Basics Of Digital SLR Cameras For Beginners
Digital cameras come in all colors and shapes today, but a serious photographer may feel himself drawn to the Digital Single Lens Reflex, or DSLR. This type of camera functions much the way the older film SLRs did, allowing you to control the aperture and the shutter speed, giving you a place to seat a flash, even choose the “film speed.”
When I teach a photography class, my students are most often stumped by the aperture settings. The aperture allows you to set the depth of field and is usually the option on your camera that says “Av” (note that not all cameras are the same, so you’ll want to read the manual when you get a new camera!) On this setting, your camera will automatically adjust the shutter speed to compensate for your manual aperture setting. The actual hole in your lens will open wider the lower you set your aperture number, and the depth of field will become smaller. For instance, you can set your aperture so everything that is between 5 and 15 feet away from your camera will be in focus, but everything else will be blurred. You can also set it to Infinity, which is a figure-8 shape on its side, and everything your camera sees will be in focus.
The shutter speed works in tandem with the aperture. After all, if the opening of the lens is small, that means less light is getting to your image-making mechanism, so you’ll need to leave the shutter open for a little longer to get the correct amount of light for a correctly-exposed picture. This setting is usually on the dial of your camera as “Tv,” if you just want your camera to adjust its aperture setting to compensate for your manual shutter speed setting. The numbers that come up (1/25, 1/40, etc) are fractions of a second, so if you choose 1/40, your shutter will open and close in 1/40th of a second.
Advanced photography methods, such as changing the texture of rushing water, is achieved by slowing down the shutter speed so the water blurs, or making the shutter speed faster to catch individual drops in the air.
You may be wondering why your camera has a film speed setting, when there’s no actual film in the camera. The higher the number you set this film speed for, the faster your camera will be prepared to shoot. An ISO of 100 is better for shooting indoor, well-lit shots and stills, while the 400 ISO is better for fast movement and sports.
Or, you can forget all the complicated stuff and just set your camera to Auto, which will allow it to choose the correct aperture and shutter speed for the conditions. Since you’re not wasting paper with bad prints, though, why not do a little experimentation with the settings? After all, you get to see the picture on the screen before it’s printed! Choosing your best shot for a gift or even for yourself can be a lot of fun, especially if you do something unexpected with it like have it mounted on bamboo, aluminum, acrylic, or gator foam with Bumblejax!
Learning the functions of your camera will make you a better photographer, and digital SLRs make it easy!
Brooke Pierce is a professional photographer and guest author for BumbleJax.