Learn to use a DSLR camera

The Ultimate Guide to Learning how to use Your first DSLR

CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE DSLR LESSON GUIDE

A Post By: Elliot Hook

If you’ve bought yourself a DSLR and, after unpacking it from the box, you are intimidated by the number of buttons and dials, and by the thickness of the manual, it can be very tempting to put the manual down, flick it onto ‘Auto’ and start shooting.  Whilst that is fine for some, it may not be long until you crave the creative control that inspired you to purchase a DSLR in the first place, but where do you begin?

The Ultimate Guide to Learning how to use Your first DSLR

If you consider yourself a beginner who is unsure of how to make the most of your camera, this post is designed for you.  It’s intended to be a brief, a one-stop shop to help you take your camera off auto, and take control of your DSLR.  It isn’t intended to be a replacement for your camera manual, so will not explain every last setting in great depth, but will cover enough of the basics to get you in control of your camera, and give you the key topics to go back to your manual to read.

The topics covered in this post are:

1. Shooting modes

  • aperture priority
  • shutter priority
  • program
  • manual

2. ISO

3. Completion of the ‘exposure triangle’

4. Metering

  • exposure compensation (+/-)

5. Focussing

  • focussing modes (AF-S/AF-C)
  • focus points

6. File size/types

  • raw vs jpeg

7. White balance

Which should be more than enough to get you on your way.

CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE DSLR LESSON GUIDE

21 Settings, Techniques and Rules All New Camera Owners Should Know

Some are very basic while others go a little deeper – but all have been selected from our archives specifically for beginners and new camera owners. Enjoy.

Introductions to Useful Modes and Settings on Your Digital Camera

Photography Settings, Techniques and Rules

1. Digital Camera Modes Explained – I spoke with a family friend recently who had just bought a new point and shoot camera. She came up to me with her camera when no one was watching and embarrassedly asked me if I could tell her what all the little icons on the dial on top of her camera meant. This article explains what each of these most common digital camera modes means and does. Knowing them can take your shots to the next level.

2. Aperture and Shutter Priority Mode – this introduction talks you through these two very useful settings that can be found on many digital cameras. Aperture and Shutter Priority modes take you out of Automatic mode giving you more control over your images – but don’t thrust you fully into manual mode – they are great settings to explore and master.

3. Introduction to White Balance – one of the most common problems that I see in beginner photographer images are shots with incorrect color. We’ve all seen them – portraits where your subjects teeth and eyeballs (and everything else) has a yellowish tinge. Learn what causes this and how to combat it with this tutorial on White Balance.

histogram.jpg4. Understanding Histograms – ‘histograms are scary’ – this is what one reader said to me recently when they discovered that they could view these little graphs or charts on their camera. While they might seem a little technical it is amazing how simple a histogram is to interpret. Know what you’re looking for and with just a glance you’ll know if your image is under or over exposed. It’s a useful tool to master.

5. Automatic Exposure Bracketing (AEB) – this feature is another of those often unexplored settings that many cameras have built into them that will allow you to get well exposed shots in even the trickiest of lighting situations.

Other Basic Camera Techniques

How to Hold a Camera

6. How to Hold a Digital Camera – this beginner tutorial covers a topic that most camera owners skip over without realizing that it is a foundational lesson in photography. Get this wrong and it can impact the quality of your shots.

7. Shutter Release Technique – another ‘basic’ or ‘beginner’ type tip that many do intuitively – but which can drastically improve your photography if you don’t do it.

8. How to Use Focal Lock – yet another beginner technique that many of us take for granted yet which is at the core of how all digital cameras focus automatically. Get this wrong and you’ll take a lot of shots of out of focus subjects and in focus backgrounds!

9. How to Take Sharp Digital Images – ‘my shots are fuzzy’ – it’s a common problem that we’re asked about at DPS so we wrote this tutorial to refer people to to help them get the sharpest images that their camera can take.

10. Shooting with an In Camera Flash – flash photography with an in built flash can lead to some terribly blown out images – here are a few tips on how to avoid them. On a similar topic – here’s 7 Strategies for Avoiding Flash Blow Out.

11. How to Get Shallow Depth of Field in Your Digital Photos – a great technique to learn if you’re into many types of photography (portraits, macro etc) is how to control the depth of field in your shots and make your main subject ‘pop’ out by making your background nicely blurred – this tutorial talks you through how to do it.

12. Understanding Exposure – this post talks new camera owners through the three main elements of Exposure. Once you’ve read it also check out our introductions to ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed.

Camera Care and Maintenance

camera care

13. How to Avoid a Dirty DSLR Sensor – one of the fastest ways to ruin every single shot you take with your new DSLR is to end up with a dirty image sensor. This tutorial gives some basic tips on how to ensure it stays as clean as possible.

14. How to Clean a DSLR Lens – as much as you try to protect them – lenses tend to get a little grimy over time. This tutorial shares some basic tips on how to clean them up so that your shots will be as clear as possible.

15. 7 Digital Camera Predators and How to Keep them at Bay – this tutorial talks you through 7 of the most common ways that digital cameras get damaged – what to look out for and what preventative action to take to avoid them.

Composition Tips

rule of thirds

16. The Rule of Thirds – whether you know it to follow it or break it – it’s something you should at least know about.

17. Points of Interest – an image without some visual point of interest in it is unlikely to hold the eye of anyone viewing it.

18. Getting Horizons Horizontal – the perfect way to ruin that lovely sunset or landscape shot is to make it lean to one side. Get your Horizon Horizontal!

19. Fill Your Frame – this is not applicable to every shot you take but many photographers could drastically improve their photography by getting in close to their subject and filling their frame.

20. Getting Backgrounds Right – the background of your shot can make or break your image. This tutorial talks you through a number of things to look out for and techniques to use to get them just right.

21. Adding Randomness to Your Photos – learn how to set your images apart from everyone else’s by injecting creativity, variety and a little randomness into your shots.

Of course the above 21 Settings, Techniques and Rules for beginner camera owners just scratch the surface of all there is to learn about the art of photography. Subscribe to our blog here (via email or RSS) to get more free daily tips to help you keep improving and learning.

Our Guide to Getting Creative Control Of Your Camera

If you’re looking for a complete guide to getting control of your camera then you might like to check out our course – Photo Nuts and Bolts which walks you through everything you need to know to start taking beautiful photos. Here’s the intro.

See course preview click here

Join this great new dPS course here.

Shutter speed selection cheat sheet


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