Taking photographs has never been easier, with this basic guide to a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera you can once more embrace the camera and not have to rely so much on smartphones and tablets!!
The Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera has a multitude of settings and shooting modes, and for the inexperienced may contain many functions beyond comprehension. This article will overview some basic functions of a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera and hopefully provide confidence to get to grips with the camera and utilise a much-neglected piece of equipment.
Selecting a shooting mode;
Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) Cameras may label the functions described below slightly differently….
Selection of the “Auto” shooting mode will allow the Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera to make all of the decisions about settings for the shot being taken. Rather than a one-mode-fits-all option like a disposable camera, the auto function on the Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera will determine the adjustments for each individual exposure, including adjustments to both the aperture and shutter speed.
But a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera doesn’t always know best, particularly when it comes to more, ‘creative’ ideas. For the novice, however, this mode provides relative security when taking photographs.
Aperture Value (A/AV)
Selection of the “Aperture Value” setting will put the Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera into a semi-automatic mode. In a semi-automatic mode, the photographer will manually determine the setting of the selected function while the camera will automatically adjust complimentary settings to fit the chosen selection. When selecting to control the value of the camera aperture (AV), the camera will automatically determine the correct shutter speed to match the selected aperture value, with the flexibility to re-adjust the automatic settings as the manually selected setting changes.
The aperture simply means the size of the opening through which light enters the lens—a bit like when human pupils dilate and contract. Measured in f-stops, the size of the opening is equal to the amount of light, so when shooting outside on a bright sunny day, the f-stop might be better set to a high number such as f/8.0. This will produce a smaller hole, letting in less light. If shooting in dim conditions, or require the camera to pick up as much fine detail as possible, then the aperture is best left on a lower number such as f/2.8, allowing more light into the lens.
Shutter speed (S/TV)
Selection of the shutter speed or “taking value” function of a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera will require the photographer to manually choose the speed at which the shutter opens and closes. Using the ” human eye” analogy the shutter speed is simply the speed at which the ” human eye” blinks, again determining how much light gets through to the lens. As the shutter speed is manually controlled by the photographer the camera automatically selects the correct aperture value. As one value changes manually the other value is altered automatically.
To capture dance moves, for example, a shutter speed to the tiniest fraction of a second would be selected to capture the fast movements so that the shot will not be blurred. On the other hand, a photo of a busy London street taken with a shutter speed of six seconds would show the blurred lines of movement along the roads and pavements, but it would also capture the architecture in fine detail as much more light gets to the lens.
Selection of the programme (programme auto exposure) function gives the camera control over both the shutter speed and the aperture value. A Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera has the flexibility to adjust both the settings independently when the shutter release button is depressed halfway. If the shooting conditions change or a different subject is chosen depressing the shutter release button once more will readjust the settings. This programming mode is particularly useful when shooting over a long period of time with changing subjects. The difference in selecting between the programme or auto mode (above) is that the photographer in programme still has control over functions such as AF mode, drive mode and built-in flash.
Selection of this mode on a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera gives the photographer 100% control of all camera functions. The aperture and shutter speed values are determined by the photographer and with time and experience, this mode will be selected more frequently. Subtle changes in the respective values will provide the opportunity to take shots with specific effects. One of the many benefits of a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera is that unlike tradition film cameras there is no waste, so experimenting with various camera functions, and settings should be encouraged.
Other Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) features;
Sensitivity to light / ISO
Traditional cameras used rolls of film and each film would have an ISO or ASA rating. The rating of the film would specify that particular film’s sensitivity to light. For example, a traditional film roll with a rating of ISO 100 would have a low sensitivity to light, therefore more light would be needed to achieve a particular exposure. Alternatively, a film with an ISO rating of 400 would have a higher sensitivity to light. Understanding the relationship between the ISO rating and the type of subject being photographed is necessary to get the best result.
When using a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera (without film) the ISO rating (adjustable on the camera) refers to the camera sensor. A high ISO setting on a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera means that the sensor will work at an increased sensitivity to light, and vice versa for a low ISO setting. As a general rule of thumb keep the ISO setting at around 200, if the lighting conditions alter, for example shooting indoors, adjust the ISO setting to a higher light sensitivity.
ISO settings will work in correlation with an aperture value and shutter speed value, and with experience, a photographer will become familiar with the balance to achieve the desired shot or effect.
Focusing the subject;
The two main focus modes are single and continuous (AF-S/AF-C)
Select AF-S when the subject is stationary and not likely to move and for still life subjects. Point the camera at the subject and half depress the shutter release button when the subject is focused fully depress the shutter release button to take the shot.
Auto-focus continuous (AF-C) is the required choice when working with movement. Half depressing the shutter release button will lock focus onto a moving subject, however, when working in this mode the Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera will automatically re-focus if the subject is moving (as long as the shutter release button is kept half depressed) allowing the photographer to “pan” and follow a moving subject keeping focus until the shutter release button is fully depressed to take the shot.
Adjusting white balance;
Occasionally a photograph will display a blue or yellow hue, this un-wanted result is caused by the Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera’s white balance setting.
To the human eye, a white object looks white regardless of the type of light source. Daylight and artificial light have different wavelengths and the Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera needs help to make the adjustments to the changes in colour temperature so that white subject remain white under different lighting conditions. The Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera has a number of settings to adjust to the shooting conditions including an automatic setting.
Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras can seem complicated and daunting at first, but with a little experimentation and regular use, the features and shooting modes will become familiar to the photographer, and unlike film cameras, there is no waste or extra expense a shot can be taken and deleted immediately if the result is not desirable.
Embrace your Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera, experiment with the multitude of settings and shooting modes, and enjoy the results!
More advanced options are found in the Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera manual.