September 3, 2010

Photography Tutorial: A Quick Guide to Understanding Your DSLR Camera

Hi guys! With Labor Day weekend coming up, I know a lot of us are going to be out there taking pictures! :) Since we have a long weekend to practice, I wanted to share with you this basic intro to SLR photography. If you have an SLR camera and are nervous to take it out of auto mode, this is the tutorial for you. You may have heard words like aperture, exposure, and shutter speed and wondered just how on earth they come together to give you a better photo. I’ll give you a brief introduction on what they do and how they affect your photos turning out too bright, too dark, too blurry or JUST RIGHT. :) This guide will show you how to get the most out of your SLR camera and give you confidence to take it out of auto mode in no time!

Photography Tutorial
Left: Canon T2i. Right: Nikon D40.

To start, let’s put your camera in Aperture Priority mode or Shutter Priority mode. On a Canon, this is AV or TV. On a Nikon, this may be represented as A or S.

Photography Tutorial

1. Aperture Priority

Let’s talk a little bit about Aperture. On both cameras above, the aperture is set to 5.6.

Photos taken with a low aperture let in more light, allowing you to take pictures in situations where there is not much light (like indoors and at night).

A low aperture will also give you a shallow depth of field. You know, the photos where one thing is in focus and the background is blurred?

Photography Tutorial

Canon 50mm f/1.8
1/200 sec
ISO 800

In the photo above, the aperture was set to 1.8, a low aperture. One earring is in focus, the rest is blurred.

Top of the Rock NYC Skyline

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8
1/60 sec
ISO 100

In this picture, the aperture was set to 16, a high aperture, allowing everything to be in focus. However, when you take pictures with a high aperture, you need to have a lot of light, like outside during the day.

Note: Depending on what lens you have, you may not be able to set your aperture much lower than 3.5. And at 3.5, you may not be able to achieve much of a blurred background. If you like the blurred background look, you might consider purchasing a lens with a low aperture.

Now you try!

Turn the dial on your camera so that you are shooting in Aperture Priority mode. That means that you will be setting the Aperture, and the camera will automatically adjust the shutter speed. The camera will attempt to give you a correct shutter speed so that your photo turns out just right- not too bright, not too dark.

Set your aperture. In most cases, you can change the aperture by turning that little black dial on top of the camera, but double-check your manual if you can’t find it.

Set it to a low aperture if you want a blurred background, or a high aperture if you want everything to be in focus.

Photography Tutorial
Left: Canon XSi. Right: Nikon D40.

Look on the LCD screen of your camera for a grid that looks like the image above. That’s your exposure. The exposure determines if the picture is too bright or too dark. Usually when it’s set to 0, that’s just right. In Aperture Priority mode, it will always stay at 0 unless you specifically tell it to move. (Check your manual for setting the exposure compensation.) If you tell it to move higher (to the right of the 0) the picture will be brighter. If you tell it to move lower (to the left of the 0), the picture will be darker.

Try taking a few pictures in Aperture Priority mode with the exposure set to 0. If the pictures need to be brighter, move your exposure to the right a few notches, until it looks right to you. I like bright pictures, so my exposure is usually set above 0! :)

Photography Tutorial

Note: Be sure to keep an eye on your shutter speed as you do this. See the number 125 in the picture above? That number represents the shutter speed. As a general rule of thumb, you don’t really want to let the shutter speed get below 50, unless you have an extremely steady hand. If the shutter speed gets below 50, the camera cannot take the picture fast enough to compensate for the shakiness in your hands, so the picture will be blurry. If the shutter speed is getting low, try using a tripod or table to steady the camera, or lean against a wall, door frame, or tree to steady yourself.

If you find it difficult to get a high enough shutter speed when trying to take pictures inside, you can try setting your ISO higher…

2. Let’s talk about ISO real quick

The lower your ISO (100-200), the smaller amount of light your camera will use. So if it’s a really bright sunny day and you’re taking pictures outside, set your ISO to 100. The higher you set your ISO, the more light your camera will use. So if you’re trying to take a picture inside without a flash, and need more light, you can try setting your ISO to 800 or higher to see if you can get a high enough shutter speed to hand hold your camera. The catch with using a high ISO is that it makes your pictures pretty grainy, and it shows up REALLY bad in reds and oranges, so I always try to use the lowest ISO possible.

3. Shutter Priority

Now turn the dial on your camera so that you are shooting in Shutter Priority mode. That means you will be setting the shutter speed, and the camera will be adjusting the aperture. Shutter speed is how fast the camera records the picture.

Photography Tutorial

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8
1/4 sec
ISO 100

In the photo above, the shutter speed was set to 4. That’s a slow shutter speed, allowing me to capture the movement of the water. A tripod was used to take this photo.

