An Introduction to DSLR

Using your DSLR in auto?
I’ve come across a lot of people who have had their DSLR camera for years and still aren’t confident enough to take it off auto mode. Which is a shame! Because to get the most out of your camera, it’s worth learning a bit about how to control some of the settings.

DSLR cameras are mainly built for intermediate/professional use. Because of this, manufacturers don’t tend to invest much time in making the ‘auto’ function on them produce the most brilliant photographs, as most of their users will be shooting in one of the manual modes. 

If you’re new to DSLRs, it can be a lot to get your head around at once, so many dials and menus! That’s why it can be good to get used to one feature at a time. 

Although there are variations with each model, the mode dial on your DSLR will most likely look something like this:

I’m going to run through what some of these functions mean, just to give you an overview of when you might want to use each one.

M - Manual mode. Using this mode means you will have manual control of both the shutter speed and the aperture. I would stay away from using your camera on the M mode until you’re super confident you know your stuff.

AV / A - Aperture Priority. In this mode you will have control over just the aperture setting, the shutter speed will be decided by the camera accordingly. To find out about when you might want to have control over the aperture, read this article.

TV / S - Shutter Speed Priority (Or Time Value - same diff!). In this mode you will have control over just the shutter speed, the aperture will be decided by the camera accordingly. To find out about when you might want to have control over the shutter speed, read this article.

SCN - Scene mode (Sometimes represented by separate icons). This setting gives you a selection of ‘scenes’, and allows you to choose one that is the most appropriate for what you are photographing. E.g. ‘night portrait’ or ‘sport’. The camera will then choose settings for you that it decides are most appropriate for that environment.

B - Bulb. This allows you to hold the shutter open for as long as you hold the shutter button down for. Find out more about this here.

P - Programme. This is a type of automatic feature, but allows you to alter some of the settings manually, such as ISO and white balance. It’s functions vary depending on the camera model you use. 

C1 or C2 etc. - C is for Custom. Sometimes you might find yourself using the same settings a lot of the time, and you might want your camera to remember them for you. Some cameras give you the option of saving custom settings under this function. 

AUTO - Auto! (Sometimes represented by a green ‘A’). We all know what this does, lets you point and shoot! Good for if you haven’t got time to figure out settings, but mostly it will make the flash go off! And in-built flashes aren’t of the highest quality, so best to avoid if possible.

Do other types of cameras have these manual functions?
Yes! Some compact cameras are now featuring similar functionality to DSLRs. 

What does DSLR stand for?
'Digital single lens reflex'. Film camera equivalents are just called 'SLR'. 
The 'reflex' part refers to the mirror in the camera's prism that allows you to see the image accurately through the viewfinder. The mirror moves out of the way as the photo is taken, allowing light past it and onto the film or sensor. 
'Single lens' is pretty self-explanatory, you can also get 'twin lens reflex' cameras (known as TLR) which have two lenses. 


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