So we all know that our iPhones (or any of our smart phones) take amazing photos, right? Right. A lot of times I just end up using my iPhone because it’s right next to me. But to take your blogging to the next level, using a DSLR is a great next step. I was scared to start using one, but they don’t need to be so scary. Let’s break down the basics of your DSLR.
1. Adjust your ISO
You always want your ISO to be as low as possible for your conditions. Basically, the lower the number the more sensitive the image sensor (which used to be film back in the day) and the less grainy your photos are. If you’re outdoors, you have lots of great natural light, so you can keep your ISO low (at probably 100 or 200). If you’re doing indoor shots without a lot of natural light, you’ll need to bump up that ISO so your photos aren’t too dark.
Generally, try to have as much natural light as possible for your photos. If you’re taking indoor photos, try to do them near a window when there is a lot of great light coming in.
2. Consider your subject
After ISO, you will need to decide on your shutter speed and aperture. For me, I consider whether I’ll be shooting a static or a moving object. If your subject is moving, your shutter speed will have to be higher in order to “freeze” that motion (unless you want that blurry effect). But there is a trade off – faster shutter speed means less light is coming in, so your photo will be darker.
If you have a static subject, you can use a slower shutter speed. A benefit of this is that it will let in more light. The trade off here is that you don’t want to use too slow of a shutter speed. Think about it – the slower the shutter speed, any little movement (by the camera or the subject) will cause blurriness. No matter how steady you think your hands are, you will inevitably shake the camera a bit, which will make your photo blurry.
You can also change how your photo will look by adjusting the aperture, which is measured in f-stops. Aperture measures how wide open the lens is. The larger the aperture (such as f/2.8) means the lens is open wider. This lets in more light and creates a shallow “depth of field” which means you’ll have that nice blurriness in the background of your photo. If you’re shooting in darker conditions, this can also be great since it lets in more light.
A smaller aperture (such as f/22) means the lens is open less, letting in less light. This creates a photo with a greater “depth of field,” meaning that it is more consistently sharp.
Note on aperture: Aperture can be confusing because it’s measured in f-stops, which are actually a fraction of 1/something. So f 1/2.8 is actually bigger than f 1/22 because it’s a fraction. So sometimes people may interchange what they mean by bigger/smaller aperture. I sometimes say smaller aperture because you’re dialing it down on your camera, even though it’s actually a larger number (such as 1/2.8 versus 1/22). Whew hope I didn’t make it more confusing! Trust me, it makes a lot more sense with practice.
3. Decide on white balance
This isn’t a setting I play with a lot, but it comes in handy when I’m taking photos indoors and the colors don’t come out true to life. There are different settings on your camera for artificial light, cloudy days, shadows, etc. I usually play around with the options until I find the one that is the most true to life. Different white balance gives your photos a different tinge – making it more blue-ish or red-ish. I usually take a few test shots and figure out which works best for my lighting conditions.
4. Pay attention to your meter
This was something that totally confused me at first. I thought in my head I had created perfect settings, so why do my photos suck? Check your meter! You want it to be as close to the middle as possible. You will see it moving as you change your settings. If it is too far to the left, your photo will be too dark. If it is too far to the right, your photo will be too bright or “blown out.”
5. Don’t use your flash
I pretty much never ever use my flash. It’s too harsh and makes photos turn out unnatural looking – it creates unflattering shadows, gives people crazy eyes and creates weird glares. Avoid it at all costs. Seriously. Just get some good natural lighting.
I think that’s a great start with the basics of your DSLR. I know it can be confusing, so I’m working on some more posts to get you comfortable with using your camera. If you’re a beginner, don’t miss my Super Beginner Photography Tips too. It includes a great printable of the exposure triangle for you to save and refer back to anytime!
Also let me know if you have specific questions on getting started with your DSLR – I know it can be overwhelming to start using it regularly.