Find out which DSLR is best for you
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If you have purchased a DSLR camera for yourself and, after taking it out of the box, you’re discouraged by the amount of dials and buttons, and also by the width of the handbook, it is often quite appealing to place the handbook down, set it to ‘Auto’ and begin snapping shots. While that’s good for most, it might not be very long before you desire the artistic control which motivated you to buy a DSLR to begin with, however where would you start?

If you see yourself a novice who’s not sure of how exactly to get the most from your digital camera, this posting is intended for you. It is meant to-be a quick one stop shop to assist you in taking the camera off of auto, as well as seize control of the digital SLR. It is not meant to-be a substitute for the camera guidebook, therefore won’t discuss each option in great detail, but will address what is required of the essentials to help you take control of the dslr, and provide you with the important topics to go-back to the handbook and read.

The subjects covered by this posting are:

1. Shooting-modes.

  • shutter priority
  • aperture priority
  • program
  • Manual

2. ISO ( International Standards Organisation ).

3. The Exposure Triangle.

Which should-be good enough to help you get started. So let us begin…


1. Shooting-modes

The shooting-modes will likely be located on the camera’s dial labeled ‘auto, Tv, Av, P, M’ and perhaps more. Choosing a shooting-mode will decide how the camera functions once you click the shutter button, for instance, when ‘auto’ happens to be selected, the dslr camera will work out everything related to the exposure, such as the shutter speed and aperture. The other settings, ‘Tv, Av, P, M’, exist to provide you with control:

mode dial

Do not be concerned if the mode-dial appears a bit different; different brands use various abbreviations when it comes to the shooting-modes. Your mode-dial may include the letters ‘S, A, P, M’ (rather than Tv, Av, P, M), however they all work in the exact same manner. Below, i’ve provided each acronym for the mode given.

Aperture Priority [A or Av]

Aperture priority is considered as a ‘semi-automatic’ shooting-mode. If this is chosen, you being the photographer will set the Aperture while the dslr will automatically choose the shutter speed. So what exactly is Aperture and also when might you wish to manage it?.

The aperture happens to be the diameter of the hole within the lens whereby light would be permitted to enter when the shutter opens – the wider the Aperture, the more quantity of light travels through.

Aperture is calculated in ‘f-stops’ and is generally shown by using an ‘f-number’, e.g. f/2.0, f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.6 and so on, which happens to-be a measurement of focal-length over width of the hole of the lens. Therefore, a wider aperture (a larger opening) shows a lesser f-number and a small aperture (a narrow opening) shows a bigger f-number. Decreasing your aperture by a single complete f-stop, reduces by half the quantity of light going into the dslr camera.

Aperture illustration

Aperture is among the most essential features of photography given that it directly affects the DOF (depth-of-field) – which is, the total amount of a photo that’s in sharp focus. A larger dof (accomplished by making use of a smaller aperture (big f-number)) means that a larger range inside the shot would be in focus, like for example the landscape image below, that’s in sharp focus from foreground all the way to background.

landscape-small apeture

While a shallow dof (accomplished by making use of a larger aperture (smaller f-number)) will generate a photo whereby the subject matter alone would be in focus, while the background will be out-of-focus. It is often utilized when taking photos of wildlife or portraiture, such as for instance the photo below, to separate the subject matter from its background:


Large Aperture

This water rat was shoot against a soft, out-of-focus background using a larger aperture size of f/4.5.

Therefore when making use of aperture priority, it is possible to have total control over the dof, while the rest is taken care of by the camera.


Shutter Priority [S or Tv]

Much like aperture priority, it is yet another ‘semi-automatic’ shooting-mode, though in this case, you being the photographer specify the speed of the shutter while the dslr will manage the aperture. The shutter speed, gauged in mere seconds (or even a fraction of a sec), is the length of time in which the camera’s shutter remains open when shooting a photo. The more time the shutter remains open, the greater amount of light travels through towards the sensing unit to-be captured.

You’d choose a quick shutter speed in the event you want to capture a fast-moving subject, like shooting action, wildlife or sports, for example:


4000-Shutter Speed

A shutter-speed of 1/4000th of a sec was utilized to capture the movement of this grouse in-flight

You would make use of a lengthy shutter speed in the event you want to make a subject that is moving blurred, such as water flowing across a waterfall (with slow shutter-speeds you will need to place the dslr camera upon a tripod. This helps ensure it is kept stable while the shutter remains open):


Slow Shutter Speed

A shutter speed of 6 secs was applied here in order to capture the movement of waves, as well as give the water a smooth, milky texture.

Therefore while you concern yourself with which shutter speed is needed for a certain photograph, the dslr camera will decide the suitable aperture needed to deliver the proper exposure.

Shutter priority and aperture shooting-modes can be semi automatic, which means that certain photographers might undervalue their use due to the fact they are not completely manual, nevertheless they’re extremely handy modes to take shots in that will provide you with sufficient artistic control in order to capture settings the way you imagine them.


