You finally shoveled out the cash to get that entry-level DSLR camera. I remember when I first got mine, I felt so official! Even though I couldn’t work the thing. You’ve made the investment, now here are 5 DSLR camera basics plus tips and tricks for capturing the best shot even as a beginner!
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Before you can walk, you have to crawl. Before you can run, you have to walk. And before you fly…I don’t know how that saying goes.
But basically, I’m trying to say learning to work that DSLR camera will not come overnight and it won’t come without practice, trial and error.
The best advice I can give is to turn it on, set up various objects and start shooting!
This will help you learn the basics of the camera, what each button and function means. I personally work with Canon. And even then, each Canon model is different. Here’s the most basic of basic tips on how to work your DSLR camera.
DSLR Camera Basics
Auto vs Manual
All DSLR cameras have an Auto option. It’s usually an “A” located on the gear. What Auto does is lets the camera automatically set all the settings for you based on the conditions. This sounds like a sweet deal, but if you’re going to shoot in Auto, you should’ve just stuck with your iPhone camera.
I highly suggest shooting in manual mode right from the jump. Once you start shooting in auto, you end up relying on the camera to make the adjustments for you. You get lazy. And although the camera is smart, Auto doesn’t always yield the best images.
Manual mode does take lots of practice, but practice is how you get good at it!
Ditch the Kit Lens
If you can purchase the camera body without the kit lens, then do it! I’m a huge advocate for ditching the kit lens (the one that comes with the camera) and grabbing a prime lens.
The magic happens 2 places, one of which is in the lens. I talk about the second place in my FREE Mastering Photography Guide. You don’t need a super-duper expensive camera body to get an amazing shot. You need a prime lens!
My very first prime lens was the Nifty Fifty. I call it an investment, but it’s one of the most affordable prime lens, I got mine for $100. And this badboy will have you taking better photos immediately!
Why prime lens?
The kit lens that comes with the camera is actually the cheapest and most useless lens made. It’s a zoom lens with tons of levers and parts and because there’s way too much going on, it sacrifices picture quality.
Versus a prime lens that has one job and doesn’t require all the extra bells and whistles, which makes it ideal for capturing more sharp, crisp images.
Light is Everything!
I can’t talk about photography without mentioning how important light is. Whether it’s artificial light or my favorite, natural light, it’s a huge factor in capturing photos.
I talk about how to get the most out of natural light here.
Remember we’re not shooting in Auto. We’re jumping in the deep end of shooting manual. This means you have complete control over every aspect of photography. You’ll be responsible for adjusting the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture.
Until you sit down and figure out what the heck all this is, you’re wasting time with your camera.
I wasted a couple of months before I buckled down and figured out the triangle. It just seemed intimidating and I thought just purchasing the camera was enough.
Iso – This is how much light is created in the camera.
- The higher the ISO, the more light will be created.
- Ranges from 100 to 6400.
- Are you indoors or outside? This will impact your ISO.
Shutter Speed – This is how long the shutter is open.
- The slower the shutter, the more light will be let in.
- Ranges from 30 seconds to 1/8000 sec.
- Is the object moving? This will impact your shutter speed.
Aperature – This is how much light the lens lets in and what causes background blur.
- Aperature is measured using f/ (“f stop”).
- The lower the number, the more light will be let in.
- Are you shooting one person or a group of people?
All three work together! I wish there was a special formula or short cut to figuring out the triangle, but every shooting situation is different.
I always start by adjusting the ISO first. Next, I adjust the shutter speed and last is the aperture. I usually keep my aperture pretty low, because I usually want to keep the noise/blur in the background. Unless I’m shooting a large group of people or landscapes, where I want every detail to be visible. If this is the case, then increase the aperture, then adjust ISO and shutter speed.
See what I mean about the triangle?
Raw vs JPEG
This is such an easy fix that makes all the difference. Change your camera settings to shoot raw instead of JPEG. If you have a canon, this can be done by Menu > Camera Settings > Image quality.
JPEG compresses the images and you end up losing tons of details. Whereas shooting raw, you get the full raw photo, and you’re free to edit every single detail. I believe the file is larger but worth it!
Speaking of edits, that’s the second place the magic happens! Post-production! I use Lightroom to make my edits and I always start with a solid Preset.
Final Thoughts camera basics
There they are! 5 camera basics to get you started on your photography journey. Take your time with this, refer to this post as needed. Picking up a camera has been the best creative release for me! I hope you enjoy your journey just as much as I have.
Here’s more help for getting the best shot, Take Better Photos: 5 Shockingly Easy Tips and Tricks.
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Until next time,