I like to think that I can take great photos, but after a few months of working with Joy Factory, I quickly learned that I am a noob… (aka beginner.) I didn’t know the first thing about how to use a DSLR. I felt like my camera was controlling me, rather than the other way around.

So, what did I do? I enrolled in a beginners photography course with Kelly Funk. And I must say that Kelly is so incredibly good at what he does. He’s a master. A genius. He’s *THE* guy to learn from. I walked away from his four hour long class last week feeling re-affirmed, but also completely humbled by my camera. Sign up for one his classes by clicking here!

I’m the kind of learner that needs to repeat what I’ve learned over and over again. So for this week’s blog post, let’s learn a little about DSLR cameras, shall we?

What are you talking about, Hope?
First off, a DSLR camera is a digital single-lens reflex camera. Its also called a digital SLR, and basically combines the optics and mechanism of a single-lens reflex camera with a digital imaging sensor, as opposed to photographic film.

Get to know your camera!
Next, whether you’re unpacking your camera from a fresh, unopened box or have left in that box for a long time ignoring it… Open up the manual and read it front to back. Every type of camera build is slightly different with terminology, button locations, menu options, etc.

What about all of these technical terms?
Yeah, I know it can be overwhelming to learn what every definition is and what it does. Check out this handy list to learn more about the variety of photography terms that are out there.

Let the right kind of light in.
So deep. Much knowledge. But actually, you’ll need to control how much light you let into the shot and your camera will adjust the shutter speed for the right exposure. A typical lens has an aperture range of f/2.8 to f/22. The more light that is being let in, the shorter the depth of field is. The less light that you let in, the sharper the detail will be. Just as your pupils dilate to absorb more light at night when its harder to see or compensate for harsh sunlight by getting smaller, the aperture setting is an artificial way of doing this.

Histograms are your friend.
Hard to believe, I know. But histograms will help you understand more about your camera, the shots you are taking, and how to get the best one. A histogram will show the distribution of tones covering about a four stop dynamic range – from deep shadows on the left to just shorts of bright highlights on the right. These values are arrayed across the bottom of the graph from left (darkest) to right (brightest). The vertical axis (the height of points on the graph) shows how much of the image is found at any particular brightness level.

Take test shots!
 Learn what works best for you and don’t be afraid to take a couple test shots to test the lighting in each space. Life happens fast. Natural light may fade, or a person may move out of the perfect pose. The worst thing you could do as a photographer is miss your moment. Test out your settings first.

The best way to learn is to take all of this information and just, experiment! Play around with your camera’s settings, different light, angles, and most importantly, have fun!