The digital single-lens reflex camera, more commonly known as a DSLR, has become the standard among professional and serious amateur photographers. These cameras have a similar look and function as the 35 mm SLR camera that was the standard device of the film era photographer.

Photographers need to understand the DSLR to choose the best model and make the best possible pictures. Even photographers familiar with film SLR cameras will find the technology of the DSLR far advanced from the cameras they have used in the past.


By definition, the DSLR includes an interchangeable lens. This allows the photographer to select the lens that best suits the photographic situation. Lenses are defined by the focal length commonly stated in millimeters. The larger the focal length, the more magnification the lens provides allowing better views of items that are at great distances from the camera. For example, a 300mm lens might be used to photograph a wild bird at a backyard feeder. A 30mm lens might be used to take a wide shot of a scenic area. By changing lenses, the photographer can use the same camera in a wide variety of situations.

four DSLR cameras

Understanding DSLR Cameras

Zoom lenses allow the photographer to adjust the focal length of the lens while it is attached to the camera providing added flexibility.
The aperture of the lens is also important. The lower the aperture number, the wider the aperture allowing the lens to record images in low light conditions.
Serious amateurs and professional photographers often acquire several lenses for the DSLR allowing them to shoot a variety of subjects.

The Camera

The DSLR offers several features that are critical to its operations. These features vary depending on the model.

One of the most important specifications for the photographer to consider is picture resolution. A digital photograph is a compilation of individual points of color known as pixels. The more pixels – usually stated in megapixels – the higher the resolution of the camera. DSLR camera models offer a variety of resolutions ranging from 10 to nearly 30 megapixels. It is common for the price to increase with the megapixel count.

Other DSLR considerations include controls over the white balance, speed of operation and light sensitivity.

White balance concerns the color rendition of the captured digital image. White balance control allows truer renditions of color in a wider variety of lighting situations.

Cameras that operate faster allow the recording of more images in the same amount of time. This is commonly stated as frames per second and is useful for sports and action photographers who shoot on images in rapid succession. Faster DSLR cameras are commonly more expensive than slower cameras.

Light sensitivity in a digital camera is similar to the ASA of ISO number associated with film. The higher the number, the more readily light is detected allowing pictures to be taken in low light situations. Many DSLR cameras include very high ISO settings. These higher settings may result in a serious degradation of the image quality. Verify the camera will take high-quality images at the high ISO settings before using the camera in low light conditions.


Some DSLR cameras have added the option of recording video to the standard still photography functions. Not every photographer will find these added features useful and it may duplicate the abilities of existing equipment. The video function of the DSLR allows the use of the same lenses for video productions as are used for still photography which may expand the photographer’s options.

DSLR Photography Tips Basic Equipment Selection

Selecting the right equipment to invest in may be the single most important concern for anyone interested in exploring DSLR photography. Finding the lenses, filters and other peripherals that will allow you best meet your needs is a far more difficult proposition for those who lack a basic understanding of such matters. Choosing a camera that will have the resolution, options and features that will allow you to create the sort of photographs that you are most interested in can provide you with far greater benefits.

Beginners who choose less costly equipment for their initial purchases may be able to meet their needs without putting excessive stress on their budget. Cameras that offer lower resolution, fewer features and that have been designed to offer greater flexibility rather than performance may be far more suitable for beginners. The greater expense required for top of the line equipment may limit your options or leave you without a camera kit or equipment selection that will be able to meet your needs as well as your budget.

Lens Selection and Photo Composition

Unlike a point-and-shoot camera that makes use of a single fixed lens, DSLR cameras have been designed to make use of a wide variety of detachable lenses to offer photographers greater versatility when setting up and composing their shoots. Shooting with the wrong lens may leave you with results that are limited at best, so it will be important to invest in the right equipment to suit your needs. Lenses that offer superior magnification for landscapes and wide-angle shots, macro-lenses able to provide the best focus on smaller items as well as equipment that can offer a little of both may all be worth your consideration.

Limiting yourself to just a single lens may find you unable to use your camera in as many situations or with as much success. Photographers would be wise to consider what environments they will be shooting in and investing in the equipment that will best serve them when making any purchase. With access to the right selection of lenses, as well as the filters, flashes and tripods that have been designed to improve your composition efforts and lighting options, even the most unskilled photographers may be able to improve the quality of their shots.

Learning How to Operate a DSLR

Unlike the more simple point-and-shoot options, a DSLR can offer the operator the means to manually adjust a variety of settings for each composition or shot. Learning more about aperture settings, shutter speeds and the other options that you may be able to make use of is not a concern that novice photographers can afford to ignore. Even basic instruction can allow beginners to improve the results of their efforts and enjoy greater success with any shoot. With the right equipment and understanding of your new DSLR, it may be possible to create more attractive, professional and successful photos.

Understanding the DSLR and it Functionality:

black DSLR camera

Canon 5D Mark II

For this example; we will examine the Canon 5D Mark II and explain its shooting modes and how it functions.
DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera,
When you are looking through the viewfinder of the camera, the image is reflecting from a mirror which is blocking the sensor. After you press the shutter button, the mirror lifts and exposes the sensor.

DSLR Camera Shooting Modes

Manual mode – User Controlled Settings:

When using the manual mode, the aperture and shutter speeds are controlled completely by the user. It is important to have a proficient grasp of exposure and picture taking. The Manual Mode setting is not a recommended setting for beginners.
User selects the aperture & shutter speed
User has full control over your exposure

Full Auto Mode:

In Full Auto Mode, the camera makes all the decisions regarding aperture and shutter speeds. This can be an favor as well as a unfavor. For example, the camera meter may be slightly off it with it settings selection due to the contrast in the scene appearing very bright. The camera will then give you an exposure that may not represent the image you are seeing. In these instances, it may be necessary to override the automatic settings, and make and adjustment; changing the camera selected settings.
Camera selects aperture and shutter speed
Possibility of the camera not exposing the scene correctly
Image appearance controlled entirely by the camera
Program Mode:
Camera controls the aperture and shutter speeds.
User can manually adjust exposure to improve results.
Camera controls how images appear; can over and under expose.
Shutter Priority Mode:
This setting is good for shooting when shutter speed is very import; i.e. sports action shots, can set it for 1/1000 per seconds.
Camera selects aperture.
User selects shutter speed.
User controls how motion appears in the image.
Aperture Priority Mode:
Use the Aperture Priority Mode when there is a need for depth of field or aperture, such as shooting landscapes. If aperture is a concern, the user can select the aperture. You would possibly select an F16 or F18 at the half stop or aperture. Good mode to shoot in when you are concerned with the aperture.
User selects the desired aperture.
Camera selects the shutter speed.
User controls the depth of the field in the image
Exposure Compensation Dial:
It is important to indicate that with each of the AV & TV modes that you can compensate; you can under expose and over expose; using the Exposure Compensation Dial; selecting to over expose or under expose a half stop, full stop or even a third stop to micro adjust the exposure. Be sure to read your camera manual for more details regarding this function.
Override auto exposure.
This allows for the micro adjustment of exposure.