So you’ve picked up your first DSLR. Congratulations! You have made your next steps in the wonderful world of photography. You’re ready to get out there and start shooting everything, whether it is portraits, landscapes, or that really oddly shaped pothole in front of your apartment building.
You open the box and take your camera out. Then, you notice something. What are all these buttons, doohickeys, and knobs? What do all these settings mean? We here at David Koonar photography know what that feels like. We all started out the same way. Whether it was a standard SLR camera that used film or the newest cutting edge DSLR, we all had to get our feet wet with a bevy of information and settings.
If you need help with your camera or any other photography tips, please check out our site at David Koonar photography. Some of these tips will help you tremendously, especially if you’re just starting out.
Everything is Automatic
Let’s get something out of the way very quickly. Your DSLR camera has automatic settings. Isn’t that great? You don’t have to do any work at all. If you are just looking to shoot your usual casual pictures and just bought a DSLR to increase the quality of your Disney World photos, then automatic settings are totally fine.
There is nothing wrong with using them, and the pictures they take will be perfectly serviceable, as long as the photograph itself is composed well. As always, the quality of a photograph is much more reliant on the photographer than on any settings available on your fancy new DSLR.
Also, if you are trying to capture specific moments that exist for a finite amount of time, automatic mode may be recommended. It is much better to get the shot in automatic mode than to not get the shot at all.
However, if you want to become a real photographer, you’re going to have the training wheels off.
It’s all in the Manual
Yes, the scary manual settings are about to come out. You’re going to want to take a deep breath, and then dive in. Switch those automatic settings off. Go ahead. You can do it. We here at David Koonar photography definitely believe you can do it!
Let’s get to it.
Aperture: Depth of Feeling
Once you’re comfortable with Automatic mode, you may want to move one level down the photography rabbit hole to Aperture Priority. This will allow the camera to control the shutter speed while you control the Aperture.
The aperture is the amount the camera opens during a photograph. This allows you to decide how much light will come in. Of all the things you can do manually, this is the most important. The aperture is measured in “f-numbers”. I won’t get into the technical details, but suffice to say that a large aperture will have a smaller f-number. A larger aperture will also mean more light entering the camera, so use those things as an overall guideline.
Aperture primarily influences depth of field in a photograph. In layman’s terms, this will determine how much of the picture is clear and how much of it is fuzzy. Larger apertures will lead to a clear subject and a depth of field that is decidedly fuzzy. This allows for maximum focus on the subject if that is your intent. Smaller apertures will lead to having most of your photograph in stunning clarity. This is great if your subject takes up the whole screen.
Let’s look at an example or two. For landscapes, you may want to use a smaller aperture, since you will likely want to have everything in focus… Unless there is one particular component of the landscape that you want to put emphasis on.
For portraits, you may want to use a larger aperture. The person will be in focus, while whatever background you have will melt away. This is great for putting emphasis on the subject, but what if the background is gorgeous and you want to have it in your composition?
What we’re getting at here is that there isn’t a hard rule for your use of aperture. That’s what makes having manual control over it so great. You get to decide what you want to do with any given shot. Luckily, we’re using DSLRs and not just regular SLRs, so you’ll get to experiment with multiple options for every shot.
Shutter Speed: Motion of the Ocean
The next thing you’re going to want to get a handle on, once you go full manual, is shutter speed.
Shutter speed, usually measured in fractions of a second, is the time that a camera’s shutter is open while taking a picture. This will decide how much light passes through the camera sensor. This will also decide on how much “motion blur” you get taking a picture of a moving image.
Therefore, if you’re taking wildlife pictures, it might be an idea to have a short shutter speed. On the other hand, if you want to show motion, like rushing water, you may want to consider a slower aperture speed. However, just remember that you may need a camera tripod for long shutter speeds. The shaking of your hands will generally cause motion blur at slower aperture settings.
ISO: Seeing the Light
This setting will determine how sensitive your camera is to the light around you. On a bright sunny day, you’ll want to set a low ISO. In dark areas, you’ll want a higher ISO.
Generally, you want the lowest ISO that you can get away with in any given area. This will generally give you the best quality images. However, you can play with it. Some like to overexpose their images a little bit to get cool halo effects.
The Exposure Triangle
None of the above settings exists in a vacuum. Even if you know all the theory, you’re going to have to get out there and start experimenting to see how everything works in concert.
We hope this guide helps you with your brand new camera. Now get out there and start shooting!