Photography Tutorial

Canon 70-200mm f/4L
1/640 sec
ISO 200

In this photo, the shutter speed was set to 640. That’s a fast shutter speed, allowing me to stop my boston terrier (and the water!) in his tracks!

To change your shutter speed, you will probably use the same little black dial you used to change your aperture. When set in Shutter Priority mode, the dial will control your shutter speed. Turn it to the left for a slower shutter speed and to the right for a faster one. I generally keep my shutter speed around 125 when taking portraits of something that’s going to be relatively still. If there’s movement, you might want to go higher.

Note: Be sure to keep an eye on your aperture as your change your shutter speed. If your aperture number starts flashing, that means that the shutter speed you selected is too high to or too low to correctly expose the picture.

If it’s too high, that means you don’t have enough light, and the aperture can’t go any lower to allow in more light and your image will be too dark. You need to lower your shutter speed until the aperture number stops flashing. That means the picture will be correctly exposed again. (You can also try increasing your ISO to compensate.)

In rare cases, your shutter speed may be too low (say you’re trying to take a picture of a waterfall in bright sunlight). That means you have too much light, and your image will be too bright. You need to set your shutter speed higher until the aperture number stops flashing for the picture to be correctly exposed. (You can also try decreasing your ISO to compensate.)

4. Focusing

Photography Tutorial
Canon 85mm f/1.8
1/250 sec
ISO 400

If you’re having trouble getting your camera to focus on exactly what you want it to focus on, you might want to take a look at the AF Selection. If you’re shooting with a low aperture, this can sometimes be a real problem. Have you ever taken a picture and the camera focused on the background, and not the subject?

Check your manual on how to set the AF Area or Auto-Focus Area. If your camera is set to “auto selection“, your camera will attempt to “guess” what you’re trying to focus on, and automatically choose what it thinks you want. I get a lot of out-of-focus shots that way! Sometimes I like to change my camera to “Manual Point Selection“. That means the camera will always focus on one spot. I set mine to focus right in the middle, but you can change it to any point, whichever one you feel most comfortable with.

When set to Manual Point Selection, your camera will always focus in that one spot. If you press the shutter button halfway down and look through the viewfinder, the focus point you selected should highlight, and you will probably hear your lens focusing. That means your lens is focused on that one spot. Now sometimes, just because it’s focused in that one spot, doesn’t mean the picture is framed exactly how you want it. Just keep the shutter button pressed halfway down and move your camera until the picture is framed the way you want it. (Just don’t move any closer or further away from the subject! :)) Then press the shutter the rest of the way to take the pic. With practice you will be able to do this very quickly, and you’ll always know exactly what you’re focused on.

5. Manual Mode!

You’re almost there! Get a lot of practice shooting in Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority. Some people will say that Aperture Priority mode is better than Shutter Priority mode and you should never use Shutter Priority. I disagree- they are both there for a reason and can be very useful in their own ways in different situations. With practice, you’ll learn which situations call for which shooting modes. Is a nice background blur or having everything in focus more important? Use Aperture Priority. Is capturing speed more important? Use Shutter Priority.

After mastering Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority, it’s not that much of a leap to go to fully Manual Mode! To shoot in Manual mode, turn the dial on the top of your camera to M. Check your manual to see which buttons now control you shutter speed and aperture.

Photography Tutorial
Left: Canon XSi. Right: Nikon D40.

After all your practice in Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority, you are probably familiar with what shutter speeds and apertures you prefer. Now you can put them together! When changing the shutter speed and aperture, be sure to keep an eye on your exposure. You normally want to keep your exposure right around 0. Again, most of the time, I keep mine between 0 and 1 because I like brighter pictures. :)

6. Recommendations

Any number of shutter speeds and apertures will get you a “correct” exposure of 0. Which one should you use? The book Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson is a great resource. After you’ve mastered Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes, get this book and read it cover to cover. It gave me a deeper understanding of my camera and SLR photography, and explained everything in small words that I could understand! It also gives real life analogies that just made things I had previously heard, but not yet grasped, *click*. I noticed an overall improvement in my photography from day one.

One of my all-time favorite lenses is the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lens. It’s a prime lens, which means it does not zoom in and out at all. This was hard for me to understand until I got my first prime lens. But it doesn’t move at all! :) If you want to zoom in or zoom out on your subject you have to move closer or further with your feet! :) It’s a great lens for taking pictures indoors, because the low aperture (1.8) will let in a lot of light. The low aperture will also give you a beautiful blurred background.

Photography Tutorial

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8
1/500 sec
ISO 100

7. What’s in my camera bag?

Photos taken on use the following equipment.

Canon 7D. My camera. I upgraded from the XTi and I couldn’t be happier. The white balance is excellent! And the auto-ISO feature is so convenient. It can also take 8 pictures per second, which is fun when taking pics of our two boston terriers.

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. This is what I call my “go-to” lens. It’s the lens I take with me when traveling. When I can only have one lens, and I’m not sure what kind lighting or space situation I’ll be up against, this is the lens I want in my arsenal.

