A Quick Guide to DSLR Basics
If you're new to DSLR photography, the plethora of buttons, knobs, and settings can be daunting. But never fear! In this blog post, we'll give you a quick rundown of the basic settings on your DSLR camera so that you can start taking great photos in no time.
One of the most important settings on your DSLR is the aperture. The aperture is the opening in the lens through which light passes to reach the sensor. Aperture is measured in f-stops, with a lower f-stop corresponding to a wider aperture (more light) and a higher f-stop corresponding to a narrower aperture (less light). For example, an aperture of f/2.8 will be wider than an aperture of f/5.6.
Why does this matter? The aperture affects two things: depth of field and amount of light. A shallow depth of field means that only a small portion of the image will be in focus, while a large depth of field means that most or all of the image will be in focus. So, if you want to take a portrait with a soft, dreamy background, you would use a low f-stop like f/2.8; if you want to take a landscape photo with everything sharp and in focus from front to back, you would use a high f-stop like f/11 or higher.
Similarly, since the aperture controls how much light enters the camera, using a low f-stop will result in photos that are brighter (but with less depth of field), while using a high f-stop will result in photos that are darker (but with more depth of field). So, if you're shooting in low light or want to create a particular effect, you'll need to experiment with different aperture settings to get the results you want.
Shutter speed is another critical setting on your DSLR. Shutter speed is simply the amount of time that the shutter—the device that opens and closes to allow light into the camera—is open. Shutter speed is measured in seconds or fractions thereof; for example, 1/250 means that the shutter will be open for one two-hundred-fiftieth of a second (1/250th).
Like aperture, shutter speed has two main effects: it determines how much light enters the camera, and it also affects how motion is captured in an image. A slower shutter speed means that more light will enter the sensor, but it also means that any movement will be recorded as blur; conversely, a faster shutter speed will result in less light but sharper images.
So, if you're shooting sports or another action scene where frozen motion is important, you'll want to use as fast a shutter speed as possible; if you're shooting nature scenes or landscapes where some blur might actually add to the effect, you can use a slower shutter speed without worry. Just keep in mind that handholding your camera at slow shutter speeds is tricky—you might need to invest in a tripod if you want crisp results at slow shutter speeds.
The ISO setting on your DSLR determines how sensitive your sensor is to light; specifically, it's a measure of how quickly each pixel on your sensor collects electrons when exposed to light waves. A lower ISO number corresponds to slower collection (and thus less sensitivity) while a higher ISO number corresponds to faster collection (and thus greater sensitivity). For example, ISO 100 is less sensitive than ISO 1600.
Why does this matter? Well, let's say you're trying shoot something in low light without using flash—a common situation for photographers shooting candid shots at parties or concerts. In this case, you might need to use an ISO setting as high as 3200 or even 6400 so that enough light reaches your sensor for an exposure without resulting in too much blur from handheld camera shake. Of course, using such high ISOs comes at a cost: images shot at high ISOs often have more digital noise (think grainy spots) than those shot at lower ISOs. As such, it's always best practice to use the lowest ISO setting possible given the situation at hand.
Now that you know about some of the key settings on your DSLR camera—aperture, shutter speed, and ISO—you're well on your way towards taking great photos! Just remember that practice makes perfect; don't be afraid to experiment with different settings until you find what works best for you and the type of photography you enjoy most. And before long, people will be asking *you* for advice on which camera settings they should use!