Learning how to use your SLR is not as hard as it seems. Think of the camera as a box that lets in light. On that box is a series of controls. These controls allow you to let a lot or a little bit of light in. The amount of light coming in will determine how you take your photo.
Let’s start with the automatic setting. The automatic setting enables the camera to make the decisions for you. This allows you to just concentrate on taking the photo instead of stressing about the settings. The automatic setting is easy, however, is not ideal.
The basics of digital SLR photography are easy to learn when you understand how the camera controls light. Camera controls light two main ways; Aperture and shutter speed. Your aperture is the opening in which you let your light in. Your shutter speed is how you control the speed at which the light is coming in. You need both to be able to control the light.
Think of the camera as a human eye. Your aperture is the iris that opens and closes. The shutter speed is like the eyelid. Your aperture is also known as F stop. F-stop is a number that tells you how much the iris is open. If the aperture is quite wide and then we say that it is a big aperture. A big aperture is a small number. For example F2 .8 is a very wide aperture. It means the aperture is open quite large. It is similar to how the iris behaves in dim light. The iris will open more to let more light in so that we can see in the dark. Your camera is the same.
Aperture not only controls how wide the iris is but it has an important role to play in depth of field. Depth of field simply means what part of the photo is in focus. If every single thing in the photo is in focus then we call that a long depth of field. If there is only a small part of the photo that is in focus we call this a short depth of field.
When you have a wide aperture, F2 .8 for example, your depth of field can be short. If you have a small aperture such as F 22, then everything in image is in focus. (Light permitting of course.) I will teach you this in another tutorial.
Shutter speed is closely linked to time. Shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second, seconds and then minutes. Some cameras have a setting called “Bulb”. This means the shutter stays open for as long as you keep it open. You can attach a special cable to the camera and press it once. The shutter will open. It will close only when you press the cable button. This means you could have the shutter open for an hour if your camera allowed it.
Let’s take for example the night sky. There is not much light that the human eye can detect. In this case we may want to leave the shutter open for 10 seconds or longer. On the other hand if we want to take a photo of something that is fast moving and “freeze” the action we need to have a very fast shutter speed. This is where we get into fractions of a second. I have a Canon 5D Mark two and a shutter speed can go to 1/8000 of a second. This is super fast! I always use a fast shutter speed when I want to create the effect of water being suspended in midair for example.
You will see various settings on your camera dial. Not only do you have the automatic setting but you have aperture priority, shutter priority, manual and possibly more. Aperture priority means you choose what f-stop to use and your camera chooses the shutter speed. Shutter priority works the other way round. This means that you choose the shutter speed and the camera does the rest. These two settings are okay but you still won’t get the ideal result. The best setting to use is manual.
When you used the manual setting you have the most control over your camera. You can set the shutter speed and the aperture simultaneously. Once you become familiar with how manual works then you can start to have more control over lighting. Once you have maximum control over the lighting that is when your pictures begin to look beautiful.
Learning how to use your SLR is not heavy or difficult process. It actually a lot of fun and quite simple when you get the hang of it. The basics of digital SLR photography simply depend on your camera’s ability to read light. This of course means that you have to read light to! Once you understand how light works with your camera you can then select the shutter speed and aperture that creates the images that you desire.
Once you master the basics of digital SLR photography you can then move on to using tools to enhance your light. These tools can enhance and manipulate the appearance of light in your images. Using the flash is one such example of this. But I will leave this to another tutorial.
Your internal light meter is a very important part of understanding light. Your internal light meter is a small indicator that you see when you look through the camera. When you place your dial on manual indicator will be more to the left or the right.
Depending on what camera model you have the indicator means there is too little or too much light. When the indicator is right in the middle it means the camera believes there is just the right amount of light and you may safely take the photo. To be able to master light successfully simply start shooting in auto and write down the aperture and shutter speed that the camera has suggested. Then switch your dial to manual and select those same aperture and shutter speed settings. You will see that those settings may not be the ideal light that you once thought. Sometimes at those settings the photo is under exposed. This is why it is important to shoot in manual.
Learning how to use your SLR takes a little practice. The great thing about digital photography as you can always delete the photos you don’t want. Do not be afraid of making mistakes. Mistakes are catalysts for learning. Once you learn how your camera interprets light then you will be free to become a photographer you’ve always imagined.