Mastering a DSLR camera

We are a culture that is technologically dependant: social networking, the internet, mobile phones; we spend the majority of every day consumed by one of these things. You no longer have to talk, but can send a text message; you don’t need to read anything physical because you can read on your phone or tablet; you don’t need to use a camera because you have a perfectly decent one on your phone.

I am guilty of being one of those people: I take more photos on my phone than any other device. I own a camera, yet, up until recently (after reading a few ‘dummies guides to’), I didn’t know how to use it effectively. During refreshers week, I learned how to use my camera, and hopefully this will help you to do the same. Here’s how to master the basics of the DSLR camera.

What is a DSLR camera?
‘DSLR’ as an acronym stands for Digital Single-Lens Reflex camera. Compared to other digital cameras, the light travels through a lens and interacts with a mirror before sending this image to a viewfinder. Previously, the viewfinder would have to be with its own lens, meaning different ‘bodies’ per lens. The lenses on a DSLR camera are interchangeable.

The principles
There are settings on a DSLR camera that will affect the image. Aperture affects the sharpness of the photos. The higher the setting or aperture the sharper (albeit slightly darker) the photo. ISO is the sensitivity of the image sensor. Raising the ISO gives you brighter pictures, lowering it darkens the image. Most cameras usually have an auto-ISO mode which means it adjusts to light and is sensitive automatically, which is really useful because with this on, photos are less likely to be blurry. Exposure time or shutter speed is the period of time that the light hits the sensor which helps create the photos.

Photographic modes
To select the photographic mode you wish to take the image on, you rotate the wheel at the top of the body of the camera. Manual Mode allows you full control over the aperture, ISO and shutter speed. Aperture Mode (Av) is a semi-automatic mode, which sets the shutter speed based on your decisions of aperture and ISO. You can also use this to create macro images. Aperture mode is useful when you want to capture the depth of the scene. Shutter Mode (S) is a semi-automatic mode that makes it easier to capture movement. Using this means you would set a fast shutter speed, measured in thousandths of a second. Program Mode (P) sets both aperture and shutter speed, and you control the ISO.
Through using my camera, I would state it’s better to use anything except the automatic mode. Also, if you want to take photos of fast moving objects avoid the aperture setting. Possibilities of capture are endless when you use the manual modes.

On DSLR cameras you have two types of focusing: manual and automatic. You switch between them on the lens rather than the body of the camera. Automatic focusing will focus on the image you have set your mode to – for example if the mode was (S) it would focus on the moving image. Most DSLR cameras have 50 different focus points. In manual mode you can select focus points to cater for your specific image. For smaller subjects the recommended amount of focus points is 9, any more and the image may be blurred.

Light setting
There are modes on a DSLR camera that can be set depending on the lightness of space in the photo. Daylight and cloudy are pretty self-explanatory; shadow gives the picture a warmer tone, tungsten keeps bright yellows muted, fluorescent also gives more muted tones and flash tints the photos slightly blue for added warmth.

Room with a View – Program Mode, Tungsten Light Setting

The next step
My main piece of advice for anyone who doesn’t know how to use a DSLR is just to experiment! Through that you’ll find out what type of photos you like taking and which settings produce the best results. Getting a feel for the different settings will allow you to pick the perfect one for taking your photograph.

If you wish to contribute to the Photography Section, or show us what you produced in experimentation, please contact the editor at

By Charlotte Husbands


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