Canon 50mm f/1.8 and Canon 85mm f/1.8. I normally use these two lenses for portraits and food photos. The low aperture gives me that super-blurred background, and allows me to take pictures in low-light situations (like my kitchen!). The 85mm zooms in a little closer than the 50mm, which means I have to be farther away from the subject than I do when shooting with the 50. So if space is an issue, I use the 50. If space is not an issue, I use the 85, because it gives a slightly blurrier background than the 50.

Got it? 50. 85. Okay.

So, those are my favs, but I do have a few more. :) See our Amazon Store for my complete Camera Lenses & Equipment Info. The most updated equipment info can always be found there!


Have a great Labor Day Weekend! :) We’re going white water rafting with some friends… it’s my first time. Wish me luck!! I’ll be back on Monday with a follow-up to our Chicago pics.. where we ATE! :) Including my favorite place we ate all weekend.

Give this tutorial a try over the long holiday weekend, and show me your pictures when you get back! :) Talk soon!

See More Posts About: Photography TutorialsTutorials


Debi September 3, 2010 at 8:35 am

Thank you SO MUCH for posting this! I have a new Nikon D-90 and haven’t learned to use it yet. This is a great tutorial to get me started! THANK YOU!!!! :)


amanda October 19, 2013 at 5:00 pm

I loved my D-90 I have the D 7000 and I just feel more love for the D-90. Keep playing with it you will love it.

Mike April 30, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Just got me Nikon P100 and not very familiar with DSLR camera’s. I’m more use to Canon 55mm old style or Sony Cyber Shot ,which I never like much. Your article has help me to better understand all the switch,button and gizmo settings to get great pictures .. Thx
Michael Lee

Jennifer September 3, 2010 at 8:36 am

Thank you so much for posting this! I feel like I understand my camera so much better now! I plan to practice this and hopefully have much nicer pictures!


Hannah September 3, 2010 at 8:39 am

Thanks for the tutorial! This should be useful when I’m (finally) able to buy my DSLR! :-)
XOXO – Hannah


Tammy Hassebrock September 3, 2010 at 8:43 am

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!! This is so helpful.


tracey@ BellaSky September 3, 2010 at 8:49 am

that explains so much! thanks for sharing your expertise! love your blog!


Mallory Thompson September 3, 2010 at 8:51 am

BLESS YOU! I just bought the Canon T2i a week and a half ago and am clueless, but wanted to take pics of my nephew this weekend, thank you for this! Just in time!


jackie September 3, 2010 at 8:54 am

great post! Happy Labor Day!


Marilyn September 3, 2010 at 8:56 am

Thanks for this tutorial! I have a Canon Rebel xs, which I LOVE and have so much fun playing with, but this is gonna help me out even more. Some of it I knew but had gotten fuzzy on the reason of why it works and what it does, etc. etc. I hope to play a lot this weekend. =)
Have fun whitewater rafting! Are you going to the Ocoee? I’ve been there twice and love it.


Amanda D September 3, 2010 at 9:04 am

Thank you for this wonderful resource – you are a star for putting it in plain English for all to understand!!

ava-j September 3, 2010 at 9:05 am

Hi Amanda! I’m still day-dreaming of my first dslr, so i like finding out what other scrappers use…and would love to ask for recommendations for a 1st dslr for a wanna-be shutterbug. :) or you could point me in the right direction…thanks in advance!
hope you have a great time on rafting, be safe!


Deb September 3, 2010 at 9:06 am

Hi Amanda! Great tutorial! I absolutely love it. Btw, may I have some advice from you on which brand of camera to get? Should it be Canon or Nikon? Thanks! :)


Michele September 3, 2010 at 9:10 am

As much as I love everything you post, I have not been this excited to read a blog post on a long time. THIS is perfect for me. It’s like you were talking TO me! I have a Canon EOS T2i and this tutorial is going to make me a smarter, better picture taker. THANK YOU! xxoo


Lindsay {Designer Wife} September 3, 2010 at 9:11 am

GREAT info, Amanda!!! You explained it all so well!! :) Have a great weekend <3



Jenny Flake September 3, 2010 at 9:19 am

Great post! So informative, I have got to go get your 27-70mm lens asap!


Lynne September 3, 2010 at 9:23 am

Loved this tutorial. I read Understanding Exposure, which was wonderful, but this quick tutorial you gave was just what I needed. I have the Nikon D40 that you used in your example, and I also recently bought the 50 mm prime lens. The magnifying rings I bought to put on the 50 mm have really added to the fun :)

Again, thank you, thank you for this simple yet informative tutorial!


Lynne September 3, 2010 at 9:25 am

Oh, and I wanted to ask…how many of your pictures are straight out of the camera and how many are doctored up. They are always so clear and beautiful and I just wonder if I need to invest in Photoshop or something!


Amy H September 3, 2010 at 9:31 am

Thank you SO much for this tutorial! It’s perfect and just what I needed to start trying to get myself out of auto! What a SUPER quick reference guide! T so much FS!


Nicole September 3, 2010 at 9:32 am

OMG, I saw this pop up on FB this morning and I have been posting something scarily similar lol–


Kate September 3, 2010 at 9:36 am

Wow, thanks so much for this tutorial! I have the Canon Powershot SX110 IS and while not a DSLR, I bought this one because it allows you *some* ability to change shutter speeds, ISO, etc. It was supposed to be my slow entry into DSLRs. Of course it’s been almost 2 years and I haven’t done anything other than point and shoot. But thanks to your post I am totally going to try out the different options on my two Boston Terriers this weekend!


Maryrose September 3, 2010 at 9:39 am

Thank you for this! You’re awesome!


megan @ whatmegansmaking September 3, 2010 at 9:39 am

What a great tutorial! I have been frustrated with manual mode. Sometimes it’s so hard to tell what the picture actually looks like on that little screen once you take it, does that make sense? I took a bunch of pictures on vacation in manual that I thought looked good on my camera, but when I put them on the computer I realized they were definitely overexposed. I guess it’s a learning experience. You’ve inspired me to take my camera on my labor day trip this weekend :)


terri September 3, 2010 at 9:42 am

hey amanda! thanks for sharing. i am ‘favoriting’ this page. i really need to buy a new camera. is there a relatively inexpensive (like 500.00) that you would suggest? any help would be so appreciated! have a great holiday long weekend!!


Liz @ LBBakes September 3, 2010 at 9:43 am

Thank you for the post Amanda! I don’t even have a DSLR camera, but I’m saving to get one soon. I’m bookmarking this post so I have a tutorial ready to go. :)


Heather September 3, 2010 at 9:51 am

This is a wonderful post Amanda! I am continually trying to learn about working with my camera and your tips are wonderful! Now I can’t wait to get my camera out this weekend! Thanks again and have a wonderful Labor Day weekend!


freida September 3, 2010 at 9:58 am

I cannot thank you enough for this FABULOUS tutorial! I’m one of those that haven’t ventured out of my comfort zone (auto mode) many times but that will all change now! :) With your suggestions, I look forward to creating some awesome photos!


Shirley September 3, 2010 at 10:08 am

THANKS for this, Amanda! I’m considering purchasing my first DSLR, (I’ve had many other digital cameras). One thing besides the money that holds me back is wondering if I have the time to learn how to use it. Your tutorial looks very doable! You have a knack for teaching! THANKS!


Moments by Jenn-Lee September 3, 2010 at 10:15 am

Thank you so much Amanda! I have been reading books about photography so when I get my SLR soon I will be able to go out and take shots that I love SOC and not feel like I need to edit them. Although editing is so fun. Your tutorial, while there is so much more for me to learn was VERY helpful. VERY SIMPLE and So easy for me to understand.. more then in the stinkin’ books I have been looking at. I am a visual learner and this makes sense enough for me to remember after a few times reading it. SO AWESOME! btw- love your site too. I have been a reader of yours for a while ever since someone linked to your weight loss story. I just have not commented until now. Life is busy but thankfully it is slowing down enough for me to start commenting on blogs again.:):)


Brenda Jorgensen September 3, 2010 at 10:19 am

Thanks Amanda! I printed it and put it in my 3-ring binder so that I can take it outside with me while I fiddle with my dials. I am doing pretty well on manual, my problem is that my pics don’t come out so crisp sharp as I’d like. Maybe I move too much plus I’ve heard about a lens’s “sweet spot” so I’ll have to find it in my zooms.


Angela B September 3, 2010 at 10:24 am

Who knew that those letters on my dial meant anything I could ever understand?! You are a wonderful teacher. Thank you for your easy to understand explainations! I have a Nikon P80 (not too very technical, but it’s a start) and I can’t wait to take pics of my boys playing soccer and football!! Have fun on the raft!!


Luciana September 3, 2010 at 10:43 am

Thanks for the posta Amanda! I love your photos! I have a Canon aind I love it!
Hugs, Luciana.


Anne September 3, 2010 at 10:47 am

Great tutorial, Amanda. Have fun with the white water this weekend…it’s a blast!


Christy September 3, 2010 at 10:52 am

Awesome tutorial. When I shoot photos, I sometimes forget the uses of each setting. I’ve been wanting to make a cheat sheet to carry with me when I shoot, and now you’ve inspired me to do so. Thank you!

P.S. Can you tell us what post-editing software you use? If CS, which number? Do you use Lightroom? Would love to see tutorials on that!

You rock, Amanda!!!



