flash is usually not necessary, and works well with a continuous shooting mode, on a bright, sunny day.


These are the basics that involved in learning to properly use your DSLR camera.  While it can seem overwhelming, understanding the importance of these things can make it easier to master your DSLR.  You might want to check out some digital cameras online, as they sometimes offer workshops with lots of additional tips. But perhaps the most important thing you can do is to take this information and practice, practice, practice.


This article was written by:

pic Aside from primary area of interest and expertise in business consulting, Ian could be tagged also as a passionate sport fan, nature and photography enthusiast,
always trying to keep up to date with tech innovations and development.