Several people have asked me to do some reviews on the cameras that I would recommend. I do intend to do that eventually.
Today, though, I want to begin a 2 part series for those of us who already have our cameras, but possibly do not really know how to use them properly. So, let’s just sit back with a cup of coffee and talk about understanding DSLR cameras a little better.
A DSLR camera is a… Digital Single Lens Reflex camera. You can go to Wikipedia to get the perfect definition. For the sake of time, I’m going to be brief in my definitions today. I am more concerned that we get down the functions and how to take better pictures than I am, necessarily, about the mechanical workings of the camera. All that knowledge can come with time and curiosity. Today, it’s all about understanding how to take a better picture.
What You Don’t Need As A Beginner
In this post today, I am going to assume that those reading this already have a DSLR camera and are just trying to improve on their understanding of the camera’s functions.
You don’t need to go out and purchase new and expensive gear. Sometimes just understanding your DSLR camera is going to improve your photography by 100 %.
I would also like to encourage you a make good use of all the free resources that are out there concerning photography and cameras.
What You Do Need To Know
There are 4 Main Steps you need to go through to take a good picture, and within each step, you will find smaller steps that need to be taken. We will call these ‘steps’… Modes. This may seem complicated right up front. Trust me, they aren’t complicated once you understand them. With practice, they may become even more instinct, than something you really have to think about.
The 4 MAIN MODES are:
- Shooting Modes
- Focus Modes
- Metering Modes
- White Balance
I will discuss each of these 4 basic functions as we go along in this series of posts. The most important thing I can tell you about these articles is to get each of these modes down in your head. Memorize them. Practice them. Keep in mind, you will make mistakes, but that’s OK. All you have to do is delete your photo, and keep practicing. One thing you can do is print out a copy of these articles and learn it a step at a time. Work on each step until you have mastered it. Learning these 4 basic things about your camera will definitely make you a better photographer.
The Shooting Modes
To find your shooting modes you will need to look at the little dial, found at the top of most cameras. If you have a Sony, Sigma, Olympus or a Nikon, as I do, you will find an M, A, S, P. If you have a Canon or Pentax, you will find an AV in place of the A, and a TV in place of the S. There will also be another mode called Auto Mode.
The Auto Mode gives your camera full control of the quality of your pictures. It’s sometimes represented as the word Auto or with a little green camera. It is a good mode when you are first learning your camera. It’s also a good setting for those quick shots that you don’t have enough time to set up for.
The Program Mode (P) is the semi-automatic mode. The camera is still in control of most functions, but you do control the ISO, white balance, and the flash. We will talk more about them later. This mode is a good beginner mode as well. It’s one of the easier modes to use while you are exploring your camera’s other features.
The Aperture Priority Mode ( A or AV) gives you control of the aperture (or F-Stop) What is the aperture, you may ask. Put very simply, the aperture is the opening by which light enters a camera. Now, that is a very simple definition. For more detailed description, check it out on Wikipedia.
So, we know that the Aperture Priority Mode gives you control of the aperture. This means that you control your depth of field in your photos. Another way of saying depth of field might be your focal length. This controls how long your lens is open. The depth of field is the amount of your picture that you want to be in complete focus. If you want a large amount of your picture to be in focus, then you will want your aperture setting to be at a higher number. If you want only a small part of the picture to be in clear focus, then you’ll want your aperture setting to be at a lower number. The lower the number, the greater the blur. This is a great setting when you are taking a photo of a stationary image that will not be affected by shutter speed.
The Shutter Priority Mode (S or TV) gives you control of the shutter speed and the camera will work out the aperture and the ISO setting. This setting is great when you are taking a picture of a moving object. In other words, you control how long your shutter is open. That is your exposure. The more action you want to capture, then longer you need to leave your shutter open. The Shutter Priority mode is useful with wildlife, waterscapes, and sports photography.
What exactly is the shutter on your camera? In photography, a shutter is a device that allows light to pass for a determined period of time. It sets your exposure. For more details, go to Wikipedia
Don’t confuse shutter and aperture. They are 2 totally different things. Aperture is in the lens. The shutter is in the camera. But, let’s not get bogged down here.
The Manual Mode (M) is the mode most professionals use most of the time. You have complete control of all of the camera’s functions. You adjust according to the lighting, the weather, and the movement in your surrounding. It does require a great deal of understanding about the functions and their relationship with each other.
I should mention that more and more DSLR cameras are having the Scene Mode. These modes are more for the inexperienced photographer to help get them adjusted to using the more advanced cameras. I personally do not find this mode to be very useful at all.
Practice Makes Perfect!!!
At this point, I would like to encourage you to take some time and really get this section down in your head. Know it. Learn it. Practice it!!! It will make such a difference in your photography experience if you will. You will begin to notice the difference in your photos immediately. As we learn more about the steps, your photos will improve to the point that other people will notice the difference.
After you get these steps learned, please read Part 2. You really are on your way to being a great photographer.
If you have any questions or have anything you would like to add, please do so in the comments below. I love to hear from you and will certainly get back with you.
Here is a video explaining how Aperture settings affect your photos.
All the best,