Sabrina Berry September 3, 2010 at 10:57 am

Amanda great post! Thanks for sharing your info and experience with us. Have a great weekend!*mwah*


::Ida:: September 3, 2010 at 11:22 am

oh thank you soo much for the tutorial amanda!!!
im still using 450D which is similar to rebel xti.
ive been wondering too have u been upgrading your guess was true!!! Been thinking of upgrading to (one number)D. maybe 5D or 7D. still a canon fan tho :)

happy labour day to you!!!! :D

p/s : im a muslim and we will be celebrating Eid mubarak in a week! there’ll be fireworks, firecrackers, colourful lights everywhere! and food!!! and with this tutorial, im sure hope will get gorgeous eid’s photos!!! thanks again amanda!!!


Emily @ Finding My Aloha September 3, 2010 at 11:25 am

What a great tutorial. When we bought our Nikon D90 we did the best thing we could have ever done for ourselves… We made a pact to only shoot in manual. Having only ever had a point and shoot this was a huge risk for me but it forced me to learn it without a crutch. Some people are so afraid of manual mode, but I can’t stand to shoot any other way now. Wish I had this tutorial when I first started out! Have you ever seen he books by Bryan Peterson? They were a godsend! Anyway, thanks for a well worded and illustrated tut… I’ll be passing it on to my friends just starting out on their DSLR adventures! Have a great weekend!


Lori @ RecipeGirl September 3, 2010 at 11:55 am

Very helpful! I took copius notes and will be trying out some of your tips this weekend. Thanks for taking the time to write :)


Sarah Nolan September 3, 2010 at 12:16 pm

AMAZING tutorial!! Wish I would have read this before I paid a couple hundred bucks for a class LOL =) Thanks for always offering us all these great tips and putting them in plain English! ;)


Ann September 3, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Wow, thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to do this. Can’t wait to try it out!


oh amanda September 3, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Thank you! I’ve had a Nikon D80 for waaay too long and I just don’t know how to use it. I’ve done more reading your post today that I have the whole time I’ve owned it!


Stacie September 3, 2010 at 12:45 pm

Than you so much for this! I have always wanted to get the most out of my Kodak camera and this will help alot!!


Jenn B September 3, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Thanks for the the easy to understand instructions! I know enough about my camera but this is the perfect refresher and great for a quick reminder!


Shanyn September 3, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Thanks for the great tutorial, it is just what my friend needed to get the most out of her new camera!


Jen September 3, 2010 at 1:13 pm

Hi Amanda! I am an avid reader (more like viewer of all our your beautiful fashion finds, scarp booking, and photos)!

Thank you so much for explaining your process. I have been stuck on which way to expose away from 0 and your method of moving from 0-1 for those beautiful and bright photos you take makes it a lot easier.

I have 2 questions if you have time. Once you decide if you either want to focus on aperture or shutter speed, how do you then decide how much depth of field or how fast of a shutter speed you want? There is still so much room for guessing. Do you understand my question? I hope so. I mean, to get a real close up photo of a flower or bug is easy to decide the settings, and a car passing by would be easy to. But everything in between, I just end up taking 20 pics at each setting making it hard to really see a difference..

Second question is where did you get your shirt pop art type shirt of your pup? Used in your blog photo?

I know I wrote a novel. Thank you for your help!


Nicole Robinson September 3, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I have a pretty great point & shoot that has so many of these features (Canon PowerShot SX10 IS). I am trying to “figure it out” on my own as best I can because I want to know more than a standard photography class offers, but I don’t really need to take an SLR class either. You explained EXACTLY what I wanted to know about ISO and aperture in a way that made perfect sense! Thank you! Thank you!


Allison September 3, 2010 at 1:56 pm

You’re so friggin’ awesome!

…and I want your camera. I want it BAD.


Danielle Woodruff September 3, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Thanks for posting this! I’m new to photography but can’t find a class that isn’t too basic. This tutorial is a great help and you did a great job at explaining things in laymen terms for us non-photographer types :)


Venassa September 3, 2010 at 2:32 pm

This is really helpful. I can’t wait until I have my camera in front of me so I can try some of it. Especially since I’m going travelling in less than a week and will take millions of photos.


DK Brittain September 3, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Is QuiBids legit?????????????


Pati September 3, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Thanks for the refreshing tutorial, a great summary. : ) I have a Canon 50D and don’t take it off Auto much since I can’t remember what button/wheels adjust what. It’s usually when we are traveling that I get into photo situations that I know could be bettered by using Av or Tv, if I could just learn/remember how to use them. I need to look up how to change to manual point focus too! That’s one thing that gets my hubby (who uses my camera at times) & I the most, the Auto focus on the closest thing to you. Argh! Most of the time it’s ok but when you’re shooting thru tree branches or grass, that’s not alway what we want. I need to dig out the manual and practice it, otherwise I’d just forget and stick to Auto : )


Lindsay September 3, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Thank you, thank you. I’ve read at least 20 “basic” tutorials like this one, but everyone has their own tips and insights, and yours was very helpful.

