When I decided to start a fashion blog, my biggest obstacle was finding someone to take my pictures. Since I had recently relocated, I didn’t know too many people in the area and my only option was to write a Craigslist ad in search of a photographer. Surprisingly, the ad received a decent response, but none were quite what I was looking for. I was about to give up when my now, go-to girl, responded and the rest is history. Tammy and I have worked together for the past three years and I honestly don’t think this blog could have progressed without her. She’s done so much to help define my site’s aesthetic and since moving to Greensboro last year (sniff, sniff) she’s patiently answered all of my camera related questions as I now try to master the art of photography myself.
Learning to use a DSLR camera has been quite challenging for me and I know I’m not alone. It’s one of the most common topics discussed among my group of blogger friends and the most frequently asked questions I receive from aspiring bloggers. Almost everything I know comes from picking Tammy’s brain, so I’ve asked her to share her knowledge by providing us with some simple DSLR camera tips.
Here are a few Simple DSLR Camera Tips from My Photography Guru!
What is the best DSLR camera to buy?
If you’re new to photography, an entry-level DSLR is probably the best camera to buy for a reasonable price and a wide array of manual settings that will help you learn how to master the art of photography. It’s important to note that photography is an expensive hobby and, while there are many wonderful digital camera options on the market these days, most photographers start out with entry-level equipment. The two main brands, Canon and Nikon, offer many different options within this level that you should consider when shopping for cameras. When shopping for new equipment, I like to look at a few things to help guide my decision: reviews and image previews. For reviews, I usually visit Amazon and B&H Photo Video (my preferred vendor) and spend some time reading the reviews of the cameras I’m considering. It’s a big investment, so I always like to make sure that I’m taking all considerations when shopping. For image previews, I like to type in “canon eos rebel t6i flickr” into the Google search bar, and find either a Flickr group or their Camera Finder link to see examples of pictures camera owners have taken with their equipment. Entry levels are easy to spot with Canon as they’re typically under the “Rebel” series. With Nikon, it’s their 4-digit naming convention that will help you spot an entry-level camera (DXXXX). Note, while features such as Wi-Fi and video are great, always put quality of images above anything else, if photography will be the main use for your camera.
Which lens should I use?
The right lens for you will depend directly on the type of photography you’re interested in. There are two types of lenses: prime lenses (no zoom) and zoom lenses, and each length has specific “focal length” capabilities, which essentially determine how “zoomed in” you are in relation to the subject. These numbers will be displayed before “mm”. Most entry-level cameras come with a standard “kit” zoom lens such as a 18-55mm. These are great to start with and learn the ins and outs of photography, but their capabilities are limited. For example, a portrait, fashion, lifestyle or food photographer is probably looking to take pictures with a shallow depth of field (DOF) — this is when the background is blurred out — or maybe want to have more flexibility in low-light without using the flash. This is where you’ll start investing in new lenses, and finding which equipment works best for you.
A low-cost must-have for all entry levels photographer is the Canon 50mm 1.8, also known as the “nifty fifty” –note: this is a prime lens, so you won’t be able to zoom in or out without walking. The focal length for this lens is a bit more zoomed in than what you’re probably used to, but this factor will also help you explore new angles and frames that you probably wouldn’t with a zoom lens. The 50mm focal range is also excellent to avoid distortion. With lenses, the “wider the lens (say, 18mm), the more the image gets stretched out or distorted (not very flattering for photographing people). Anything above 50mm will be ultra flattering with a minimal amount of distortion.
But my favorite aspect of this lens is that it has such a wide aperture (1.8) — that’s where you start getting blurry backgrounds and sharp subjects and can play around to get the best balance. This is probably the most confusing aspect of photography lenses, aperture numbers are kind of backwards. Where 1.8 is a super-wide aperture and will allow for the most light into your camera, 11 is extremely narrow and won’t allow much light in — great for landscape photographers that want everything in the image to be in focus. See some examples below:
Taken at 1.8 aperture – background is extremely blurry
Taken with aperture set to 10.0, we can see details in the background
What is the best setting to shoot in?
