Brengman Photography | So you bought a DSLR

So you bought a DSLR

March 14, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

I hear people say they have just bought a new DSLR and they don't know how to use it. So I have decided to give you some basic tips on using this new camera. First off if you don't move it from the green button or fully automatic mode you just have a bigger point and shoot camera. The DSLR has many features!! Photography is basically capturing light. Thinking of photography this way may help you learn how to use your camera.

I want to focus on three modes on the average DSLR on a Canon Camera they are TV (Time Value) AV (Aperture Value) and M (Manual) on a Nikon they are S (Shutter Priority) A (Aperture Priority) and M (Manual).

Let's start with AV or A, Aperture controls the amount of light that comes into your camera. This is the mode that you can use to get that blurry background effect that everyone asks me about. Aperture is scale on a basic camera kit lens goes from f2.8 - f22. This is the size of the opening the lens has when you press the shutter button. To me the scale has always seemed backward because a f2.8 aperture is a very large opening and a f22 is a very small opening. I don't know why they did decided to do it that way but I am sure that I could Google it! Anyway, a f2.8 aperture lets in a lot of light quickly so it is considered fast. This is the aperture that you want to use in low light situations. It will also give you that blurry back ground which is called "bokeh" or depth of field. Depth of field is basically the area of a photograph that is in focus.

Here is an example of a narrow depth of field.

The flower is in focus and the background is blurry!

To get this image I used a f2.8 aperture in AV mode on my Canon camera. The down side of a f2.8 aperture can also be the depth of field. When I am shooting landscape I use higher aperture in the area of f10. The higher aperture lets in less light but it increases the depth of field needed for landscape photography.

Here is an example of a higher aperture.

See how everything in the distance is still clear?

The down side of using a higher aperture is it lets in less light. But it will give you very nice and clear landscape photographs.

Remember to keep the the horizion straight when shooting landscape photography.

There is a lot more to learn about aperture but this is a basic overview.

AV (A) Mode Summary - When do I use it? I use AV (A) when I need to control the light. My main uses of AV (A) mode are for portraits and landscape photography. Your lens that comes with your camera may not let you go to a 2.8f while zoomed in it may only let you go to a 5.6f, this is normal. Higher end lenses will allow you to go faster.

Next is TV(A) Mode. This mode controls the shutter speed of your camera. The main uses for this mode are to shoot sports or chasing that two year old around and trying to capture a them in a still shot. On the other side of the spectrum it is used to capture a long exposure at night. Most cameras range superfast like 1/4000s to super slow like 30s. 

To shoot high shutter speeds in situations of sports or chasing that two years old you need to remember a few things. If you use a 1/4000 inside you will a nice black picture. This is because the higher the speed the less light comes into the camera. So your going to have to lower that a little bit. To stop or freeze a moving subject you will need to be at a 1/125 to 1/250 depending on how fast the subject is moving. Even at these shutter speeds you need a lot of light. We will cover that in Manual mode.

On the other end of shutter speed is a slow. I use this when I am shooting on a tripod and I need to capture alot of light. The subject has to be still. Your camera has setting usually up to 30s. This will keep your shutter open for 30 seconds and let in ALOT of light. Here is an image that I took of the Lighthouse on Tybee Island in Georgia. Some cameras have what is called "bulb" mode. In which you can control how long the shutter is open 10 seconds, 20 seconds or even 10 minutes. In this image I used my tripod and left the shutter open for 90 seconds.

Tybee at Night


As you see the lighthouse is pretty clear. That night it was very dark and really the only light was from the houses below and the actual light house.

TV(S) mode Summary - Controlling the shutter speed will help you capture subject in their tracks or capture still subjects in the dark but you give up the control of the amount of light that comes into the camera.

Quick Ground rules from slow to fast.

30s - 1/20s - Very low light to no light at all. You will need a tripod.
1/40s - 1/80s - Indoor setting without a flash. You may still need a tripod and you will not be able to freeze motion.
1/120s - 1/250s - Brighter indoors and low light outdoors. On the faster end you will be to start to freeze motion
1/250 and faster - Motion stops and you will need a lot of light, use this in the park or outdoor events.  

AND! That is where M mode comes in it allows you to control both the light and the shutter speed!! My camera really never leaves this mode. I like to be in control of both the aperture and the shutter speed. In example when I am shooting a basketball game for the newspaper. The gym has decent light and the players are fast. I know a few things. First off I am going to have to use a fast shutter speed to freeze the players and secondly I need to control the amount of light. My setup would need to be something like a 2.8f aperture and a 1/250s shutter speed. I am letting enough light in and I am freezing the action.  Remember the depth of field that the aperture controls? Well, you have to be spot on with your focus to capture the players.  

Use the M mode to control both or when the TV(S) or AV(A) just do not work. In the beginning what I would do is put my camera in AV mode and see what the camera chooses for a shutter speeed and then put it in M mode and adjust of the shutter speeds and see what happens. 

Overall summary- AV(A) = Light let in the camera and TV(S) = Speed of the shutter

Of course this is just a general overview! There is so much more to go into beyond the basics. Also I tried to use layman terms so everything is not so technical.

We still have so much to cover!! Like using your flash!


Please feel free to ask any questions! Or you if you have a topic you want me to cover you can always email me HERE


Have a wonderful day - Ben



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