DLR cameras are jam-packed with settings and features built to help you take your best shot yet. Learning how to use these features with ease is the tricky part.
When getting started with your DSLR, it’s important to focus on the top level, key features and save the more advanced ones for another time. This lesson will cover just what these key features are and provide you with additional lessons where you can learn more about these.
Understand the Basics of Focus Modes
One dramatic difference between point and shoot cameras and dSLR’s is focus. dSLR’s are equipped with several focus modes that allow you to more likely capture a sharp, clear image.
They also have the added advantage of a focus barrel, allowing you to manually focus with more precision than smaller cameras offer.
To get a strong introduction to focus modes and when to use each, check out the lesson here.
Master the Exposure Triangle
Outside of focus, the exposure triangle is the next most important set of settings you want to learn. The exposure triangle refers to three settings all cameras have:
- Shutter Speed
The difference between non-SLR cameras is that dSLR’s give you full control over these three. This allows you to control depth of field, how fast you shoot, and how much light you want to let into your camera.
Learning and understanding these three settings will help you avoid blurry shots as well as underexposure or overexposure (photos too dark or bright).
Start your education of the exposure triangle with the lesson here.
Learn and Control Depth of Field
One of the most common mistakes with beginners that have dSLR’s is incorrect depth of field. The result of this are:
- Photos that are either too clear when the shooter wanted a blurry background
- Photos that blur some of the subject, only leaving part of them in focus
Depth of field, simply put, controls the clarity of your image on the Z axis of your image. An expansive depth of field will produce clarity from foreground to background while a shallow depth will produce an image with your subject in focus but everything else in front or behind blurred.
Aperture is one of the key elements which dictates your depth of field. You can learn more about this interaction and how to set depth of field at the lesson here.
Familiarize Yourself with Focal Lengths
Another very important camera setting that influences depth of field is your focal length. Focal length describes the size of lens that you place on your camera.
Focal lengths are classified as three types:
- Wide Angle – Small Focal Length
- Normal – Medium Focal Length
- Telephoto – Large Focal Length
If you have the typical kit lens, most likely you have a lens that gives you a little of all three focal lengths above.
It’s important that you acquaint yourself with the varying optical effects that each focal length produces. The lesson here gives you a brief overview of the three as well as photo examples.
Set the Right White Balance
Do you ever end up with photos that have a strange color cast? Photos either too green, yellow, or blue?
The reason for this problem is white balance.
White balance controls how your camera produces colors. The goal of white balance is to produce an image with natural colors that mimic how the scene appears in real life. If you haven’t played around with white balance before, most likely you are shooting in Auto WB mode (auto white balance).
Auto white balance is convenient and produces pretty accurate results. There are numerous times, however, when it trips up, leaving you with a gross color cast.
To avoid this, it’s important that you understand the various white balance presents outside of Auto mode and the best times to use them. The lesson on white balance here gives you a solid introduction to this.
One Skill At a Time
Numerous other camera settings your dSLR has have been intentionally left off this page. The above settings, I feel, are the most important to first learn and master.
With that said, when learning these settings it’s key that you focus on one setting at a time. This will allow you to see exactly how the setting influences your image. You’ll also develop your skill-sets with that setting faster when you isolate it.