how to use your SLR camera

Last Saturday I did a blog post on how I wanted to share some photo tips, and here's post numba two. I'm trying to keep to a blogging schedule so hopefully these photo tips will be a weekly thing that I post every weekend.

The first post, which you can read over here, was on the equipment I used for blog photos. In there I mentioned the main benefit of shooting with an SLR was being able to shoot manually. That basically means that you can manually control certain settings when taking a picture.

Here's a simple post that goes over some basics when it comes using your SLR.

RAW files are basically digital negatives of your photos. The file size is much bigger than a jpeg, but the tradeoff is that they produce images of greater quality.

By shooting in raw, you're able to adjust various aspects of the coloring and lighting of your photos after you're done shooting. It comes in especially handy when you're shooting in low light situations. Not only can you brighten the photo, but you can also adjust the white balance so things don't look all yellow. Here's a great article on the advantages of shooting in RAW.

To the left is a screenshot of the options Adobe RAW (the raw processing program used in photoshop) offers. In this case I adjusted the white balance, increased the exposure and whites to brighten the photo, and increased the contrast to make the objects pop. Since I shot near an open window, one side of the photo was a lot brighter than the other so I decreased the highlights.

When you take a picture, your lens opens and closes a tiny hole to let light through. Aperture is a measurement of how big this hole is. As the aperture gets smaller, the hole gets bigger. The smaller the aperture, the shallower the depth of field, and the brighter the photo. With shallow depth of field, things in the background get blurrier and blurrier and you get more bokeh.

Shutter Speed
Shutter speed determines how long the light will be able to enter through the lens. The longer the amount of time, the brighter your photo. For example, a photo shot at 1/15 of a second will be much brighter than a photo shot at 1/200 of a second. If you want to capture an object in motion, you'll want a faster shutter speed to avoid blurriness.

ISO is the sensitivity of your camera to light. Typically, a lower ISO means a clearer picture and a higher ISO means a grainier picture. Higher ISOs may necessary when shooting in low light conditions. As per my personal preferences, I would rather boost the ISO and have a grainier photo, instead of decreasing the shutter speed and having a blurrier photo.

For example if you were to take two photos with 1/20 shutter speed and f/2.2 aperture, one with an ISO of 100 and one with an ISO of 800. The one taken at an ISO of 800 would be brighter, but would have more grain.


Exposure is the combination of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO as together they determine the light that enters your camera. For situations with lots of light, you can shoot with a bigger aperture, faster shutter speed, and lower ISO. In situations with low light, you can shoot with a smaller aperture, slower shutter speed, and higher ISO.

White Balance
White balance is measured in Kelvins. The goal of adjusting white balance is to have the colors in an image be as close as possible to the colors of the objects in real life. Depending on the lighting situation, your photo may be overcast with a blue or yellow tint. Lighting sources that cause a cooler tint should be adjusted with a higher white balance, and lighting sources that cause a warmer tint should be adjusted with a lower white balance. Most photographs are taken within the 5000-7500K range.

To be honest, I rarely adjust my white balance in camera. It's usually just set to auto. I prefer adjusting it during RAW processing. If you look at the dialogue above, you'll see there's a temperature option which allows you to correct the colors to your choosing.

Camera Modes
Last but not least, the modes! Most SLRs come standard with a manual mode, aperture priority mode, shutter speed priority mode, and automatic mode. The names are pretty self descriptive. In manual mode you can control your aperture and shutter speed, in aperture priority mode you set your aperture, and the camera automatically sets your shutter speed. In shutter speed priority mode you set your shutter speed, and the camera automatically sets your aperture. In automatic mode, your camera sets your aperture and shutter speed. Depending on your make of camera, these modes will be designated with different letters on your dial. On my Nikon, M is for manual, A is for aperture priority, S is for shutter speed priority, and P is for automatic.

I typically start off with aperture priority mode when I'm taking blog photos. After taking a test shot, I decide if I need more or less light. If I need to, I'll switch into manual and adjust the shutter speed to my liking.

I hope this was helpful! Like last time, feedback is always welcome :) For next week I was thinking about doing a tutorial on how I expand the frame in outfit photos I take indoors against a plain wall.

And here's a little round-up sheet :)


  1. This is so helpful! I've been wanting to get better at using my camera, so I'm saving this post! Thanks!

  2. huh, I've been reading about those things from my camera's manual and have even tried this and that but I still always end up with some of the existing modes my camera offers (it has 10-15 variants to choose from). I know it's not the best thing to do but unfortunately I'm too lazy to actually ditch those comfy variants that are sitting in front of me. maybe one days I will take this post and actually go through all those settings. I hope I will!

    Part of me

  3. Mili!!! I'm so SLR challenged! I just put it on the automatic setting and start shooting! You have made this easy enough to understand and apply! Thank you so much for sharing all of this! Rita @

  4. Oooh, nice tips! I know most of these but it's always great to see others put up posts like this to help others out. You presented it so succinctly and neatly! Great post :)

    The Dragonfruit Diaries

  5. Amazing tips! I shoot in RAW most times but sometimes it just takes sooo long to edit the pics that it consumes all day! So I save the raws for editorial photoshoots when I really need the quality to be impeccable. Thanks for sharing babe x



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