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Dslr for Dummies

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    As digital SLRs are popularizing, many people are getting into photography that normally wouldn't

    have. Not only is this because of the ease of using a digital camera, but also because of the enormous

    cost savings compared to film cameras. DSLRs do not require expensive film to be bought and

    developed, which allows you to take more pictures, and learn to shoot better, faster.

    In this instructable, I will teach the basics of photography, which include:

    -Camera basics

    -Rule of Thirds

    -Manual vs Auto Exposure

    -Lighting Techniques

    -Sport shots


    -Night Shots

    Step 1Camera Basics

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    In this instructable I will be referring to DSLRs only. This is because the quality achieved on a DSLR,

    and the control gained from it is huge versus a normal point and shoot. And while spectacular

    photographs can be taken from a standard point and shoot camera, most interested in photography

    use a DSLR.

    First and foremost, the basics. We'll start off by exploring what a DSLR actually is. DSLR stands for

    Digital Single Lens Reflex. Basically, what this means is that what you see through the viewfinder, is

    almost exactly what the lens sees, and what will end up in the picture. One of the reasons that the

    quality is so much better on a DSLR than a PandS (Point and shoot) is that the sensor size is so much

    larger. The sensor is what records the light coming into the camera. The larger the sensor, the more

    light it can record. This makes the quality very good in low light situations. Another reason that the

    quality is higher is because of the lenses, also referred to as glass. When you are trying to essentially

    record light, one of the main goals is not to distort it. This is achieved by using better designed, better

    manufactured lenses. Think of it this way, if you have light going through a dirty window, you are not

    going to be able to see very well through the other side. However if the window is clean and built right,

    then you will be able to see perfectly.

    Now lets cover the basic settings, starting with shutter speed. Shutter speed is the speed at which

    the shutter moves. The shutter is what stops light from hitting the sensor. The slower the shutter

    speed, the longer the shutter is open. On the other hand, the faster the shutter speed, the less time the

    shutter is open. Using this basic concept is what allows photographers to not only properly expose, butalso freeze, or blur, their pictures. But we'll get to that later. The main thing that shutter speed controls

    is how much light gets into the camera. If your picture is too dark, slow down the shutter speed. If it is

    too light, speed up the shutter speed. Next, ISO.

    The ISO is the speed at which light enters the sensor. This means that a low ISO, will record light

    more slowly than a fast ISO. Then wouldn't it make sense to use the highest ISO possible? No. This is

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    because the higher the ISO, the more "Noise" or "Grain" your photograph will get. Although grain is

    sometimes desired by a photographer, for the most part it lowers the overall quality of the picture. A

    good ISO to stay at is around 200.

    Finally, we get to aperture. The aperture, is the size of the hole in the lens. The bigger the hole, the

    larger the aperture, and the more light that gets in. The smaller the hole, the smaller the aperture, and

    less light gets in. This is recorded with f-stop. This is the confusing part however, because, the smaller

    the f-stop number (such as 1.8) the WIDER the hole/aperture. The higher the f-stop number (such as

    f22) the smaller the hole/aperture. This means that f1.8 will let in more light than f22. So why not just

    open the aperture all the way? Well again, just like ISO, there is a catch. The wider the aperture, the

    less depth of field you get. Depth of field, is basically the amount of the picture that is in focus.

    Therefore, a picture taken at f1.8 will have barely anything in focus, while a picture taken at f22 will

    have most of the picture in focus.

    Now that we have covered exposure settings, I think it's time we quickly skimmed over white

    balance. White balance can be pretty simple, all you need to do is to look around you. See what type

    of lights are lighting the area you are in. They might be incandescent light bulbs, fluorescent lights, the

    sun, or you might even be in the shade. Read your manual, and find out which symbols symbolize

    which type of lighting. Once you have figured out what type of lighting you have, set the white balance

    to that type of lighting (incandescent bulbs are often called Tungsten). So if it is sunny out, set it to

    (most likely) the small picture of the sun. Or if it is cloudy, set it to the picture of a cloud. You need to

    do this because different light will have different "temperatures" which are measured in Kelvin. You

    want to adjust so that you are set to pure white light. This means that if you held up a piece of paper

    that was absolutely purely white, that your camera would record it as such. You can get somethingcalled white cards, and set your camera using that (which will give you much more accurate white

    balance) but for the sake of this instructable, using the presets is much easier.

    These settings can be confusing at first, but mastering them is key to obtaining good photos. Play

    around with them to learn the kind of picture that can be gained from a certain combination of settings.

    Step 2Rule of Thirds

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    Here we have come to one of the cornerstones of photography, the rule of thirds. This introduces a

    science to this art. The human mind generally likes pictures that are composed in a certain way. If you

    want to get a picture that the eye will generally like, then learn the rule of thirds.

