You see lots of amazing pictures on the web. You love taking photos of your kids, but somehow they just don’t turn out as great as the ones on your favorite blog.
You decide to take the plunge and buy a fancy new DSLR camera because then, surely, you could take great photos. It arrives, you take it out of the box and excitedly snap away only to find that you can barely notice a difference from your old camera. What’s going on?
That’s my story in a nutshell. I wanted good photos, I bought the camera, but I didn’t have the knowledge to back it up yet. I was determined to get the results I wanted so I seriously hit the books. That was just over a year ago. Be encouraged that you CAN take amazing pictures if you’re willing to put a little bit of effort into learning how.
One of the first and most important steps towards becoming a better photographer is to learn how to use your camera.
No matter what you shoot with, learn your camera inside and out and push it to its limits.
I’m going to break this tutorial about your camera into small bits. Because really, you could simply read your camera’s instructional manual if you wanted information. But when I tried that, I gave up quickly because I didn’t understand and it was all a bit much.
Today, let me introduce you to your camera.
A lot of people who are beginners in photography have an entry-level DSLR, like something in the Canon Rebel series or a Nikon D40 or D60. Since I started with a Canon XTi, I’m going to go with that.
Camera, meet reader. Also known as I Heart Faces participant.
I Heart Faces participant, meet Canon Rebel XTi.
I realize a lot of you have different cameras. I’m pretty confident that a lot of DSLRs are similar. And point and shoots have a manual mode that you can adjust the settings too, so no matter what you’re working with, hopefully you can apply something. Today we’re just going over the basics. More in-depth stuff will come later.
When you look at the LCD screen, there’s a lot of information displayed there. It can be intimidating. Let me walk you through it. We’ll start at the top left.
1/4000: This is your shutter speed. The higher the number on the bottom (ie 4000), the faster the picture is taken. If this number is lower (ie 1/5), the picture is taken slower. This can lead to blurry pictures, sometimes desirable, sometimes not.
F4.0: This is the aperture setting. The lower this number is, the wider the aperture is, and the more light gets in the picture. If it says F1.4, a lot of light is getting in. Your picture will be taken faster and the background will be blurry. A higher number (is F22) means less light is getting in and there will be a greater depth of field.
ISO100: This is the ISO (sensitivity to light) setting. The lower you can make this number, the less grainy (known as noise) your picture will be. You can easily shoot at ISO100 in good light conditions. When you’re in a darker place, you’ll have to set the number to be higher.
P: This is the setting of your camera. P means program mode and can be changed on the top of your camera. We’ll go over that later.
-2…0…+2: This is the exposure when in Av and Tv modes. The closer you are to -2, the darker your picture will be and vice verse. You can choose to set the picture to have more or less light depending on the setting. You won’t be able to control this in manual mode because you’ll adjust the exposure in the viewfinder.
AWB: This is the white balance setting. AWB means auto white balance. Choosing the right white balance is important, but if you shoot in RAW, it can be changed later.
Eye-type symbol: This is the metering mode. You can choose how you want your camera to read the available light. Your options are evaluative (the camera gives all parts of the photo equal importance when working out the exposure), partial/spot (the camera makes sure your picture is properly exposed at your focal point), and center-weighted (your camera makes sure the center of the frame is properly exposed.
One shot: This has to do with the focusing. There are three settings: One shot, AI Focus and AI Servo (known as continuous focus in Nikons). Most simply, use one shot for stills or portraits, AI Focus for something that might move, and AI Servo for things that are constantly moving.
L: This tells you how your files are being saved. This particular person is shooting in large JPEG mode. I usually keep it in L+RAW. L means large files (lots of pixels).
Diamond shaped dots: These dots represent places to focus. You can choose one of these places to focus on, let the camera auto focus, or manually focus.
The other symbols are battery life and shot number.
Now, on to the top of your camera.
See that dial? The green square is completely auto mode. If you put your camera on this setting, you will never have to play with your camera’s settings. You will also have no control of your picture. That green square and all the other little pictures (also auto modes) won’t be discussed here. Let’s push ourselves and learn about the camera. Everything above the square is a manual mode. I typically keep my camera set on the M (fully manual) mode. This setting lets you choose both your aperture and your shutter speed.
Av: Aperture priority mode. On this setting, you choose your aperture and the camera works out your shutter speed for you. When I first started shooting, I used to always shoot in Av mode. It’s a baby step away from fully automatic. You have some control, but you don’t have to worry about knowing all the settings.
Tv: Shutter speed priority mode. You choose your shutter speed, and the camera works out the rest for you.
The next step is go and shoot! Experiment and play. Find out first hand what the different settings will make your pictures look like.
Keep Learning with more great tutorials about your camera: