Digital SLRs - Help for Beginners

Buying a Digital SLR and using it as you would a simple point and shoot digital camera will make little difference to how your photos look.

It is only when you learn how to use the controls and features on offer that you will start to create that "Wow" look in your photos. Sure if you are using a good quality lens your pictures may look slightly sharper. Even then, that advantage is negligible if you only view your photos as small prints or as small images on a computer screen.

The big difference comes when you start to learn what the different features can do for you and what difference using one lens instead of another can make. Therefore if you go to the expense of buying a Digital SLR you will also need to invest time in learning about its features to get the most out of it.

For someone who has never used a DSLR before or perhaps is moving up from a simple 'point and shoot' camera, it can be quite bewildering. Manufacturers have therefore tried to incorporate a lot of aids into their cameras to help beginners learn what all the various features and functions do and how they can be used creatively to improve your pictures.

digital slrs

In Camera Guides

Nikon, in particular, have tried to make their entry-level cameras easier to understand and use. The 'guide mode', introduced on the D3000 and continued with its successor the D3100, allows the choice of 'easy operation', where the user can select a type of picture they want, such as close-ups, moving subjects or landscapes and the camera sets an appropriate combination of aperture and shutter speed, or 'advanced operation', which allows more control over apertures to soften backgrounds or over shutter speed to freeze motion. Both modes are accompanied with lots of description about what the camera is doing, helping to deepen the user's understanding.

Canon have gone for a less comprehensive system in their entry-level DSLRs, such as the 1100D, but their 'creative auto' mode allows simple choices over making the background blurred or sharp and making your picture lighter or darker. This gives the opportunity to adjust aperture or shutter speed, without needing to understand what the camera is doing 'behind the scenes'.

Digital SLR Guide Pages

Digital SLR Basics
Digital SLRs and Digital Cameras Key Differences
Digital SLR or Compact System Cameras
Digital SLR Handling
Help for Beginners

Lenses and Accessories
Buying a Camera Lens
Memory Cards
Digital SLR Accessories

Learn More About Features
Resolution and Sensor Size
Sensor Cleaning
Manual Exposure Modes
ISO Range
White Balance
Auto Focus
Drive Modes
Scene Modes
Help With Tricky Lighting
Metering Modes
RAW Mode
Live View and Articulated Screens
Flash Options
Movie Modes
Depth of Field Preview Button
Image Stabilisation
Mirror Lockup

Current and Recommended Models
Summary of Current Models
Recommended Digital SLRs

Digital SLR Guide Author
This guide was written by Ian Younger

Using Your Digital SLR for the First Time

If you do find all the controls daunting at first then there is no harm in starting off with your camera in program auto mode. You can look to add in the more advanced features as you progress.

As one of the major advantages of buying a Digital SLR is the range of features on offer for fine tuning the way your photos look it is a great shame if you don't take advantage of those features. It can take time to build the necessary knowledge to fully understand how the different features can benefit you, but you will be well rewarded if you take some time to do so. It is also important to remember learning about how a Digital SLR operates is not a race and you can learn at your own pace and in your own time.

Getting Extra Help

No matter how much help and guide information is built into your Digital SLR to really get the most out of your investment it is a good idea to consider taking a photography course as a quick way to get you up and running. If a course is expensive for you then there are some very good photography books around.

Here are three highly rated books that can help you take better pictures and get more enjoyment from your photography.

The first book is Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. This book is ideal for beginners. Although the book provides you with plenty of technical information about shutter speeds, aperture size and the relationship between them it is written in a way that makes this information very easy to absorb. There are a lot of example photos in the book that are discussed. So as well as picking up technical knowledge you can also start to build ideas for your own picture taking.

Next comes the Collins Complete Photography Course. This book has a number of step-by-step projects on exposure, aperture, lenses, light, filters, colour, black and white and image enhancement; plus some professional secrets. You will also get a lot of help on improving the composition of your photos.

The third book is Digital Photography Step by Step. Tom Ang has a wonderful way of explaining quite complex subjects in a simple yet meaningful way. That makes this book ideal for a beginner who is looking to get to grips with a Digital SLR and move their photography to a whole new level.