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Learn How To Use Your DSLR Camera With This Easy Photography Tutorial | WholeLifestyleNutrition.comOver ten years ago, I got my first SLR camera.  Back then they didn’t have digital and they were simply called SLR cameras.  Today we have digitalized everything including DSLR cameras.  This allows us to practice, practice, practice at no additional cost.  

I did not have that freedom to practice 10 years ago, because film was so expensive and you just took a photo and hoped it turned out.  

I was shocked when my first roll of film was all blurry and out of focus.  The lighting was all off and these were quite frankly the worst pictures I had ever taken.  I had heard so much about how wonderful these cameras were!  What was I doing wrong?  I became so overwhelmed that I put the camera on the shelf and didn’t touch it again.  

Ten years has passed and I decided to take another whirl with the DSLR cameras.  So I dove into learning how to use these amazing cameras.  You know once I started to learn a little here and a little there, they didn’t seem so hard to use after all.  

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Over the course of the next few weeks, I am going to share some tips to help you better understand and use your DSLR camera.

Understanding The Exposure Triangle 


To help you understand your camera better we must first tackle what the exposure triangle is.  The exposure triangle is the relationship between 3 elements: ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture.  Once you understand these 3 elements, you will have a much clearer understanding of how your camera works!   

Refer to this diagram as we  discuss the three elements in The Exposure Triangle 

Learn How To Use Your DSLR Camera With This Easy Photography Tutorial |

image courtesy of 

1.  ISO


ISO is a measure of how sensitive the sensor is to light.  Look at the table above.  The lower the ISO number the more light you have.  So if you were shooting outside on a sunny day then you would shoot with your camera on a low ISO setting, most likely 100.  This will create a clear, crisp picture.  If you are working indoors in lower light you would have to adjust your ISO to allow more light to the sensor.  A lot of my food pictures that I shoot at night I shoot at an 800 ISO to compensate for the lack of light in the room.

Keep in mind that every camera is different and you must practice with your camera to see where your cameras sweet spot is in regards to ISO.  An ISO of 800 is fine for my DSLR, but anything larger starts to become grainy.  

When adjusting the ISO, always remember that a  higher ISO comes at a cost.  The higher the ISO, the grainer the picture will become.  I try to shoot all of my pictures on the lowest ISO possible.  

The picture on the left was shot with my iPhone.  Take a look at how grainy the picture is. It was shot with an ISO of 640 (I know it isn’t on the diagram, but it is somewhere between the 400 and 800) and clearly this was to high of an ISO for the device I was using.  Now the picture to the right of that was shot with an ISO 200.  Look how crisp the picture is.  Can you see the difference?

Learn How To Use Your DSLR Camera With This Easy Photography Tutorial | WholeLifestyleNutrition.comLearn How To Use Your DSLR Camera With This Easy Photography Tutorial |


image on left has ISO of 640, image on right ISO 200

2.  Shutter Speed 


Shutter speed is the amount of time the shutter is open.  Shutter speed is how fast or slow the camera records the picture.  The slower the shutter speed the more light that gets to the sensor.  The faster the shutter speed, the less light that gets to the sensor.  

Shutter speed allows you to freeze any motion in a picture (action shot) or to blur any motion in a picture (waterfall).  When I take pictures of my daughter at her soccer game, I want to freeze the action of the soccer ball mid air.  This is done by using a fast shutter speed.  If I am shooting a waterfall and I want it to have a blurred motion,  I need more light to get to the sensor so I am going to slow my shutter speed down to create the blurred effect.  

Keep in mind, you can hold your camera for anything that falls above 1/50.  If you reduce your shutter speed below 1/50 then you will need to use a tripod for that picture so it won’t be blurry.  This can vary greatly from camera to camera, so play around with your camera to see when you need to use a tripod.

    Learn How To Use Your DSLR Camera With This Easy Photography Tutorial | WholeLifestyleNutrition.comJanet's Foss at Malham Cove
shutter speed on left is 1/640, shutter speed on right is 1 sec image By tallpomlin

3.  Aperture  


Aperture is the size of the opening in the lens when the picture is taken.  Aperture is measured in f-stops (f/1.8, f/2.8, f/3.5, f/4, f/5.6, f/6.3, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22…).  The lower the number (f/1.8) the larger the opening in the lens or the more light that gets to the sensor.  The larger the number (f/22) the smaller the opening in the lens or the less light that gets to the sensor.  
The aperture controls what is in focus in a picture.  Below is a picture of 2 bobble-heads (I know, it was all I had to shoot at that moment)! 😉  The picture on the left has a very low aperture number, f/2.8 or a very large opening in the lens.  It has a very shallow depth of field.  Notice how the bobble-head on the left is barely noticeable because I have chose to blur it out so that the focus is on the bobble head on the right.  
Now the picture to the right of this has an aperture f/6.3 or a smaller opening.  Notice how the bobble-head on the left of the second picture is a little bit more in focus.  It has a little bigger depth of field.  As I increase the f-stop number, the clearer it will become.  Keep in mind that in both of these pictures I have focused on the bobble head on the right.

    Learn How To Use Your DSLR Camera With This Easy Photography Tutorial | WholeLifestyleNutrition.comLearn How To Use Your DSLR Camera With This Easy Photography Tutorial |

    left picture f/2.8, right picture f/6.3
Here is the same photo at a f/11.  Notice how much clearer the picture is.  It has a bigger depth of field.  Also pay close attention where your eye goes.  
I don’t know about you but my clear focus has been taken away from the bobble-head on the right in this picture.  In fact I really don’t know where to focus my attention in this picture.
Can you see now how aperture can help you define what you want your audience to see?

Learn How To Use Your DSLR Camera With This Easy Photography Tutorial |

aperture f/11 

How ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture Work Together


Lets look at this diagram to learn a little more about how all 3 of these elements work together to create a picture.

Learn How To Use Your DSLR Camera With This Easy Photography Tutorial |

image courtesy of 

As we look at this diagram you can see that 3 of these elements depend on one another.  You can not isolate one, they all need to work together. 

An example would be if you are creating a more shallow depth of field then you are allowing more light to come into your picture.  You will have to either adjust the shutter speed or ISO to compensate for the change in light.  

Don’t worry, this will be a later lesson.  We will get to manual mode after we have done a little bit of homework and some exercises to help you better understand how it all comes together.

 Here is a great video that explains it all so well! 



Now It’s Your Turn to Practice!


Ok, so now you know a little bit about ISO, shutter speed and aperture.  Now it is time to practice. If you are just starting out with your DSLR, I highly recommend that you start practicing by using your Aperture Priority mode (AV for Canon and A for Nikons) and Shutter Priority mode (TV for Canon and S for Nikon). You can change this through the mode dial at the top of your camera.

Learn How To Use Your DSLR Camera With This Easy Photography Tutorial | 

Shooting in Aperture Priority


If you are shooting on aperture priority mode you will be setting the aperture and the camera will automatically set the ISO and shutter speed.

Note if you want the ISO to set automatically make sure you have it on auto in your settings.  Just press the ISO button, hold it down and use the black main dial on top of your camera to move it to auto (this button is usually closest to your shutter button that you push to take a picture, see picture below). Check your manual for further instructions if needed.

Learn How To Use Your DSLR Camera With This Easy Photography Tutorial |

image courtesy of 

To change the aperture, use the same black main dial on top of your camera to adjust the aperture. Look at the picture below to see where the aperture is located on your cameras LCD screen.

Shooting in Shutter Priority


If you are shooting in Shutter Priority mode, then you set the shutter speed and the camera will automatically set the ISO and aperture for you (again, be sure that you have the auto select for your ISO).  

To change the shutter speed, use the same black main dial on top of your camera to adjust the shutter speed (see picture above).  Look at the picture below to see where the shutter speed is located on your LCD screen.

Pay close attention to the three areas we discussed above and notice how they work together and how they change in different situations.  This allows you to get some practice with selecting aperture and shutter speeds and will help you become more familiarized with your camera. 

Learn How To Use Your DSLR Camera With This Easy Photography Tutorial |

That’s It!  That’s Not So Hard Right?


So that is it!  Now this week start practicing shooting in these two modes and again play close attention to the aperture, ISO and the shutter speed and how they work together.  

You’re one step closer to shooting in manual mode, just a few more steps and you are there!  When you shoot in manual mode, you have the freedom to create the pictures that you are envisioning.

Next week we will dive into learning how to shoot on manual mode!  Until then…

More Great Photography Post ~ Photography, Equipment, Props & More 


Click here to view our Entire Series of Food Photography, Equipment, Props & More! 

Oh and one more thing, check out this awesome tasty food photography book.  It is hands down my favorite photography book!!

 Want To Learn Even More About Food Photography

Tasty Food Photography eBookHere is one of my favorite e-books that really dives into a lot of great stuff. Lindsey over at Pinch of Yum has the most gorgeous photos!  In this e-book, she has tackles technical tips, composition tips, lighting tips, prop and set up tips, editing tips and general workflow tips.  There are instructional videos to easily walk you through learning the whole process!  Wether you are brand new to photography or have experience…this book is for everyone! Learn more here!



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22 thoughts on “Learn How To Use Your DSLR Camera With This Easy Photography Tutorial!”

  1. glutenfreejudee says:

    Not only was this post helpful, it was better than a 3 hour intro class that I took last month. Thank you so much. I returned the camera because I was so overwhelmed. I’ll keep reading your posts and maybe try again. Thanks.

