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December 30, 2019



Did you get one of these guys for Christmas… and now you’re like this is great… but what YouTube video do I even begin with when it comes to learning how to actually WORK one of these things?!

It’s true that your DSLR is capable of so much – even those that are entry-level. If you’ve ever wondered why I genuinely love helping beginners and hobbyists learn how to use their cameras, it’s because I am completely self taught. I never had formal education when it came to learning my camera, but instead, I invested the time in learning every last thing I could and more importantly, practiced whenever I had the chance.

I’ve broken things down into 5 quick steps to get you into “practice mode” with your camera. These tips are intended to be a good starting place for you to be able to take a photograph and begin exploring the more advanced options your DSLR has to offer.


5 Steps to Jumpstart your DSLR Knowledge:


Your camera is only able to take a photo thanks to one thing: light. If you don’t have a way to supply light, you will not have a way to “power” your camera. There are many ways to get light: turning all of the lights in the room on, moving near a window or moving outside, or using a flash. For the purpose of these quick steps, I want to get you up and going using only what you already have – natural light. When looking for light to use, consider the temperature of your light. Have you ever noticed how the lightbulbs in your house look more yellow or orange than the light coming in your window? When taking a photo, try to make sure all of your light is the same color. This might mean turning all of the lights off and using only window light!


Setting your ISO means that you are now using your camera in Manual mode. In both Nikon and Canon cameras, this is the “M” setting. In the most basic terms, your ISO is how well your camera will respond to the light it is given. The less light you have, the higher your ISO needs to be. So, again, in the most basic terms, low ISO = darker photos and high ISO = brighter photos.


Your aperture decides how much is in focus. Want those nice blurry backgrounds? Go for a lower number. Want a beautiful shot of a landscape? Stick with a higher number to get everything in focus. Remember, there are pros and cons to both low and high apertures, depending upon what you are photographing and what style you are trying to achieve. Lower apertures can also help you achieve brighter photos, as they let more light into the camera, as higher apertures will do the opposite, so be sure to keep this in mind as you select your ISO.


Your shutter speed is the final number you really need to worry about when first getting started! This, again, controls light! If you are taking a portrait, grabbing candids of your children playing, or taking nearly any hand-held portrait (meaning your camera is not on a tripod), you will want your shutter speed to be high enough (fast enough) to insure that your photos are not blurry. When taking hand-held photos, I personally never go below 1/160.


Please know that there is NO shame in ditching manual mode. Your beginner DSLR has come with pre-set settings for a reason – to keep you from having to think! However, when you choose one of these settings, your camera is merely guessing what you would like your photo to look like. Manual mode comes into play when your camera is not able to guess correctly, it doesn’t understand the style you are trying to achieve, or you’re ready to take control!

Still have some basic questions about getting started with your new DSLR? Shoot me an email at, or DM me on Instagram @laurarowephotodesign! Good luck and ENJOY learning your camera!