Squirrel in Harvard Square, Boston USA We’ve all been there – you get your flashy new DSLR camera after using your old (or perhaps even new) digital camera or even your iPhone/Android phone for ages and ages and suddenly, you’re stuck with this beautiful, functional and, quite frankly, expensive DSLR camera that you have no idea how to use or what quite of the buttons mean! We’ll I’m here to help you as best I can. This is by no means an expert’s guide to using a DSLR or anything of the sort but hopefully, it will provide you with some tools to get you started taking #AwesomePhotos 🙂 Below, are the 3 most important things to learn about when you start using your DSLR camera (and we’ve thrown in a 4th one for good measure!) 😉

1.) ISO: This determines how sensitive your camera is to the lighting conditions around you. Effectively low ISO is best used when it’s bright – when it’s darker, use a higher ISO. Word of caution though, high ISO’s can sometimes lead to a grainy photo but in truth, if the choice is between a dark photo (i.e. no photo at all) or a grainy photo, it’s safe to say I’d go with the grainy photo. An example of increase in graininess (via digital-photography-howto.com) can be seen below. Don’t let the graininess put you off though, sometimes, a high ISO photo can be pretty spectacular!
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2.) Aperture/F-Value: In technical terms, this is to with how much light gets into your camera and all that technical stuff… *yawn* All you really need to know is that this determines how focussed your pictures are going to be. Generally, it is best thought of as a ‘field of depth’ and the lower you go, the closer the focus is i.e. the item your focus on is quite clear and the background is blurred (best used for things like food photography). Conversely, the higher you go, the wider the focus is i.e everything is now in focus, background as well as the stuff close to you. This example below from theshutterbugs.net explains it pretty well…
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3.) Shutter Speed: This is pretty self explanatory but in the interest of full disclosure, I will say it anyway – the shutter speed dictates how quickly the shutter closes. Why is this important, I hear you ask. Well, the general rule of thumb here is that for fast moving objects or when taking photos in low light with no stable base – for example, taking a photo of birds playing or the Eiffel Tower at night without a tripod use a smaller (i.e. quicker) shutter speed. Regular photos with decent light and none of the subject moving – for example, Selfies in Monument Valley in the afternoon, can be taken with slower shutter speeds. A brilliant example is show below where a windflower in 3 scenarios (a) standing still (b) starts to move (higher shutter speed required to get rid of blur) and (c) when it is moving properly (even higher shutter speed is required to get rid of the blue). Remember: Blur in some photos can be a really good thing so you might actually want to increase shutter speed to get this (e.g. aerial photos of traffic on a motorway/freeeway)
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4.) Auto Focus or Manual Focus: Manual focus is great if you know how to use it but in truth, Auto focus does a pretty good job at focusing on what you need. In fact, I would always avoid Manual focus because the times I and most of my friends have used it, (thanks to the amazing quality of the display on most DSLR Cameras), our photos look spectacular on the camera display only to look back at them on a computer at home in horror when you realise they’re completely out of focus and absolutely blurry (and not in a cool arty way either). Effectively, unless you’re some expert who knows the best way to focus (which varies from camera to camera I might add), just go with Auto Focus. You can select what to focus on with Autofocus too so there’s always that too!

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