Starter tips for DSLR photography

How to get started with a DSLR camera

Owning a camera does not make me a photographer – I have no illusion about that. But what I do want is to learn more about photography.

Let’s face it – most cameras are sophisticated enough nowadays that anybody can use them by pretty much pointing and clicking to get a good image. But I started to want more than this.

I wanted to take beautiful images the way that I saw them and the only way I was going to get there was by learning about photography.

To do that, I started off by buying my ‘tool’. A DSLR to start me off (a Nikon D3300 if you wondered…), but I didn’t have the confidence to move past that auto function which defeated the point of me having one. So I booked onto a photography course.

Georgia holding book

-Georgia holding a book, taken with aperture as a priority to blur the book and focus on her face-
-Nikon D3300 | f/4.5 | 1/400 sec | ISO-3200 –

I booked onto a one day course by a Northampton based company called Wildcard Photography run on a Saturday.

It covered everything from the working parts of a camera to the different settings and how to get past auto. Of course, it didn’t make me an advanced photographer overnight (I’m WAAAYYY off that!), but it did make me appreciate my camera a bit more and know how to start using it properly. It’s starting to help me to capture those moments that mean the most. The small things that would otherwise go unnoticed like the look in her eyes when she’s showing me a book, or when I’m pushing her on the swings.

It’s breathtaking for me to be able to bottle these moments. Moments that are gone within a split second, but when captured by a camera can be admired forever more.

Below I’ve gone through a few settings that can help you move past auto – I hope they’re helpful but I’m by no means an expert.

Holding a sticker

-Georgia holding a sticker with two hands, taken with aperture as a priority to blur everything but the hands –
-Nikon D3300 | f/5.3 | 1/250 sec | ISO-3200 –

Camera settings you should know about

Okay… so I’m going to talk about these with my “GO NIKON” hat on. I don’t talk Canon as I don’t own one, so the buttons will be called different things (apparently they don’t believe in a collaborative world of calling things by the same names…).

So if you’re looking to improve your photography, the first thing you need to do before you even touch your camera is to think about what you want the picture to show – Do you want to show depth of field (blurry background or everything in focus) or how to show motion (blur or stop motion)?

Depth of field? You’ll want to swing the setting on the top to A for aperture. This is best for still objects (or at least still/slow moving people). It’s measured in F/NUMBER as a ratio where the lower the ‘NUMBER’, the smaller the depth of field (and  the more blurry everything else is that you’re not focusing on). The bigger the number under the F (and so the smaller the fraction), the bigger the depth of field meaning that more is in focus.

I tend to like photos with a small depth of field, so I choose an aperture with a large fraction – such as F/5.6, whereas a landscape picture would look great at a smaller fraction, such as F/16.

In this mode, the shutter speed is amended automatically by the camera to suit the aperture you want. Cool huh?

Motion? Swing to setting S for shutter speed. This is great for moving objects… such as toddlers on the run. But how do you want to show that motion? Choose a quick shutter speed to freeze time, or a slow shutter speed to blur everything that’s moving. You know those ‘cars on a motorway’ pictures with the zooming red and white lights? They are made using a slow shutter speed. But, it’s important to know that when you’re holding a camera, you can only hold it till 1/60 seconds shutter speed without needing a tripod. Anything slower and just by breathing you’ll inadvertently blur the image. Not great. So, if you want to make those snazzy pics, use a tripod.

Don’t worry about aperture on this setting – it’ll automatically be amended. Just be warned that in this setting, you’ll need a high sensitivity to light at night or in a dark room else your camera may show it as being too dark to take the picture confidently. But how can you adjust that?

Brightness. Brightness of an image can be dealt with in a number of ways before you take a picture. One is the ISO setting which adjusts the light sensitivity (can be found in the settings). The higher the ISO, the brighter your image will be. I love bright images so I’ll push up  this setting at pretty much every opportunity as it saves me doing it post-edit. Even days with just cloud cover could need an ISO setting of about 3200. You can also amend brightness via exposure compensation, which can double the amount of light hitting the sensor by increasing the number by one ‘stop’.

Georgia on the swings

-On the swings, taken with shutter speed as a priority to account of movement of swing –
-Nikon D3300 | f/11 | 1/200 sec | ISO-1600

Constantly learning

I’m not going to lie – it is all a bit confusing. There are a LOT of numbers and I don’t know everything. I’m still only a beginner.

But, I learnt a LOT in that one day – but it’s just that. One day.

Photography is about more than technically being able to use a camera – it’s about thinking in a different way. Thinking about not just blindly snapping away but thinking about what you really want to show people and how you can show them through taking a picture. The camera is just a tool so when people say “I love your camera”, they really just mean that they love your photography… which is a much nicer compliment!

I’ve not even scratched the surface with what I want to do… so please come and follow me on Instagram to see what new pictures I’m taking 🙂

Starter tips for DSLR photography

Comments 32

  1. This is one thing that I want to learn more about this year – it is photography and the A-Z of it. I am always amazed at the quality of pictures that people take.#fortheloveofBLOG

  2. This is my goal for the next few months: I keep procrastinating using my camera and use my iPhone for everything. I’m so lazy with proper blog photography! #fortheloveofblog

  3. I love the pictures — stunning! I’m sticking with my phone as I’m so clumsy and technically challenged I’d probably drop it the first time I tried to use it or delete everything by mistake. #fortheloveoftheblog

  4. Great tips. I’ve just bought a new camera for my blog. It’s a Canon and I’m so confused. I’m very “point at shoot” so it’s good to know the things to look out for or consider, even if they might be called different things (although the writing on the camera is so small I can barely read it!) #FortheLoveofBlog

  5. Great post – ill need to make notes from this! I am always messing around with my settings and can forget which works well for certain shots! Thank you for the advice.

  6. This is such a great starter tutorial. I have had a DSLR for years now and I have yet to get off the auto function. I took photography when I was in high school but I swear I didn’t learn a thing. I’m sure I did at the time, but now a million years later I’ve forgotten it all. Good for you for taking a class though, I don’t know when I never thought of that. I’ve bought a few books, but they have unfortunately just ended up on the shelf, and another line on my ‘to do’ list. #fortheloveofblog

  7. Oooh I’m going to show this post to my hubby. We have a DSLR camera but I never use it. He does though! I know I should for the blog but it’s just so big! #fortheloveofBLOG xx

  8. Oh I did a little excited gasp when I seen the title of your post! I really want to buy a ‘proper’ camera I just don’t know where to start. Maybe I should find a short beginners course close by before I decide on a model. I didn’t realise there was so much to it!! #fortheloveofBLOG

  9. I have the same camera and I keep meaning to do some kind of photography course to learn to get to know my camera a bit more. This is really useful x

  10. I have the same camera and I keep meaning to do some kind of photography course to learn to get to know my camera a bit more. This is really useful x #ForTheLoveOfBlog

  11. This is a fabulous post that will definitely help a lot of people out. I used to have a decent camera but had to sell it unfortunately. #fortheloveofblog

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