Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely a fan of my Canon EOS Rebel T3i‘s auto capabilities, as they usually yield a well-exposed and clear shot. But there is so much more to a DSLR camera than full Auto mode and Scene modes (Portrait mode, Landscape mode, etc.), and to not utilize and take advantage of its amazing tools would be like shooting with a very expensive ‘point and shoot.’ When you learn to use these features you will notice that your shots get even better! If you are not yet ready to leap into full Manual mode but are in need of getting a bit more familiar and adventurous with your dslr, here is my list of 10 Tips for Better DSLR Photography (use your camera’s manual in conjunction with these tips, as camera brand mechanics vary):
1. Use your camera’s Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes (great stepping stones towards learning how to shoot in full Manual mode)
If Manual mode sounds daunting to you at this point, your camera can ease you in gently with Aperture Priority mode and Shutter Priority mode, also known as the semi-manual or semi-auto modes (Note: Some pros prefer to shoot mostly in Aperture Priority mode, while others prefer Manual mode). Aperture is the size of the opening in the lens when you are taking a picture, and determines the amount of light let into the camera. In Aperture Priority mode (often indicated by the symbol ‘A’ or ‘Av’ on your camera), you control the size of your aperture while the camera takes care of the shutter speed, yielding a well-exposed photo.
Shutter speed is the length of time that the shutter of your camera remains open when you are taking a picture, allowing light to hit your camera’s sensor (it’s also known as exposure time). In Shutter Priority mode (often indicated by the symbol ‘S’ or ‘Tv’ on your camera), you can manually control your shutter speed while your camera automatically takes care of the aperture size in an effort to give you a well-exposed photo.
What can you do with these modes?
Aperture Priority mode is a favorite of mine. I adore taking photographs where the subject or portion of the subject is clearly in focus while the background is dreamy and blurred. This is known as having a shallow DOF (depth of field). I achieve this look by setting my aperture to a large size (indicated by a lower f-number). Shallow DOF works well for portraits, food photography, and still life photos. If you set your aperture to a smaller size (indicated by a greater f- number) you can achieve what is known as deep DOF, where both the foreground and background are crisp, clear and in focus. You’ll want to use deep DOF for landscape shots.
Folks generally use Shutter Priority mode when they wish to capture movement in a particular way. They use a fast shutter speed to “freeze” a fast-moving object in time. A slower shutter speed would show the motion progression, yielding a blurred image of the subject.