So after studying photography through my final years of schooling, I took a brief hiatus from it until i could afford a decent camera, 4 years later and here I am!

Hehehe it only just occurred to me, to take a great high res photo of my camera would require me to have a second awesome camera, and it doesn’t really seem worth it…. soooooooo…

There she is, a Canon 400D and she takes a pretty mean picture.

So I just wanted to give a brief overview on taking photos on an SLR camera and what all that junk means when you are setting it up for a great photo.

So I guess the first question to answer is: What is a DSLR camera?

Digital Single-lens reflex – what this means is that when you look through the eye piece you see exactly what the camera lens sees, using a few well placed mirrors it reflects the image coming through the lens up into the eye piece. The reflex refers to the way one of the mirrors quickly moves out of the way of the image sensor when the shutter opens to capture the photo.

So that means, while the mirror is in the way of the sensor, you cannot view what the camera is seeing on the screen, UNLESS! your camera comes with live view, for those situations when its a bit difficult to get the camera up to your face, you can flick the mirror up and use your screen as a view finder.

Another great feature on the DSLR cameras is interchangeable lenses, this means you can have all sorts of different lenses for different photos, your wide angle for those nice scenery shots, your standard 18 to 55mm lens for those everyday shots and your telephoto lens for those “the guards won’t let me in the gate but I’m still going to get a decent photo of this” shots.

Ok so you got your camera but aren’t to sure what all that tech jargon on the screen means?

well I’m going to try my best to put it simply and I hope it isn’t to hard to follow.

First up! Shutter speed!!!

So shutter speed is how fast the shutter on the camera opens and shuts, the longer you leave it open, the more light you let in. Which is great for that night shot when there is very low light, but if you leave it open for more than 1/60 of a second, you will need a tripod as any camera shake will cause blurring (and i promise, your hand is not steady enough).

So on your camera, it will probably say something like, 1/200. Changing this will change the time your shutter opens for, the slower the speed, the number will go down until it reaches 1 second, and then it will start going back up. Some cameras have a “bulb” setting, all this means is, hold the button for as long as you want and I will stay open. Just as a quick note though, using the bulb setting even with a tripod can still get camera shake if your hand remains on the camera to hold the button down. The easy fix? get a little remote for your camera (

Next up! Aperture!!!

The aperture on your camera is very similar to the iris in your eye. The centre of your eye will open or close depending on the amount of light it wants to let in (when you go from a dark place to a light place your eyes take a while to adjust, that’syour iris doing its thing). The aperture is the same concept, you open or close it depending on your situation. Thats whats called your F setting. My camera goes from 4 to 36 (4 being the most open and 36 being practically a pin hole). Not only does this effect the amount of light getting into the camera, it also changes your depth of field. You know those rad photos where the person is in focus but everything behind them isn’t? That’s depth of field, and probably taken with a low F-stop, 5.6 being the usual standard setting. The higher the F-stop, the more of the picture will be in focus. Its like if you try and read a book up real close, it’s impossible to read because its blurry, try it again at the same distance but looking through a tiny hole in a piece of paper, you can focus on it now…. Usually…. 

Moving right along! ISO or film speed

Now before you say anything, I know a DSLR doesn’t have film. But it still has the ability to change the ISO which is pretty much just changing the capture settings on the sensor. In the standard SLR (not digital) your ISO was set by the type of film you put in your camera. Kodak 400 ASA is usually the standard film.

what all this means is, the faster your ISO, the quicker the light effects the sensor/film. So using a 1600 film is great for capturing a quick photo like a surfer who is moving fast, even when the lighting is a bit poor. The problem with a ISO of 1600 is that in the sensors haste to capture the picture, it loses a lot of its quality. For a rich colourful photo you want to use a slower film, maybe a 200 or a 100 if the lighting permits.

Other quick mentions

Auto white balance – This is a system that a digital camera uses to work out which parts of the light hitting the sensor are actually white, allowing you colours to be the same as your would see them.

RAW File setting – On a digital camera, the usual setting is to convert images straight to a Jpeg file, but as soon as your photo is converted to Jpeg you lose detail because Jpeg is actually a form of compression for images. The Raw setting on your camera will allow you to view the photo after without any compression. Only problem is you need the right programs to view RAW photos.


I have probably missed a whole heap of things in this overview, but its only a quick insight into the world of DSLR cameras. And if your thinking about buying one, its great fun to learn and when you master it and take some great photos, you will want to show the world. Just keep practicing getting the right aperture, ISO and shutter speed settings for different images and you will be an ace at it in no time.

Some cool things to try

Take a photo of moving water, maybe a waterfall or something to that effect but use a slow shutter speed of maybe a second or 2, this will blur the water.

Find a really dark place, and point your camera at the stars, using your bulb setting, open the shutter for a while and see what happends.

So have fun and I hope this little blog has helped, would love any feedback or to hear of any crazy adventures you have with your camera and even post me some photos!!!!

This is a self portrait, 18 to 55mm lens with an aperture setting of 5.6 and the flash on, I did have to use auto focus though, being unable to see myself through the camera… :$