    1. hallecottis says:

      @glutenfreejudee I am so glad you found it helpful!  I totally understand being overwhelmed….I put my first dslr away for 10 years before I regained the courage to try again.  Once I dove into it, I realized that I could easily help others understand how these cameras work.  They really are quite easy to use once you get some practice.  Thanks for you feedback :)

  2. catrina1 says:

    ho scoperto il tuo meraviglioso blog da pochi giorni , ti faccio i  complimenti per il modo semplice in cui dai consigli di fotografia
    Ho preso una reflex nikon d3000  da poche settimane e sto cercando di imparare a far foto decenti, grazie ancora continuo a seguirti con piacere

    1. hallecottis says:

      @catrina1Sono così felice di aver trovato il nostro blog, benvenuto! Sai con un po ‘di pratica potrete vedere rapidamente come meraviglioso e facile queste telecamere sono da usare! :) Fateci sapere se avete qualunque domande lungo la strada.

  3. Carrie23 says:

    This make so much sense!  I can’t believe that it has taken me so long to “really” understand my camera!  Thank you!

  4. greenthickies says:

    I thought I had figured out just what I needed with my camera but as the light in Scotland is so dark even during the limited daytime hours my photos have become rubbish lately.  (Even with a tripod) I think I really need to save up for a lightbox.  
    Thank you so much for this very helpful series.  I will really need to have a practice again with this new knowledge!

  5. Jessica says:

    Thank you so much for posting such an awesome tutorial!!!  I was lucky enough to find a Canon DSLR camera under my Christmas tree this year and I want to make sure I learn how to use it the way it was meant to be used… not like a really expensive point and shoot.  Your tutorial was incredibly informative without talking over my head or talking down to me…  I will be back for more!

    1. hallecottis says:

      Oh Jessica I am so glad you found this useful!  That was my whole purpose, to help others feel at ease with their cameras :)  Let me know if you should have any questions while you are learning…I will see if I can help out!  Yeah on the new Christmas gift, you will LOVE it!!

  6. Sheri L. Walz-Schlondrop says:

    i have a lumix that i don’t have a clue how to use other than point and click-hope this article opens avenues.

  7. Kxliew827 says:

    It’s an amazing and useful tutorial for me. Thank you so much. I really like it!!!!!

  8. Johnny T says:

    Thanks for this quick tutorial. The camera I just inherited was my grandfathers.It’s a 35mm SLR Minolta Maxxum. This tutorial worked just as great for the SLR as I’m sure it does for DSLR. I take B&W photography with the SLR because I love the aura, grain, and roughness that printed film gives over digital. I use an app on my phone that gives me DSLR controls for my stock phone camera, and this tutorial has helped me take better images with it (though I’m still a noob at photography). Bookmarked for future reference for sure!

  9. vanessa says:

    Your tutorial has been the most helpful guide that I’ve found on pinterest and I’ve been searching for 6 months since getting my Canon DSLR for Mother’s Day. It is written in a manner that makes sense to how I process information. The link or embedded video you mentioned after the Exposure Triangle isn’t working. Can you reply with the link?
    Thank you!

    1. Halle Cottis says:

      So glad you found it useful. Here is the link to the video

  10. mohsen says:

    tank yooooooooooooooooooooooooooou

  11. Premkumar says:

    For DSLR beginners your step by step and comparison explanation was excellent, I am having an Nikon D7100, and not able to use properly. Provided detail’s are more helpful for me, and This week end i am planning to go Zoo with my kid, and make more creative snaps.


  12. Carl Matthew Lozano says:

    I really want to know how a subject becomes more focused and the background is all a blur. How’s that? And also, when I put my camera in Bulb, the images become shaky and I don’t know how to change it as well as the crispiness of an image? How?. Thanks!

    1. Halle Cottis says:

      Hey Carl,

      The background can be altered by playing with your aperture. The lower the aperture, the more blurred out the background. Try shooting without bulb and in full manual mode. That allows you to control the light better. I rarely use a flash or bulb, I just adjust the settings in manual mode to reflect the light in different ways.

  13. Robin Sharp says:

    Really great tutorial for dSLR camera EXPOSURE.
    Being totally deaf, I really appreciate the full and clear captions/subtitles on the video.

    1. Halle Cottis says:

      Happy to help! Thanks for the feedback. :)

  14. Ninad Kashilkar says:

    Thank you so much for basic tips, but most important for new user of DSLR camera. Can you share more technics like lens selection camera maintenance etc, it will really help all.

    NInad V Kashilkar

  15. lunay Jose26 says:

    This was extremely helpful for someone who is trying to learn the basics of a DSLR, everything was so perfectly explained and not just thrown into a heap of chaos knowledge.

    1. Halle Cottis says:

      Glad you found it useful!

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