Learn to use your camera

If you have recently brought yourself a DSLR camera or recieved one as a gift for christmas and, after unpacking it from the box, you are intimidated and by the thickness of the manual and all the dials, it can be very tempting to put the manual down, flick it onto ‘Auto’ and start shooting.

Whilst this will create some lovely images you can create so much more if you learn to use your camera settings.

This post is designed for a beginner who wants to learn to take their camera off auto.  Alongside your camera manual it will help you learn to use your camera in manual mode, using the basic principles of photography to capture images you will be proud of.  

When I think back to my early days owning a camera, I recall how frustrating it was trying to figure out the photography basics like camera settings.  I’m talking about learning aperture, shutter speed, and ISO…  Understanding these 3 elements and how they work together are the perfect place to start.

There are many principles to creating a great image, but correct exposure is one of the many key elements and the first thing you need to learn.  To create a correctly exposed image within manual mode on your camera the 3 elements of Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO work alongside one another within the Exposure Triangle.  Manipulating each element will influence how your image looks.

How to use a camera – Understanding the principles of the Exposure triangle.

 Here is a summary of what each one does:

Aperture controls the amount of light entering the lens. The aperture is controlled by a diaphragm within the lens that adjusts its width based on the f-stop being used. The higher the f-stop, the smaller the aperture opening, and the less light coming into the lens.


How to Use a DSLR Aperture illustration


Aperture directly influences the depth of field, that is, the amount of an image that is in focus.  A large depth of field (achieved by using a small aperture, large f- stop number) would mean that a large area within the scene is in focus.  This is often used when shooting landscapes.  A shallow depth of field (achieved by using a large aperture, small f- stop number) would create an image where only the subject is in sharp focus, but the background is soft and out of focus.  This is often used when shooting portrais or wildlife images.  The confusing part for many people is that the size of the aperture is inversely related to the f-stop number, meaning, a large aperture is indicated by a small f-stop number.


Shallow Depth of field.  Low F-stop number

Large Depth of Field.  High F-stop number

Shutter speed controls the length of time the light falls on the lens.  A fast shutter speed means that the shutter opens and closes quickly, minimizing how long the sensor is exposed to light.  Shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second.   You would select a short shutter speed if you wanted to freeze a fast moving subject, such as shooting sports, action or wildlife.  You would use a long shutter speed if you wanted to blur a moving subject, for example water rushing over a waterfall.

Fast Shutter speed, Freezes movement

Slow Shutter speed, Motion Blur

ISO is responsible for the sensitivity to light  of the camera’s sensor.  Once the light has passed through the aperture and been filtered by the shutter speed, it reaches the sensor. This is where we decide how to set the ISO.  As you turn the ISO number up, you increase the exposure. But, at the same time, the image quality decreases. There will be more digital noise or “grain”.  The easiest way to consider your ISO is once your aperture and shutter speed are defined, go with the lowerst ISO needed to maintain the correct exposure.

So that is an overview of the 3 settings you will need to consider when you want to take the leap and take your camera off  ‘Auto’.  However if only it was that simple.  There are many more principles to photography that you will need to impliment to create images you will be proud of.  

I would higly reccommend finding yourself a beginners photography training course to attend.  This will allow you some practical experience manipulating the exposure triangle and an opportunity to learn further basic photography principles. 

If you can get to grips with the basic elements of photography and get out in the field and practice then it won’t be long before you are achieveing the results that you bought the camera for in the first place.

I will be holding a one day beginners photography training course in my Spalding photography studio on 15th Febuary 2020.  If you would like to know more please follow the link below or get in touch via the contact me form.

Would you like to know more about Beginners photography training?

If you would like further information about beginners photography training available at Slice of Life Photography please get in touch via the form below and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

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Slice of Life Photography

Specialising in Baby Photoshoots, Wedding Photography and creating stunning Fairy Photography.

The purpose built garden photography studio near Spalding, Lincolnshire is easily accessible from Peterborough, Stamford, Bourne, Boston, and Kings Lynn


United Kingdom


07545 778016