A Guide To DSLR Photography | The Basics Explained

Good day there everybody! When I shot my first photograph with a proper DSLR camera I expected it to be perfect like you see in the magazines - and when I looked at the little screen I was so disappointed: it turned out to be all black and blurry. I kept on trying but I couldn't manage to take a decent photograph. I started searching the web and I taught myself how to take photographs with the manual mode of the camera, but I always wished to find a guide - of not too many words - explaining the extreme basics of a DSLR (or system camera). I'm sure there are a thousand posts about this subject on the web nowadays but I still wanted to write what I wished to find back then!

I am not going to explain extremely complicated details to you - I wanted to make this a basic guide. Every camera is different, but DSLR cameras mostly have the same 'characteristics' and basics you can adjust. You can adjust these characteristics in a few different modes and the modes that are available at every DSLR camera are the aperture mode (A), the shutter speed mode (S) and the manual mode (M). The aperture mode enables you to adjust the aperture, the shutter speed mode the shutter speed and the manual mode lets you adjust both. If you choose to go with the A mode, the camera will adjust the shutter speed. The same goes for the shutter speed mode.

The aperture is the 'opening' of the camera. When changing the aperture you basically change how much light is coming into your camera. When you have a big aperture (the hole is large), a lot of light is coming in. The bigger the 'hole' of your lense - the smaller the number.
A large aperture (a small number) creates a blurry background. That is why everybody loves the 50mm lens so much: the aperture is huge so it creates nice blurry backgrounds, it allows you to shoot in low light (and it's cheap). Being able to shoot in low light has something to do with the shutter speed - which I'm going to explain now.

The shutter speed is, in simple words, how long the camera takes to take a picture. A shutter speed written like '30' means that the camera takes 1/30th of a second to take a photograph. This might not seem too long to you but it's actually pretty slowly, camera-wise: you have to keep your camera still in order to take a sharp picture, or you need to adjust your aperture (make it bigger - make the number smaller!). If you can't adjust the aperture anymore (every lens has a limit), you can change something else.. the ISO.

ISO basically is how sensible your camera is for the light. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive your camera is - the bigger your aperture can be/the faster your shutter speed. The downside of raising your ISO: the higher your ISO, the grainier your photograph.

I think these three things are the absolute basics of operating your DSLR camera: once you've got the hang of the aperture mode (what I started with)/shutter speed mode you can slowly start trying to shoot with the manual mode. I now am used to using the manual mode on my camera but I wasn't at first: I knew how it worked but I had a little difficulty with adjusting the camera in such a way that I liked how the photographs were turning out. This is something that grows: you have to know the basics but you'll learn through time, once your experience starts growing. I hope this little guide helped you a bit: I know it is extremely simple but I tried to keep the language as basic and as understandable for everyone as possible. Have a lovely day!


  1. Just what I needed! Great post! Xx

    1. Thank you - glad I could help! X

  2. There's actually a book called 'Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs' that explains all the photography basics very nicely. It gives you a nice overview of aperture, shutter time and ISO but also of composition, light etc. Just thought what you described you were looking for when you were starting sounded a bit like that.
    And I can totally relate to that disappointing feeling when using a good camera for the first time you find out the photos you take still look the same...


    1. Thanks for the tip - wish I'd have known about the book at the very beginning!

  3. We've just bought a DSLR so this is very useful!! Thanks for sharing!


  4. This is great so simple to understand, well written this is so helpful! Abi :)

  5. great post!

    xo T.

  6. Wow! Very interesting and helpful! Thanks for sharing!


  7. I am new into photography and this post helped me a lot. Thank you for that!


  8. Such a helpful post!! Loved it x

    Fabi | www.halfwaytonewyork.blogspot.mx

  9. Thank you for this! I'm still new to using my dslr even though I've had it for awhile.
    Learning to take good pictures is quite difficult.

  10. I'm really thinking of getting what I call a 'proper' camera such as this but was a bit intimidated by it all to be honest! This post has made me feel a lot more confident - so thanks!


  11. I have a 35mm, and it also creates nice depth; thinking if i need a 50mm. I may be able to get nice shots with both so I'm inclined to get it. Great tips!
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