Photography Quick Start Guide

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Photography Quick Start Guide


If you’ve just picked up your first DSLR camera, you’re likely excited to get started with your photography. However, many newcomers will simply set their camera to auto mode without a second thought. Although the automatic setting can yield some good results, it’s often very hit and miss. To get the most out of your camera and take the best possible pictures, you need to know how to use some basic settings. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most important elements of your camera, and how they impact your photos.

The Holy Trinity: Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO

Your camera will likely have a variety of shooting modes you can choose from. Aside from the auto settings, you will probably have modes that prioritize either aperture or shutter speed. Each of these goes hand-in-hand with ISO. The fully manual setting gives you freedom over each aspect and gives you full creative control over your photos. We cover these three settings, which work in relation to each other, below:


Aperture is a measure of how wide or narrow the opening of your camera’s lens is. The wider the opening, the more light will enter your camera’s sensor. You can change the setting, measured in f/ stops, to change the size of the opening and control the depth of field of your shots. For example, an aperture of around f/2.0 is ideal for portrait photographs, as the subject will be in sharp focus while the background is blurred. If you’re shooting landscapes, you’ll instead want a narrower (higher) aperture to ensure everything is in focus.

One thing to bear in mind is that the lower the aperture setting is, the more light you’re letting in. Therefore, f/2.0 is wider than f/16, for example.

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed determines how long your camera’s shutter is open for. The longer the shutter is open for, the more time your camera’s sensor is exposed to light for. Shutter speed is an important setting because it often determines whether or not your subject is blurry. A moving subject requires a faster shutter speed than a static one. For example, if your shutter speed is set to 1/100th of a second and your subject is running, they will likely appear blurry in your image. A shutter speed of 1/400th of a second should improve that.

If there’s a lot of light out and you set a wide aperture on your camera, you will need a slower shutter speed to compensate for that. If it’s too slow, too much light will enter, and your photo will be over-exposed.


ISO is a metric that measures how sensitive your camera is to light. The general advice here is to keep your ISO as low as possible. Using a higher ISO can mean that your exposure is better, but it will often create ‘noise’ in your image, which makes it grainy.

Your camera will have native ISO settings that it shoots at. Although they may also have other ISO levels, the ‘in-between’ settings are digitally enhanced. Therefore, you should keep to the lowest native ISO setting possible.

Video Bonus: Frame Rate

Many digital cameras will also have a video mode. When recording video, an important setting is the frame rate you choose; how many frames per second (fps) it captures. The two most common settings are 24 fps and 30 fps. If you shoot higher than this, you risk losing some sharpness. However, if you intend on creating slow-motion footage, you should aim for 60fps or even 120fps.


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