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How to use your "fancy" new Camera

Updated: May 22, 2019

a new Camera

So you just got yourself a new and expensive camera that you can use to up your photography game. Well, you made the right decision because despite the fact that phone cameras are really good nowadays, nothing compares to the amazing things you can capture with a proper camera. So, I'm super excited for you to embark on your new photography journey!

Let's get to it

So there are 3 things for you to learn first. shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. This is the foundation of learning to use your camera in manual mode. So turn the dial on the top of you camera to the big "M" and read on!

Shutter Speed

This is exactly what it sounds like. How fast the shutter opens and closes. The longer the shutter is open, the longer light is let into your camera, therefore the longer it takes you to take your picture. Generally, you just want to keep your shutter speed not too long and not too quick. Just remember that the longer your shutter is open, the more light is let into you camera, thus creating a brighter picture. Also, the longer you shutter is open, the more blur there will be when something in the frame moves. So always be carful that your shutter speed is not to slow, that way you're pictures won't look like you forgot to put you glasses on.

Once you get comfortable with the use of shutter speed, you can begin to manipulate and change it to make creative decisions when taking photographs.

Purposely using a long shutter speed to imply movement in the water. Photo by Joshua Zang

Purposely using a fast shutter speed to freeze movement. This is used in sports and action photography.


This one is a little more complicated to understand at first, but please stick with me! its SO important and I promise it's not very hard once you get used to it!

If you turn your camera around and look into the lens, you will see a small hole in the middle of it. That hole can get bigger and smaller. Whether that hole is bigger or smaller can really change your image.

Whether the hole is big or small determines what we call the "depth of field." That is a fancy term for how much of your picture is in focus. Put even more simply, aperture determines whether your background is blurry or not. Here's what you need to know about the aperture.

The lower the aperture number, the bigger the hole. The bigger the hole, the blurrier the background.

The higher the aperture number, the smaller the hole. The smaller the hole, the more in focus the background becomes.

It's a little confusing at first, but just take some time to repeat it in your head and really think about it. If you do that, it becomes really simple.

So what does this mean for my photography in simple terms?

It means that lower apertures, AKA a bigger hole, is better for taking beautiful pictures of people with blurry backgrounds.

This is a picture I took with a very low aperture (1.8). AKA, a really big hole.

And bigger apertures, AKA smaller hole, is better for landscape shots or locations where you want the subject and the background to be sharp and in focus.

Here is a self-portrait I took while in New Mexico. I used a larger aperture (11) so that everything was in focus. AKA, a really small hole.


This one is simple. While shutter speed and aperture change your picture before the photo is taken, ISO changes your photo right after your photo is taken (Right after the light that makes up the photo hits the camera sensor).

ISO artificially makes your photo brighter right after you click the shutter button and take the picture. Think of it as the brighteness slider when you are editing your phone photos in an app.

Put simply, the higher your ISO is, the brighter your picture will come out. This is a good feature to have when you're are taking a picture in lower light situations, such as when your are indoors or it's closer to night time. But keep in mind that you want to be really careful with ISO because the higher you set it, the noisier and worse your photos will look. You can ruin great photos by setting your ISO too high; or is some situations, forgetting about the ISO altogether.

A simple rule of thumb, keep the ISO as low as you can. Take your ISO higher very sparingly.

For me, I always start with my ISO set to 100. I only set it higher when I need to. Because of this, it can be easy for me to forget about it all together. While it might not be as pressing as the shutter speed and aperture, don't forget about it!

how they work together

Whenever you change one of these settings, it affects the way you need to set another. here are a few examples of what I mean.

Example: It is a little later in the day, so there is less light. You want to take pictures at a local soccer game. It is a little dark and you know that your subjects will be moving around a lot.

Solution: Because your subjects are going to move around a lot, you have no other choice but to have a higher shutter speed. Because of this, less light will enter your camera and your picture will be really dark. To fix this, you lower your aperture (big hole). This lets more light in so that your picture is not as dark. It is still a little too dark, so you carefully raise your ISO until you are happy with the brightness of your photograph.

Example: It is a nice sunny day. The clouds are covering the sun, so it is bright but the light is not harsh. It is a beautiful day to take photos of your friend.

Solution: This is the ideal situation. You want to take nice portraits of your friend with a blurry background. You need to set your aperture low (big hole) to make the background blurry.I usually go as low as the lens can go when taking portraits. Because it is bright, you can afford to keep your ISO low. Set your ISO to the lowest setting possible. Lastly, set your shutter speed to whatever looks good. If the picture looks too bright, make your shutter speed faster. If the picture looks too dark, make it slower. Just remember not to make it too slow or your friend will look blurry because of movement.

Example: You want to take a picture of the beautiful landscape in front of you. It is a nice day.

Solution: You want everything to be in focus, so you want your aperture to be on the higher end (small hole). Make sure to not put your aperture too high, because this can make your picture less sharp (it's a lens thing). Keep it around 8-11if you can. Set your ISO to as low as you can. Set your shutter speed to whatever looks best. Simple! In this situation, and for landscapes in general, it is a great idea to get a tripod. This way you can set your shutter speed to a slower setting because there will be no movement from your hands shaking and landscapes usually don't move. (A tripod can allow you to get creative with your shutter speed and set it lower on purpose like with the picture of the water above).

Of course, this is just 3 situations out of many you can run into. But you get what I mean right?

So how do i change these?

Changing these settings looks a little different on each camera brand. All I can tell you is that your camera probably makes it fairly easy for you the change these setting while on the fly during a photoshoot. My best advice is to look at your user manual (I know, ew) or simply type in how to change "blank setting" on your specific camera into google. Google is usually way faster...

Stay tuned

Watch out for my next blog. It will be a companion to this one and I will give a lot of quick tips to help you make the most of your new expensive camera.


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