Getting Started with Photography

Does using a DSLR camera intimidate you? Maybe you just got your first DSLR for your graduation, birthday, or after months of saving up. Where should you start? Welcome to my new summer blog series called Getting Started. Each Wednesday I'll be sharing tips and topics that will help you learn how to use your DSLR camera and improve your photography! 


(Just a note- I personally shoot with Canon cameras, specifically the Rebel t3i/EOS 600D and EOS 7D, but all of the information in this series will apply to all other camera brands.)

camera + gear

Before you actually start taking photos, get your gear together and spend a little time reading through your camera's instruction book. Don't focus on knowing what every single term and dial is, but spend enough time to know some of the main points. Each camera is different and having a general idea of the features and buttons will set you up for success.

In the instruction book, you'll find that four camera has several different shooting modes- auto, shutter priority, aperture priority, program, and manual. I highly recommend that you begin in manual. It will require you to think more about your settings, but give you full control over your images. Today's cameras do well in auto mode, but if you're going to stay there you may as well use a point-and-shoot. Having a DSLR gives you full control over your images and the best way to do that is to use it in manual mode. Shooting in manual mode isn't as scary as it sounds!


Exposure has to do with the brightness of the image. When we say that something is over-exposed, it's too bright, and under-exposed means that it's too dark. The various settings on your camera work together to affect the exposure of the image you're taking. If you're shooting in auto, your camera will be reading the area in front of it and trying to calculate what exposure would be appropriate. Sometimes it's correct and sometimes it isn't, but manual mode will allow you to have full control to get the exact exposure that you want for that photo.

shutter speed

The shutter in your camera works like a curtain to let light in or keep it out and the speed of the shutter is how long the curtain is open. The longer the shutter speed, the longer the curtain is open which lets in more light and increases the exposure of the photo. Shutter speed is usually written as a fraction of a second, like 1/30, 1/250, or 1/1000. The higher the shutter speed, the faster the shutter will be. Having a fast shutter speed will make your image sharper, but that also means that less light will get in.


If you take a look at your lens, you will see a number on it that will be its f-stop number. For example, if you're looking at a 18-55mm kit lens, it will probably have a number of f/3.5. The smaller the f-stop number, the wider the shutter will open, allowing for more light. It will also create a more shallow depth of field, making the background more blurry and out of focus. The larger the f-stop number, the smaller the shutter opening will be, letting in less light and getting a wider depth of field. 


The ISO has to do with how sensitive the camera is to light. If you're shooting outside on a sunny day, having an ISO of 100 is usually what you'll use because there will be plenty of light to produce a good photo. If you're inside in a situation where there's not much light to work with, you could increase the ISO and use a higher number, like 1600. Which ISO level to use will depend on how much light you have and how well your camera handles higher ISO levels. Using a higher ISO will make the photo grainier and some cameras will produce more grain than others. My rebel 3ti doesn't handle higher ISO as well as my 7D does, because the 7D is considered a semi-professional camera where the rebel is a consumer-level DSLR.


I hope you have found this helpful! It takes a lot of practice and trial and error to get better with photography. Next week we'll talk more about how these elements work together to take a photo, but feel free to ask me any questions you have by leaving me a comment here or sending me a tweet!