    The rule of thirds is a rule that splits the picture into thirds, vertically, and horizontally. (See picture).

    The key idea, is to align your subject, along these imaginary lines that divide the image into thirds.However the key here, is to never have your subject completely centered. A centered photo is

    considered poorly composed (it can be done, but if you're reading this instructable I recommend that

    you follow the rule).

    If taking a picture of a subject that is somewhat diagonal, then try to align it along the diagonal line

    of your picture (top corner to bottom corner of the opposing side).

    Look for the rule of thirds the next time that you watch a movie or see an advertisement. Most likely,

    if the director is good, it will use the rule of thirds. The actor's bodies will be on the vertical lines, and

    their eyes will probably be on the horizontal lines.

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    Step 3Manual vs Auto Exposure.


    "But ledzeppie, why can't we just put the camera on auto? It's so much easier!!!1!!!11!!!"

    Well Jimmy-Bob-Junior, we don't put the camera onto auto exposure because manual mode gives

    much more control over the picture. Often, using auto exposure can remove the atmosphere from a

    picture. For example, this picture that I took was taken on a very cloudy dark day, and to capture the

    atmosphere I raised my shutter speed, lowered my ISO, and closed my aperture, to darken the picture.

    This really gave a good mood to the picture, something that auto wouldn't give me. Beyond this

    though, auto exposure also only determines how light or dark the picture should be based on one

    point. This means that often certain parts of the picture will be too dark, or too light. This is common

    with the sky, as it is usually lighter than the ground.

    Essentially, auto exposure can remove the artistic part of the picture.

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    Step 4Lighting Techniques


    Lighting is one of the most important parts of composing a picture. This is why photographers often

    have huge extravagant ways of lighting their subjects. Although most people may not have the money

    for a huge studio lighting setup, a flash is a easy alternative.

    The flash on-board your camera may pop up, and look real coo', but personally, I try to never really

    use it. The flash that is built in a camera often causes red eye, this is why camera makers make them

    raised up. Red eye is caused by the light from the flash, bouncing off the eye of the subject, and going

    right back into the lens. This is avoided by having the flash placed somewhere else that will bounce the

    light away from the lens. Also, the onboard flash causes harsh shadows, and can limit creativity. An

    external flash costs about 200-800 dollars. I'd suggest a 300 dollar one for the amateur photographer.

    The benefits of external flashes are that they can be controlled and diffused so that they don't create

    harsh shadows, and they can make certain areas of the picture light, and other areas dark. This opens

    up a huge opportunity to really take full control of the lighting of your picture.

    When using your flash, try to use a diffuser to avoid harsh shadows (unless of course harsh

    shadows are desired). An alternative to a diffuser is to bounce the flash off of a nearby wall or ceiling.

    To do this, simply angle the flash towards a wall, and make it reflect back onto your subject.

    Another way to light a picture is to use natural lighting. This may mean the sun, or just the lights in a

    room. The ability to take great pictures using only natural lighting is a real asset to a photographer.

    The less the photographer has to rely on external light sources, the better. In this picture I took

    advantage of car headlights passing by to light this bench. No flashes were used at all. This is one of

    my personal best examples of seizing an opportunity for good natural lighting. Just remember, when

    using natural lighting, try to avoid getting lens flare.

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    Different angles of light can change the photo entirely. When at a location, try angling the camera

    different, or waiting for the sun to shift, as these simply changes can alter the mood and colors of the


    (There are many technicalities when it comes to lighting, and honestly, I could do an entire instructable

    on lighting itself, but to keep this to the basics, and to not drone on forever, I am choosing to share

    only the pure basics of lighting.)

    Step 5Sport Shots.


    Sport photography can be a tricky field. Some sports require a large zoom lens, while others require

    a small fisheye lens. But there are a few similarities that link them together. The first is shutter speed.

    Most sport pictures will have a very fast shutter speed to freeze the action. Notice how the tire is

    completely frozen, this was obtained using a very fast shutter speed. The shutter speed that you will

    need to freeze a picture varies depending on the speed of the subject, and the angle that you are

    photographing them from.

    While some sport shots are frozen, there are also some that are intentionally blurred. This is done

    by using a lower shutter speed. Blurring a picture can create a feeling of speed and agility. There are

    two ways to blur a picture, one is to blur the subject. This is done by simply lowering the shutter speed

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    and holding the camera still. Another way is to blur the background and keep the subject still. This is

    called panning. To do this, lower the shutter speed, and follow your subject, keeping them in the same

    part of the frame the whole time (For example keep them at the top right or top left and move the

    camera to follow them and keep them there.) Then, take the picture, and while the shutter is open

    keep the camera moving and following the subject. This is a hard process to explain, but Camera Labs

    offers a great tutorial on how to do it, which can be found here


    Step 6Portraits


    Ah, people. They can be fun to photograph. But to make them look like Megan Fox and not Ugly

    Betty, you will need to do a few things.

