Today’s digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras are powerful, smart devices that can give the average user amazing results with a few basic settings and some practice. Unfortunately, all of the options on a DSLR camera can be overwhelming for a first-timer. It’s easy to feel like you’ll never understand the ins and outs of your camera, but thankfully, with a little patience and practice, it doesn’t take long to get a working knowledge of the essentials.
ISO, which stands for international standardization organization, is a measure of the sensitivity of your camera’s sensor to light. The higher the ISO number, the more sensitive your camera will be in low-light environments. A low ISO number, like 100 or 200, can work better if you’re shooting outdoors on a sunny day, while a high ISO setting, from 400 to 1600, may be helpful when you’re shooting indoors or in dimly lit environments. When changing your ISO setting, it’s important to remember that the higher the number is set, the more digital noise there will be in your image. Digital noise is the grainy, speckled look that can appear in your images if you set the ISO too high.
How to Set Your ISO
Setting your ISO is simple; just look for the designated button on your camera, which is usually labeled with an “ISO” symbol. If you can’t find it, consult your user manual or the manufacturer’s website for help. Once you know where to change the setting, pick a number depending on what kind of lighting situation you’re in. If you’re shooting in a well-lit area, set your ISO to 100 or 200; if it’s darker, try bumping it up to 400 or 800. Experiment with different settings and take test shots until you find the right one for your environment.
Shutter speed is the length of time that your camera’s shutter is open when you take a photo, and it’s measured in fractions of seconds. If you apply a fast shutter speed, such as 1/1000 of a second, it means that the shutter will open and close quickly. Having a slow shutter speed, like 1/30 of a second, means that it will open for a longer period of time.
Shutter speed is important because it affects how much light reaches the camera’s sensor and how motion is captured in your images. Fast shutter speeds freeze action and allow you to take sharp images even if your subject is in motion; slow shutter speeds can cause blurriness if your subject is moving, but they can also be used to create an artistic blur on objects like waterfalls or city skylines. A slower shutter speed can also be better in a dark environment, as it allows more light to be collected to make the image.
How to Set Your Shutter Speed
Most cameras set the shutter speed automatically, but you can also change it manually if you’d like. If your camera has a top panel, which usually displays the shutter speed and other settings, you can adjust it using the buttons there. The shutter speed is typically located on the top left corner of the panel.
If your camera does not have a top panel, use the viewfinder. There, you will see the shutter speed on the bottom-left side. If your camera doesn’t have either of these options, probably because it’s a mirror-less camera, you can look on the back screen. The shutter speed should be located on the top or bottom of the screen. Most cameras will have a number followed by the letter “s” (e.g., 1/30s).
Once you know how to adjust your shutter speed, pick one that works for the situation. If you’re taking a photo of a moving subject, use a faster shutter speed; if you want to capture motion blur or photograph something very dark, like a night sky, use a slower speed.
Aperture is the size of the opening in the camera lens that lets light in, and it’s measured in f-stops. A low number, such as f/1.8, indicates that the aperture is wide open and more light is entering the camera, while a higher number, such as f/16, means that it’s nearly closed and less light is coming in. The difference in f-stops affects your image’s depth of field, which is how much of the photo appears to be in focus. A low number tends to create a shallow depth of field, while a higher number tends to produce a deep one.
How to Set Your Aperture
Like ISO and shutter speed, the aperture is usually set manually. Look for the “A” or “Av” setting on the dial or viewfinder, and then use the arrow keys to adjust it. If you want to create a shallow depth of field, which is great for eliminating distracting backgrounds and creating a cinematic look, go with a low number (f/1.8 to f/4). If you want more of the photo to be in focus, use a higher number (f/5.6 or higher). Experiment with different settings to find what works best for your scene.
- DSLR Camera Basics
- Three Things You Must Know About Using Your DSLR camera
- Getting to Know Your Camera
- What Is Depth of Field?
- ISO Explained: Photography for Beginners
- Silly Camera Numbers
- DSLR Cameras and Lenses
- Shutter Speed: Understanding Digital Photography
- Basic Photography Using a Digital Camera
- Understanding Exposure for Photography and Film
- Factors That Affect Depth of Field
- Basic Photography: Lighting
- Photo Scanning Service
- Essential Guide to Understanding Light
- How Aperture Works
- Transfer Slides to Digital
- Aperture: Everything You Need to Know