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DSLR basics – Understand your DSLR. ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed for beginners

Shubham Davey 0
Reading Time: 7 minutes

You are done with photography basics and now up for a challenge on understanding¬†DSLR basics? As a beginner, it is as important to understand your DSLR as it is difficult. There is nothing to get overwhelmed by so many controls, they’re just there to make your photo shoot easy.

In this post, I will be sharing my understanding of the various camera controls that will help you become a better photographer. So, without any further delay let’s directly dive into the core of this post. This will be a lengthy post, so make sure you get yourself some caffeine, works well in such long reads ūüėČ

DSLR Basics #1: Camera Controls

DSLR basics

DSLR basics

DSLR Basics #2: Image Sensor

To understand how DSLR works, you will need to understand the controls. Before I tell you about controls, I’d like to tell you what these controls control. Since the beginning of photography, cameras have been storing images on glass plates or films. Unlike today, there were no digital pieces of technology that could make the DSLR compact yet more powerful.

DSLR Basics

Today, the DSLR stores images on image sensors. These Image sensors are made up of millions of light-sensitive photodiodes set on a grid. Furthermore, each photodiode captures a portion of the image as a numeric value that corresponds to a specific brightness level. These individual photodiodes along with the numeric values are then combined to create the image.

There are two types of sensors, CCD and CMOS. Both the sensors vary from camera to camera, with the basic concept retained. When buying a DSLR, consider the size of the sensor over the megapixel count. As a higher megapixel count on the smaller sensor will make no sense.

DSLR Basics #3: Camera Lenses

DSLR basics

A lens the most important peripheral of your DSLR. It is made out of glass, plastic arranged in a way to capture the light and assemble it on a point of focus. DSLR cameras come with interchangeable lenses for various purposes. If picture quality and ease of use is not your concern, then you can opt for point and shoot cameras.

These lenses help you have better control over what you capture and how you capture. Point and shoot are fine but to keep your creative side alive, DSLR is your go-to camera.

DSLR Basics #4: Camera Modes

DSLR basics

Your DSLR comes with a variety of camera modes. Depending upon the conditions, you will have to switch the modes. DSLRs today have modes that can be broadly divided in three, Fully automatic, Semi-automatic and Manual.

In the image above you can try to match the modes on your DSLR. Different DSLR manufacturing companies have different naming conventions, but the functions are same.

In PROGRAM mode, you have to manage the white balance, ISO, focusing and metering while the camera will take care of the exposure. This mode comes handy when you are are shooting bright (natural or artificial) lights, for example, in marriages, parties, concerts etc.

In Shutter Priority mode, you control the shutter speed and the camera takes care of the aperture. This comes handy when you are shooting low light, fast moving objects(vehicles, animals, birds) and Sports. Faster the shutter speed, lower will be the light.

In Aperture priority, you control the aperture and the camera takes care of shutter speed. Using the aperture, you can control the depth-of-field.

In Manual Mode, you get to control everything. This is the toughest mode to master as everything a camera can do is to be controlled by you. Be is shutter speed, the aperture or the ISO. Furthermore, the exposure and flash sensitivity is also under your control.

DSLR Basics #5: Inbuilt Flash

DSLR basics

Flash fills the absence of light while shooting in dark. The system inside your DSLR determines the need for the flash according to the exposure metering, focusing and zoom system. In most of the compact cameras, the built-in flash triggers to go off in perfect sync with the shutter. Furthermore, you cannot control the timing and intensity of the flash in those compact cameras.

Your DSLR have pop-up flashes that can be controlled in various ways to be in sync with the shutter or keep it behind the shutter. Furthermore, the intensity of the flash can be manipulated in terms of the surrounding light. Moreover, there are external flashes that give you the opportunity to create more artistic use of the flash.

DSLR Basics #6: Viewing system

DSLR basics

This is a basic stuff you’d probably know it already. But for those who are looking for information on this, there are two ways you can view pictures you are about to take. Both the ways help you see what the lens of your DSLR sees. An area where the electronic viewfinder is superior is in determining the color balance. The electronic viewfinder can show where the highlights are overexposing(this help you compose the image better).

The electronic viewfinder is most chosen because you can see the changes required in real time. However, the optical viewfinder helps you see the scene directly through the lens, no electronic disturbance, just like you see through your eye. I personally prefer optical viewfinder over the electronic viewfinder. With practice, you will be able to control the composition through an optical viewfinder, or at times I set the composition before and switch to OV and shoot.


Coming from the beginner phase I understand how overwhelming holding a DSLR is. You can’t wait to shoot anything and everything your eyes sees. But before you get into that, consider practicing the DSLR basics so that you can master your photography with each photograph you take.

It will take a while for you to get used to these DSLR basics, but once done you’ll be growing effortlessly. Furthermore, once you get a good grip you’d be more creative.

Over to you. Which of the DSLR basics you found confusing, or want further explanation in detail. Let me know in the comment section below.

Do you know someone who is looking for this information? Share this with them, also share in your network.

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