Know Your Cam! A photography tutorial to understand basics of DSLR.

photography tutorial
Source: unsplash.com

Purchased a new DSLR camera and stuck with using Auto modes as you do not understand what all those buttons/settings do?

Here’s a quick, short and simple guide to help you get acquainted with all the controls and capabilities of your camera. 

# The first step to understanding your camera is to get acquainted with some basic terminology that would be used at various places in this article.

  • Focussing - Adjusting the focal length of your lens in order to make the point/region of interest sharp and clear, just like our eyes focus on what we want to see our camera lenses need to focus on what we want to capture.

  • Shutter - Shutter is like our eyelids, it protects the image sensor and controls the amount of time it is exposed to incident light.
  • Shutter speed - It is the amount of time the shutter allows the sensor to stay exposed to incident light. Represented in terms of fraction of seconds, the smaller the fraction less is the amount of light that can pass through the aperture.
  • Aperture - Aperture is the opening in shutter that allows light to reach the sensor.
  • f number - It represents the size of aperture opening and thereby the amount of light that would reach the image sensor. Smaller the ‘f’ number more light will be allowed to fall on the sensor.

  • ISO – ISO represents the sensitivity of the sensor to detect light. Greater ISO value increases the sensor's sensitivity to light allowing more light to be captured. It is advisable to keep ISO less than 800 for most of the present generation cameras to avoid “grain/noise” and to use ISO for light adjustment as the last resort.


f number of camera
Source: Digital Photography School

Exposure Triangle

Getting the right amount of exposure is very critical to clicking a good picture. The concept of exposure triangle perfectly explains the art of adjusting the three parameters “aperture, shutter speed and ISO” to get that perfect illumination.


However changing any one of these three parameters will affect the depth of field, motion blur and noise characteristics which can be understood by the below image.
Exposure Triangle
Source: ssghosal.com

Camera Modes

Now that we are comfortable with the basic terminology let us understand the different camera modes:

  • Auto Mode (Auto): This is the easiest to use and to be truthful can capture some good photographs, however, it is designed to work within a set of rules and will completely inhibit  your freedom and creativity.
  • Aperture Priority Mode(A/Av): It’s a semi-automatic mode where you camera shall allow you to choose the aperture size and will automatically adjust all other parameters to get right illumination. Aperture mode allows you to manipulate depth of field (depth of field determines how much area remains in focus, shorter depth of field allows you soften/blur the backgrounds but reduces the region of sharp focus).
  • Shutter Priority Mode (S/Tv): It’s another semi-automatic mode that allows you to adjust shutter speed manually and automatically decides the other parameters. Longer shutter speeds allow you to create motion blurs creating effects like trailing lights flowing water etc., however, you should make sure your camera is stable and free from vibrations while using longer shutter speeds.
  • Manual Mode (M): As the name suggests, manual mode allows you to adjust all the settings manually giving you complete freedom over all parameters.
  • Programmed Auto Mode (P): Program mode is very similar to auto mode but allows slight adjustments to Auto settings.
Different Camera Modes
Different Camera Modes
Well, that's it folks. If you have reached here then you might have got answers to many of your queries. Hope you had fun reading about how to use your DSLR.
Leave your reviews about this tutorial in the comments section.
Happy Clicking! #KnowYourCam

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