(Last Updated On: July 18, 2019)

Using Your DSLR Camera

Most of today’s DSLR’s (Digital Single Reflex Camera) are similar but the buttons and controls can be found in different places, depending on brand and style. There are a lot of settings available for you to use to capture unique photos but while there are many settings to choose from, not all are completely understood before being used. It is important to know about what your camera’s settings so that you can choose the best one for what you are seeking to accomplish.  Now when there is an issue with our pictures not turning out the way we want, we need to go back and understand the basic modes, buttons, and settings in order to know your camera inside and out.

Basic Settings to Start Using Your Camera:

First off, read I got a fancy new camera, now what? for more detailed information on getting started with your camera.

Charged Camera Battery Make sure the batteries are charged.

Memory Card In Make sure you have a memory card.

Turn Camera On Turn your camera on.

Camera Modes Choose a “Mode” on Top

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Automatic Mode

When you set your camera to automatic you let the camera figure out the exposure for you, and if it requires a flash the flash will go off unless you set it to the no-flash auto mode. This most often used for simple point and shoot photography.

Program Mode

Your shutter speed and aperture are set by camera.  This mode is good for snapshots and when you don’t have time to adjust settings.

Shutter Priority Mode

You set the shutter speed, and the camera selects the best aperture.  This setting is good if you are trying to freeze or blur motion. Also the shutter priority mode is good when you are first getting used to your settings.

For more info see: Shutter Speed Settings or How to Adjust Your Shutter Speed

Aperture Mode

Here you get to choose the aperture, and the camera sets the shutter speed. If you want the background blurry or everything in focus (Depth of Field) this would be your best option. Also for any beginner photographers this mode will help you learn how to control the depth of field and put you at a good start above others.

For more info see: Aperture Setting

Manual Mode

With the manual mode you choose shutter speed and aperture yourself.  You can do this by holding down the +/- button and moving the dial until you are satisfied with your setting.

Effects or Scene Modes

These modes are for special effects and optimizing the settings for the scene being photographed.

Information Display Options:

Information Screen

About the information display: Information Display

Image Quality

File Format and Compression Ratio(Quality): Set to NORM

For more info see: Quality

Image Size

Measured in Pixels: Set to Large

For more info see: Megapixels, Pixels, Resolution

White Balance

Helps adjust the lighting and colors depending on the lighting: Set to Auto

For more info see: White Balance

ISO sensitivity

This adjusts the amount of light let into the camera and for the picture: Set to 400

For more info see: ISO Sensitivity

Release Mode

How the camera will take the picture: Set to Single frame

For more info see: Shutter Release Modes

Focus Mode

Changes how the camera will focus on subject: Set to AF-A

AF-area mode

What type of focus will be used for autofocus: Set to Auto-area AF

For more info see: Af-Area Mode


Sets exposure depending on the setting you choose: Set to Matrix Metering

For more info see: Metering

Active D-Lighting (Nikon)

Changes the difference of shadows and highlights: Set to OFF

Auto Bracketing

Takes pictures at different exposures: Set to OFF

For more info see: Bracketing Feature

Set Picture Control

Changes the color pallet: Set to Standard

Exposure Compensation

Compensates for lighting: Set to 0.0

For more info see: Exposure Compensation

Flash Compensation

Helps compensate for flash: Set to 0.0

Flash Mode

When the flash will be fired: Set to Normal


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