    When doing portraits, try to lower your f-stop number, and zoom in as much as you can at them. Ifthis means moving backwards away from your subject, do it (in most cases). The wider the aperture,

    the more background blur you are going to get. Also, the more zoomed in you are, the more

    background blur you are going to get. This emphasizes the subject by making the subject clear, and

    the background blurred. It draws your eye to their face and frees the picture from possible distractions.

    Another thing to do is try to focus on their eyes. The eyes are one of the key aspects of a picture. You

    want the sharpest eyes you can get, this greatly improves the quality of the picture (unfortunately my

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    subject was squinting while laughing, but I felt it added another aspect to it instead).

    Lighting is very important when taking portraits. Try to make sure that they don't have harsh

    shadows on the wall behind them if you use a flash. Also, try to diffuse your flash if you can. Skin tones

    should usually be kept softer so don't use harsh light.

    One of the most important aspects of shooting portraits, is to try to get to know your subject. There

    is an energy that can be created by a photograph, and trying to take pictures of people you don't really

    know, can be detrimental to the final result. Try to get the model relaxed and comfortable, and get to

    know who they are. Once you have that connection, then it's time to take pictures of them.

    Step 7Night Shots


    These are probably one of my favorite types of photos. Night shots can reveal the true color that a

    city has to offer. People often think that things lose their color when they are dark, but this is only

    because of the way the human eye works. In fact, colors are just as vibrant at night as they are during

    the day. Night shots can be dramatic and beautiful, but they can also be hard to shoot.

    When doing a night shot, your shutter speed will generally be anywhere from 5 seconds long, to 30

    seconds long (possibly more if you put it onto "bulb" mode). This is to let as much light in as possible.

    Because the shutter speed is so slow, a tripod is a must. When taking the picture, try to achieve the

    least shakyness that you can. To do this, not only use a tripod, but use either a remote, or the self

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    timer option on the camera. Try not to use the shutter button, as releasing it will shake the camera, and

    may ruin the shot with blurry streaks of lights. Set the camera on self timer, press the button, and walk

    away until the shot is complete.

    Another aspect of night photography is aperture. Having a narrow aperture can create stars around

    lights, which can often really improve a photograph. When I took this shot, not only did I want the entire

    bridge to be sharp and in focus, but I also wanted the lights on it to get these starry effects. Therefore I

    set it at f22 and a 30 second shutter speed.

    White balance used here is generally incandescent.

    Step 8Conclusion


    While there are many other fields of photography, not only do I feel I lack the expertise to really go

    into detail about them, but my hands are getting tired. Remember that the "Rules" that I talked about in

    this instructable are made to be broken, my only piece of advice is to master them before braking

    them. I hope you learned something from this instructable. I know I did not go into a lot of detail, but

    there are so many different aspects of photography that it can be hard to write about them all, so I just

    tried to keep it simple.

    Please feel free to rate it honestly, and to leave comments! Thanks!

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    Sport photo.

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    Night photo.

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    Shutter Speeds and Apertures

    Depth of Field explained. Panning at slow shutter speeds. Blurred pictures. Selective focus. Blur the

    background. Tricks and tips for working with shutter speeds and apertures.

    Shutter Speed

    Although, as discussed inexposure, the shutter speeds and apertures are interchangeable as far asexposure is concerned, they each have their own unique effect on the picture. Let's take a look at shutterspeeds first as their effect is easily understood. We'll look at apertures further down the page.

    The shorter the time that the shutter is open the sharper the photo will be.

    If you are photographing fast moving objects such as cars or people running you need to select fast shutter

    speeds to capture the sharpest picture you can. One exception to this is when you are panning the camera

    with the subject, the object of the exercise here is to render the subject sharply and blur the background, so

    a careful selection of the right shutter speed to do both is necessary. I often find that a little blur in the right

    places on a picture gives a greater sense of movement than if everything is pin sharp. This blur, however,

    must be in the right places, normally we want to see the head and torso rendered sharply but, if the feet

    and hands are blurred, it can often be a good thing. Blurring the background can also get you out of trouble

    when there is a lot of clutter that will detract from the main subject. Getting the shutter speed right to

    render the correct balance of sharpness and blur on any given subject can really only be determined through

    trial and error. One of the great advantages of the digital camera with it's instant playback is that this

    learning process can be a lot shorter than it was before. If you have a zoom facility on your playback of

    pictures, now is the time to get familiar with it. I had my digital camera for quite a while before I realized

    that I could review my pictures and zoom in to check the sharpness.