While I learned to shoot on Manual mode, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend unless you’re ready to enroll in a photography class or watch tons of online tutorials. I would also avoid Auto at all costs, you’re not buying a nice camera to let it make decisions for you. And while, the learning curve may be a bit frustrating, with much practice, you’ll be taking amazing pictures and want to explore more options as you move along the process. I’ll explain the 3 main elements before getting into my recommendations:
- Aperture: Like previously mentioned, aperture determines how “open” the lens will be, from wide open like in 1.8 (more light comes through) to more closed like in 10.0 (less light comes through).
- Shutter Speed: This will determine how fast your camera will take a picture. A slower shutter speed (1/8th of a second) will let more light in but will also produce more movement so I wouldn’t recommend a slow shutter speed if you’re not using a tripod and your subject isn’t still. A faster shutter speed (1/200th of a second) will capture less light, but will be a lot easier to get action shots, or use without a tripod to see a sharp image.
- ISO – This determines the sensitivity of light on the camera. The higher the ISO, the brighter (or more sensitive to light) your camera will be. Ideally, I try to stay as low as possible because higher ISO speeds also produce more grain. But in low light situations, such as indoors or nightlife photography, a higher ISO will be your best choice to easily expose an image.
But, because being able to master all of these settings is quite a bit of a challenge, I would recommend shooting in Program (P mode) or Aperture Priority (AV mode). In P mode, the camera will still determine the correct exposure for you, but you still have the ability to change the settings as needed with some help from the camera. In AV mode, you set the aperture, and the camera will choose the proper shutter speed. I know blurry backgrounds are what everyone strives for, so this mode will allow for you to work towards that without all the heavy-lifting. Also, start by leaving your ISO in auto mode, but explore with setting it up yourself so you’re able to understand the right balance for you.
What’s the easiest way to edit pictures?
Adobe lightroom is my go-to quick and easy software when I’m crunched on time. While using a pretty simple interface, it provides a world of options and presets that you can expand upon as you practice. To start with, focus on the Basic panel.
A few basics:
- WB stands for white balance, this will help you warm up or cool down your picture if you feel the colors are off using auto white balance on your camera. This is my favorite setting.
- Exposure will let you lighten or darken your image to your liking
- Highlights will let you tone down really bright areas of your image without darkening shadows and Shadows will let you brighten shadows without brightening highlights
- Vibrance will help you control how much the colors will pop without affecting skin tones too much — Saturation will bring all colors up or down (including skin tones), use carefully — not many people want bright orange skin!
Which settings affect the lighting of an image?
All three settings: Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO affect how light your images turn out. It takes practice to get the perfect balance, and in a single photoshoot it may require a change of settings for every different scene you shoot. I would suggest that, if you have Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop software, you start shooting all your images in RAW format. The files are much larger, so that will take some getting used to, but you can salvage many under-or-over-exposed images that are pretty much unavoidable when you’re learning. You can also save the wrong white balance, and not have to worry too much about it while you’re out shooting. With composition, posing, and other factors in place, it’s best to take one step at a time, and RAW is a much more forgiving format for beginners as well as professionals.
What is the difference between JPG and RAW?
When shooting in JPG format (which can be displayed on the camera as S,M,L), you don’t get any of the data from that image so your editing options will be rather limited. It’s a risky setting, and I wouldn’t recommend for starting out. Yes, RAW is actually a lot to take in at first, but you’ll soon start learning that it’s extremely forgiving and can help you improve your photography. RAW format saves a lot more data – highlights, shadows, etc, so you can then revisit exposure and other settings when you’re at home after the shoot.
How do I get the images from camera to my computer to edit?
I personally like to export my RAW files directly to Adobe Lightroom, but you can also do this by using the Canon or Nikon software. If your camera uses an SD card, I use the SD card reader on my Mac and Import images directly in the Lightroom Library. Then I go over to the Develop tab and make my changes, and finally I select all my images within the Develop tab and click File > Export > and then choose my settings to convert them to JPGs.
A HUGE thanks to Tammy Torres Photography for sharing these simple DSLR camera tips! If you have any more camera or photography questions, comment below. Tammy or myself will do our best to answer them!