I would love it if you would do a “part 2″ detailing lenses a little more–what exactly do the numbers mean? I get the f-stop, but what about the mm? Which lens makes a good wide-angle lens, and what are the pros and cons? I’m dying for a macro lens, but is there an affordable option? Do macro lenses (or others) double as good portrait or landscape lenses?

You’re awesome, Amanda. Thanks again for this.


Stacey C September 3, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Thanks Amanda for again giving your readers some inspiration and tips to get out of automatic. I am going to take your tips and put them on a little laminate card I am going to hang from my new DSLR (getting it in October) so when I question what I am supposed to do your handy little tips will be there.



Dorcas September 3, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Thank you so much for this tutorial. Thanks for taking the time to show us. I have the canon and don’t know how to use it. I am so glad you did this! THANK YOU!! Once I get back home I will sit and read through all this.

Thanks again!!!



Stacy September 3, 2010 at 4:17 pm

OMGosh! Thank you, thank you, thank you! This seems to be the best, easiest to understand instructions I’ve read ever. I’ve had my Nikon D-40 for over 2 years and still shoot on Auto hoping to get lucky with my shots. Am going to print your instructions & take them with me everywhere my camera goes. LOL. Thanks again, Amanda! YOU ROCK!!


Margaret September 3, 2010 at 5:20 pm


I have owned an SLR for over a year, and had NO idea how to do any of that stuff…I can’t wait to try it out this weekend :)


Karen in NOLA September 3, 2010 at 6:09 pm

THANK YOU!!!!!!!
This is the first time that I think I understand all of the terms and settings. I have been muddling through all of this time and not really sure of what I was doing. You have put it simply in terms that make sense.
I can’t thank you enough… Now off to get some practice.
Have loads of fun on the rapids!!!!
kknola from Woof


Sandi September 3, 2010 at 7:09 pm

What a great post! Thanks!!


Crystal Hamilton September 3, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Thank you! I have played with my SLR for a year now and still don’t feel comfortable out of the Auto mode. I play with the manual settings on occasion, but am not comfortable with it yet. This will be a tremendous help! Thank you!


Jennifer September 3, 2010 at 8:08 pm

Thank you! I love photography tips! I think I may need to print this out and keep it in my camera bag!


amy September 3, 2010 at 8:29 pm

Hi Amanda, you are such an inspiration. I have always bought point and shoot digital cameras and my latest camera is the Sony DSC-TX9 but I have always been fascinated by the slr’s and now am seriously considering buying one. Can you advise which one is a good camera. I see a new nikon for D-3100 for $700. Do you think that is a good one? I cannot go up to thousands of dollars so I was considering something under a thousand dollars. Any advice you could give would be helpful. Thank you so much!!! Amy


Willow September 3, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Thank you for this fantastic guide!


mhsands September 3, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Amanda, what is your super hero name? I can’t tell you how helpful this posting is… I’ve had a Rebel XTi, currently have the Rebel T1i and just ordered the T2i. You would think I’d know what to do with the camera (especially since I have every book printed); but, I don’t have a clue. Seriously… I can point and shoot. Anything else I had over to the hubby and say fix! This is one of the few tutorials I actually kinda get. I can’t say thank you enough! I certainly hope you find time to post more in the guides for those of us that strive to reach your level of photography! (BTW, I even had to buy a scarf after that post! LOL! But, I just enjoy your cooking… b/c that isn’t something I even want to attempt!) Thanks again and have a super great weekend!


aj September 3, 2010 at 9:30 pm

I thought your scarf tutorial changed my life, but Amanda dear, this just rocked my world! Thank you so much! I’ve had my DSLR over 2 years now and still don’t know what I’m doing with it. I cannot wait to experiment with it now. Thank you!!!


Georgia Peach September 3, 2010 at 10:38 pm

Amanda, I have been a fan of your blog for some time now and always enjoy reading it and seeing your pictures. I was beyond excited when I saw your link on my blog show that you had a tutorial for DSLR cameras! It was like you were reading my mind. I have been scouring the internet and other folk’s blogs for any any information on learning how to properly use all the features on our Nikon D40x. My DH bought it several years ago and after taking the same shots last month with his camera and my old Kodak I was blown away with the difference between the two! Needless to say, I sat my Kodak down on the counter and off I was with HIS Nikon (as he lovingly keeps telling me LOL) taking pictures of anything that was not nailed down. I have even gone to Barnes and Noble and Borders to find just the right book to teach me but have not found one yet. Do you think this might be a mini-series? Feel free to drop by my blog anytime and again I find yours so interesting to the point I sat my DH down several days ago and showed him your latest post and pictures.