    Not only moving objects suffer from too slow a shutter speed. If you are holding the camera in your handrather than having it mounted on a tripod, you will see the telltale signs of 'camera shake' (i.e. themovement of the camera) at shutter speeds longer than 1/125th of a second. A secure pair of hands will beable to get away with 1/60th or even 1/30th of a second but the camera would be better mounted on a

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    tripod. Once again I will say at this point that the difference between a mistake and an effect is usually thedegree. A small amount of blur would be considered a mistake, whereas really blurred streaks oflightcan be an interesting effect. It's all a question of convincing the viewer that you intended to do it.

    Tip- When the shutter speed is important as with moving objects, it's a good idea to set the camera to

    'Shutter Speed Priority' mode. This is where you select the shutter speed and the camera selects theappropriate aperture according to the light reading.

    Of course, if you are taking photos of static objects like houses with a camera mounted on a sturdy tripod,you can leave the shutter open as long as you want without blurring. An interesting by-product of this, ifyou get to see really old photos taken in the first part of the 19th century, you will see that there are almostno people in the photos at all. That is because the exposure times were so long that the people had walkedthrough the scene without being rendered. For the same reason the really early pictures, in the time ofNipce, the late 1830's, have almost no shadows because the plates took all day to expose and the sunmoved across the sky illuminating the scene from both sides.

    Click here for an example of using different shutter speeds.


    As well as letting more or less light into the camera the size of the aperture you choose governs the 'Depthof Field'. Depth of field means the amount of the picture, from foreground to background, that is in sharpfocus. A smaller aperture will give you a greater depth of field and a larger aperture will give you a morerestricted depth of field. This characteristic can be used to good effect in many ways.

    If you are photographing vast landscapes on a sunny day, the chances are that everything will be in focusand you will not notice this phenomenon at all. Depth of field, or the lack of it, is much more noticeablewhen taking close-ups. As I mentioned in the section on moving subjects, it is often desirable to render thebackground of your picture out of focus. This is easy to achieve by selecting a larger aperture to restrict thedepth of field.

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    Conversely, when photographing very small objects (as in the picture opposite) getting everything in focuscan be quite a challenge and may require a very slow shutter speed in order to be able to use the smallestaperture available. The focal length of the lens makes a difference to the depth of field available, the longerthe lens the more restricted the depth of field. A wide angle lens will give you almost limitless depth of field.

    Tip - If depth of field is important to either make sure everything is in focus or to throw some things out offocus, select the 'Aperture Priority' mode on your camera. In this mode you select the aperture and the

    camera selects the shutter speed according to the available light.

    Tip - If you are shooting in bright light and want to restrict the depth of field, use a neutral density filter in

    front of the lens to reduce the light entering the lens. These are available in different densities, 2x, 4x, 8xetc. each one cutting the light in half, quarter, eighth etc. In extreme circumstances you can screw a couple

    of them together. Although they are 'neutral density' filters and should not effect the color balance, if youuse two or more together you might need a little color correction at the printing stage.

    Technical Stuff- Shutters Speeds and AperturesWhat do the numbers mean?

    If you look at the exposure display in your viewfinder you will see two numbers. On a normal sunny day youmight see something like '125 16' or '500 5.6'. The first number is the 'shutter speed' and is simply the timethat the shutter will be open for, expressed as a fraction of a second. So 125 means that the shutter will beopen for 1/125th of a second, and 500 means that it will be open for 1/500th of a second.

    The second number, sometimes referred to as the f-stop, tells you the size of the hole (aperture) in thelens. This number is also a fraction. The number represents the focal length of the lens divided by thediameter of the aperture. So an aperture that is 10mm in diameter in an 80mm lens will have an f-numberof f/8 and the setting f/16 on the same lens will be 5mm across.

    From this you can see that if you change the lens to one of, say, 160mm focal length then the size of the f8aperture will be 20mm. However, because the diaphragm is now twice the distance from the film the sameamount of light will reach the film. This is a bit complex but if you have a mathematical bent and you draw itall on paper you will see why (seeinverse square law). If not, just take my word for it. Now you can seethat a larger 'f' number, say f/16, is actually a smaller hole and lets in less light than f/8.

    Large aperture = small f number

    Small aperture = larger f number

    To make matters even more complicated, modern lenses, sophisticated beasts that they are, are not alwaysphysically the same as their focal length. So the good old f-stop acts as a nominal indicator of how muchlight will reach the film, rather than an accurate measurement of aperture size. This amount of light isindependent of the focal length of the lens.

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    Also see my tutorial - ISO rating for Film Speed

    Unbiased experts help you find the bestCanon digital camerabased on types of photos, budget, size, anddesired features.