Program [P]

Program mode happens to be between full manual control and the semi-automatic modes of shutter priority/aperture. You can specify either the shutter speed or aperture when in program mode, while the dslr will keep the proper exposure by modifying the other mode accordingly, so as you modify the speed of the shutter, the aperture will automatically adjust, and vice versa. This provides you further freedom that utilizing either shutter priority or aperture priority cannot provide without flipping between shooting-modes.


Manual [M]

In Manual-mode you’re granted complete control over exposure, establishing both the shutter speed and aperture yourself. You will see an exposure sign either on the screen or inside the view-finder which will let you know how over/under exposed the photo is going to be, however, you’re left to adjust the aperture and speed of the shutter yourself to make sure you attain the proper exposure.

As a 1st step to removing the camera off of ‘auto’, shutter priority and aperture priority modes provide two simple methods to begin to learn how the various settings affect your images, and also are an excellent starting point for understanding how exactly to utilize the camerain a more creative way.


2. ISO ( International Standards Organisation )

ISO measures how sensitive your camera’s sensor is to light. The phrase started with film photography, in which film of various sensitivities may be used based on shooting conditions. This also is the same in digital-photography. The ISO sensitiveness is displayed numerically from 100 (low sensitiveness) up to 6400 (high sensitiveness) and beyond, it also manages the quantity of light needed by the sensing unit to obtain a certain exposure.

At ‘low’ sensitivity, additional light is needed to obtain a certain exposure in comparison to high sensitivity where by little light is necessary to obtain the very same exposure. In order to understand this, let us examine two different scenarios:



Used when taking photos outdoors, on a sunny day where by there’s lots of light available which will likely hit the sensing unit during the course of an exposure, which means the sensor doesn’t have to be really sensitive to have proper exposure. Therefore, you can make use of low ISO numbers, like for example 100 or 200. This can provide you with photos of the best quality, with extremely little noise or grain.



The photo was shot with ISO 100. It doesn’t reveal signs of grain (even when viewing at 100% crop [right]


High ISO

Used when taking photos in lower light conditions, like for example in a dark museum or cathedral, where there isn’t enough light for the camera sensing unit. A higher ISO number, like ISO 3200, increases the sensitiveness of the sensing unit, easily multiplying the little quantity of light available to provide you with a properly exposed picture. This increased effect has a side-effect of more noise in the photo, which appears as fine grain, lowering the general picture quality. The noise should be most evident within the dark/shadow areas.



This photo was captured during a sunset, which means there was little ambient light. Thus, it was captured with ISO4000, but you will notice very clear noise when viewing at 100% crop [right]

Practically though, you need to maintain the ISO at a low level, because at lower levels, you experience much less noise as well as better image quality. Outdoors during a bright day, choose ISO200 and observe the results. In the event it it becomes cloudy, try selecting an ISO ranging from 400 to 800. Should you go indoors, choose ISO 1600 or higher (these happen to be estimated starting points).

Many digital SLRs come with an ‘auto ISO’ feature, where by the dslr camera determines the ISO based on the quantity of light where you happen to be taking photos, maintaining it at a low level. Auto-ISO can be an extremely handy tool when getting started with your dslr, because it enables you to determine a maximum limit at which the photos end up too noisy, like for example ISO 1600 or 3200, then leave it until conditions where you really wish to bypass the auto setting, for instance if shooting landscape photos utilizing a tripod, you’ll be able to afford to make use of the lowest possible ISO.


3. The Exposure Triangle

It is important to-be aware that shutter speed, aperture and ISO happen to be components of what Bryan Peterson referred to in his book ‘Understanding Exposure’ as the “exposure triangle”. All of them regulate either the quantity of light going into the dslr camera (shutter speed, aperture) or the quantity of light needed by the dslr [ISO] for a certain exposure.

Therefore, they’re all connected, and learning the connection between them happens to be essential to having the ability to seize control of the camera. An adjustment in any of the three settings will affect the other two. For instance, if you have an exposure of f / 8.0, ISO400, 1/10th second. If you want to decrease the dof (depth-of-field), and made a decision to utilize an aperture size of f / 4.0, you’d be expanding the opening of your camera’s aperture by 2 complete f/stops, and thus doubling twice (in other words increasing by four times) the quantity of light that enters the dslr. Therefore, to return balance to the exposure, try to carry out the following:


  • Case 1: decrease the speed of the shutter to 1 / 40th of a second, i.e. by four times.
  • Case 2: decrease the ISO to 100, i.e. by four times.
  • Case 3: A combo of the two cases mentioned above, reduce the ISO to 200 AND decrease shutter speed to 1/20th of a second.

Slow Shutter Speed

Shutter speed, ISO and Aperture happen to-be all factors that affect exposure, and also are all connected, therefore modifying one setting, causes a change in another. It is just a matter of balancing the books!

Utilizing a combo of the semi-automatic shooting-modes and auto-ISO means you will not necessarily have to consider modifying the exposure in this way initially, but understanding the connection that aperture or ISO has with shutter-speed, plus learning the useful implications is actually a step forward in mastering the DSLR.

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