Understanding your DSLR

Videography and photography with DSLR cameras

Everyone’s got a camera in their pocket right now - their phones! Smart phones are getting better and better at taking photos and videos, but it’s unlikely that they’ll ever surpass the modern, dedicated cameras such as mirrorless or digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras. The main difference between your phone and a DSLR camera is the fact that a DSLR camera provides more control. You have more control over the settings and therefore the end image or video.


One of the first and most significant piece of a DSLR camera is the lens. A nice feature of these cameras is the fact that they’re build somewhat modularly, meaning you can pick and choose the best tool (or lens) that fits your need. If you’re shooting close up, you’ll look for macro lenses. Far away will require zoom lenses and sharpness on a budget can usually be found in fixed focal length lenses, or prime lenses. Lenses can be as expensive as imaginable, but a suggested starter lens is the nifty fifter, or 50mm lens. It runs around $100 and is a prime lens. Other features you’ll find in lenses include stabilization and autofocus. They are nice to have, but will increase the price of the lens.


Images are composed of light. You let in certain amounts to the censor and it results in a photograph or video (many photos in sequence). Without light, you can’t take a picture. If you can’t control your environment, which is often the case, there are a few ways to manipulate the reception of light in your camera.


The aperture is the opening in the lens that lets in light. It also controls the depth of field, or blurriness, in your image. The lower the number, like f/2.5, the wider the aperture is open (more light) and fewer things are in focus. If it’s a higher number, like f/22, it is a smaller hole and has a broader range of things in focus.


The shutter is a mechanical covering that slides in front of the camera’s sensor as fast as you set it. The faster it is, the less light is let in but the sharper your image will be, due to less camera/subject movement being recorded. If your camera shutter is set to a slow number, everything will appear almost smudged together because either the camera or subject (or both) moved during the time that the shutter was open.


ISO refers to what non digital SLR cameras used - film speed. In digital SLR cameras, the ISO is another way to manipulate light in your camera. Higher ISO numbers will let in more light, but will introduce noise or grain to your image. If you can keep a lower ISO, it’s best to adjust aperture and shutter to maintain image quality. If you don’t want to have the effects of a slow shutter or open aperture, ISO is what you should consider changing next.