AudreyS September 3, 2010 at 11:09 pm

Amanda! Thank you so much for the post! I always want to use an SLR camera (of my dad’s) but he never allows me to do that.., because I can’t use it and my dad doesn’t teach me how! This is great, Amanda! Thanks again, I’ll try to steal it and take any pictures I find! (just kidding.. :P)


michelle September 4, 2010 at 12:18 am

Great tutorial! I was wondering if you have any tips for self portraiture (for fashion blogs!)? Right now I use a tripod and focus on a tree or other still object, set the self timer and run in front of the object. Unfortunately this can make for boring pics standing in front of trees all the time! Is there a better way to focus when doing self portraiture that Im missing?


Lorraine Robinson September 4, 2010 at 7:45 am

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. I need this in a pdf format and keep in my camera case…I’ll take it one lesson at a time. Where were you when I was at a wedding last night taking pictures LOL


Julie A. Brown September 4, 2010 at 8:12 am

I recently upgraded to a 7D myself -I love this camera, and it made me want to really “get” everything about it. Very excellent primer on concepts, I love your work and your blog and read it often. Thanks.


Debbie September 4, 2010 at 10:20 am

As usual, I enjoy reading your blog but this post is definitely most appreciated. My husband’s cousin is getting married today and I was asked to take pictures on Thursday (I am no photographer- I just have a dslr)..this tutorial was great for a good refresher/reminder.

Thank you for the work you put into this to share with others!


FabulousTerrah September 4, 2010 at 11:19 am

Favorite post yet!


Mia_h_n September 4, 2010 at 11:55 am

Obviously we were all in need of a clear and easy understandable DSLR tutorial and you provided! Thank you so much!! this will make SUCH a difference for me, you have no idea!


Tonya September 4, 2010 at 12:21 pm

O-M-G!!! You are the most awesome person EVER!!!! I have been trying to shoot in manual, but it was always a guessing game for me!! I now know half way what I am doing! You are SOOO good at explaining how the different settings work!! I am SUPER excited to shoot my nephews’ b’day party today and then my lil’ princess shoot tomorrow! I feel like I am almost to where I can actually call myself a semi-professional just because I half-a** know what I am doing now & what to do to fix the exposure in certain situations instead of guessing!! THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH for sharing!!!!!


Cheryl September 4, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Thank you so much for explaining all of that! I’ve had my Canon XTI for several years and have never gone past the auto mode. I love your blog and all your photos!


janice September 4, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Thank you for that! You made it easy to understand!


ingrid September 4, 2010 at 10:57 pm

Thank you! I’ve only had my DSLR for a month and half and am trying hard to grasp everything. Your post helps. My biggest issue is getting the camera to focus on the spot I want and not want it THINKS I want. :)

Good luck on the rafating.


Kirstin September 5, 2010 at 12:13 am

The timing of this post was amazing. I have been using the Canon Rebel XTi and just purchased the T2i today online. Came across this post and looked through your bag of goodies. What I’m curious about is filters and things that enhance pictures. I know nothing about that. How to create landscape pictures that have amazing reflections or colors. Is that done with filters or photoshop? Do you have any lens filters?


Tracy W September 5, 2010 at 6:43 am

That was amazingly informative!! Thank you!! I have been playing with mine and took a library-offered class on it but I still was sketchy and this is a great reference! I printed it out so I can ‘study’ it! :) Thanks for sharing your knowledge on this!!!


Leah Moynihan September 5, 2010 at 7:44 am

Thank you so much for this quick but really helpful tutorial!


shannon abdollmohammadi September 5, 2010 at 10:07 am

Thank you so very, very much for this. I don’t even know how to tell you how happy I am to have this guide. I have done so much research on how to take better pictures, but was left more confused than when I started. You are so awesome to share all this cool stuff with us….your fonts, you recipes, your tips. Thanks Amanda!!!


Brooke September 5, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Can I say “I love you” Amanda? Thanks so much for this post. It comes a couple of days before my first ever photography type course. The thought of reading through my manual is a little daunting (I know I’ll have to do it one day), your photos and words make it so much easier.


Simplegirl September 5, 2010 at 10:20 pm

Amanda, thank you for this tutorial! Awesome! Now all I need is to get that amazing camera. Will have to sell quite a lot, a whole lot, at my little shop to have one:-) You rock!


Southern Gal September 6, 2010 at 8:35 am

Thank you so much for this, Amanda. I haven’t purchase my camera yet. I’m still waffling between a Nikon and a Canon. But for you to post this in both camera formats is such a blessing. I’ll be adding this post to my faves for when I finally make the decision/purchase. Thanks again!


Lorraine September 6, 2010 at 11:00 am

THANKS so much Amanda for this tutorial. I have struggled for years trying to get aperature and shutter speed right. Just when I think I’ve got it, I still end up messing up my pictures! The most reason mess ups was for my son’s high school graduation last month which was held inside the gym. Needless to say, lots of blurry pictures!!!!

