Photography & Digital Arts


Taking Better Digital Photos: Learn What All of Those Confusing Camera Settings Do

Buying an expensive, do-everything-but-the-dishes digital camera will only produce the excellent digital photos they are capable of if the camera operator – photographer – knows how to use the plethora of settings. Knowing the camera is the first step to good photos. Being comfortable using the camera is the next step.

Many cameras like the Nikon DLSRs come with DVDs with get-started training videos or there will be additional training videos available for purchase. There are all kinds of quick start cards that can be carried in a camera case. Or, if the camera is purchased locally, the camera store personnel will try to help.

Regardless of the training resources available, ultimately it is the individual’s responsibility to learn the names, locations and purpose of each of the buttons and levers on the front, sides and back of the camera body.

Digital Camera Settings

Digital through-the-lenses cameras are expensive for a number of reasons – they produce the best digital photographs, they allow for a multitude of shooting environments, they have speed and light adjustments and but with all of those features and capability comes complexity.

Point-and-shoot cameras require the photographer to turn on the camera, point it a subject or object and press the shutter button. The camera does all the real work like compensating for low light and auto focusing.

DSLRs on the other hand let the photographer override the auto settings to correct for lighting and other factors. But, with all that freedom of choice comes a complex piece of equipment to work with.

Due to the complexity of using a DSLR, the best way to get comfortable is to realize the components that are must know and then learn each component one technical term at-a-time.

Digital Camera Preparation – What to Learn Now and What to Learn Later

If you’re brand new to digital photography and or brand new to a DSLR, the best thing you can do now is to learn all of the buttons, levers and dials on the outside of the camera. Getting familiar with the menu button and menu system will also help.

As such, the must know buttons, levers and dials include:

  • Off/on button
  • Settings for distance
  • Focus – auto or manual
  • Mode for white balance or ISO speeds
  • Exposure control
  • Self-timer
  • Aperture
  • Auto-exposure lock
  • External flash shoe
  • Menu button and the menu navigation buttons
  • Delete photos button
  • The lever to open the memory card compartment
  • The battery compartment release
  • The USB port to connect to a computer
  • The LCD screen for viewing photos
  • Settings panel and all of the abbreviations and icons
  • Red eye reduction
  • Eyepiece to look through to frame the photo

Metering and exposure are probably the most complicated concepts of digital photography. So get comfortable with the camera first then start learning about lighting.

Get the Most digital for the Money

DSLRs are somewhat expensive, somewhat complicated but well worth the time and effort to learn to use. Don’t rush the learning curve and don’t worry about the using the camera to its fullest capacity at the start.

Do get comfortable with all of the buttons, switches and dials and do start taking pictures as soon as it comes out of the box and is charged to go.

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