You listed your favorite equipments. What’s your favorite camera bag??? Do tell!!!


Mary Anne September 6, 2010 at 10:45 pm

I have a question in regards to the exposure setting. I thought if you turned the dial to the left that meant more light, to the right meant less light. I think your post said the opposite. Just want to clarify. I have the Nikon D40X and I really like it.


Lynda September 7, 2010 at 10:39 am

I have to bookmark this. This is EXACTLY what I have been looking for after getting my dslr last month. Thank you SOoooooo much!! Do you also have any book reocmmendations for someone starting out in dslr/photo-world?


Lesley September 7, 2010 at 11:43 am

Best. Post. Ever.

Seriously, thank you!


Samantha September 7, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Thanks! I learned a lot, although I still have no clue as to how to turm off flash on my Nikon D3000 in Manual…


Dori September 8, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Great tutorial, Aperture can seem overwhelming to some, yet really it’s layering and you write it simply and so that anyone can understand how to set a frame to get a certain picture, you’re truly the BEST!!!!!
Thanks Amanda!


Shanna Tanner September 8, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Thanks so much. I wish I would have read it sooner. I took a bunch of pics of my granbaby and did not even look at the images as I was taking them. I had accidently put it on manual and all my pics came out very white. She was so cute at the playground and now I won’t have any pics of her there. I need to learn a lot about my dslr.
Thanks again.


Patty Martinez September 9, 2010 at 10:52 pm

Thank you, times three billion times! I have a cheap point and semi shoot Kodak Z650 and I have always wondered what that PASM on the dial meant! Now I know! I just took a pic of some droplets of water! My family will think I am a genius and that’s thanks to you!


Nicole September 12, 2010 at 11:19 pm

This was a great tutorial. I am currently taking Photography classes. I have had an D-SLR for almost a year now and LOVE IT!! I always enjoy your insight and tips and LOVE your Pictures!
I have a question for you. I am really wanting to get a new lens. I just have the lens that came with my Rebel XSI kit and I have the canon 50 mm prime lens. Its pretty much the only lens I use.
I am thinking about getting the 24/70mm f/2.8 lens but I wanted to ask if this lens is to “fancy” for my Rebel xsi. I plan to eventually get a new camera like the Canon 7d so I thought if I bought a new lens I would want it to be good enough to use in the future so I wouldn’t have to buy more lenses just for the new camera. I hope I am making sense. Basically I want to buy a lens that I know I will have for a long time, but I am not sure if its too much for my rebel??


chinamommy September 15, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Eeek, just found this and am SO excited!! I just bought a used Canon EOS 30D (wasn’t sure i wanted to invest over $1,000 quite yet!) and feel LOST. This tutorial is easy to understand and took away the fear I was feeling every time I turned this big girl on! :)
Thank you, thank you, thank you!! LOVE your blog!!!


Jami September 16, 2010 at 9:43 am

Excellent, as always, Amanda. I have been following some of your advice (and I got the book!) and my photography has improved a lot. Thanks for including the info on Nikons. I am a Nikon user, so that is very helpful. Now, I just have to try to figure out which Nikkor lenses are similar to the ones you have recommended… I am asking Santa for a 50mm. ;)


Kim -- The Sassy Crafter September 17, 2010 at 10:33 am

Excellent and easy to understand! I’ve used a fully manual film SLR for years and had yet to learn the ins and outs of using my digital SLR, even though I’ve read the manual several times. Thank you for presenting what I needed to know in plain English!

And it’s great that you did side by side shots of Canon and Nikon cameras. So helpful!


Kat September 17, 2010 at 12:12 pm

I am so glad to find this tut. I am looking at purchasing a Canon and being able to understand more about it will be so helpful. I aspire to take beautiful photographs like yours. Thank you.


Shari Saysomsack September 30, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Wow, what a great easy to understand tutorial. I think I’ve confirmed my photo issues…lenses! Time for me to step it up!


Veronica October 4, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Thanks Amanda for posting such a great tutorial. I am a visual learner and this really made sense to me. Can’t wait to try these great tips out! Great job – as always


Lisa Carson October 22, 2010 at 5:27 pm

this was so much help. I’m just getting started and want to get some good pictures! Thanks :]


SJB November 10, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Love your blog, it’s help me a lot. I just wander if you can do in SONY a390 DSLR.


penworks November 17, 2010 at 5:17 am

I learned a lot! Thanks for sharing this!


Molly November 24, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Oh my gosh, THANK YOU!!!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!


Kara December 23, 2010 at 12:39 am

oh my goodness i am so glad i stumbled upon this tutorial! i haven’t been able to find any easy to read info about how to use my nikon d90 since i got it nearly a year ago! thank you so much for taking the time to lay it all out :)


G2 JANZ December 26, 2010 at 7:21 am

Thank you so much!! nice tutorial!!


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