Here are 5 features of your DSLR camera that you should know. They will help improve you as a photographer.
Aperture Priority Mode
Aperture Priority Mode lets you control / adjust the aperture while the camera takes charge of determining the shutter speed, based upon the other settings (including the aperture). Adjusting the aperture causes background elements in your scene to become either crystal clear or blurred. The wider the aperture, the more the background elements will become blurred, as you focus on your main subject. Conversely, a narrower aperture enables you to include more things in your scene without them being lost to the blurring that occurs with the wider apertures.
Another thing that aperture adjustment does is to brighten or darken the overall image. With a wider aperture, you’re letting more light in through the lens and onto the camera’s sensor, so images will become bright. Go the other way, and your images will become darker as you narrow the aperture, as this time you’re letting less light reach the sensor during the period of the exposure.
Shutter Priority Mode
Shutter Priority Mode lets you control / adjust the speed of the shutter while the camera takes charge of determining the aperture. Adjusting the shutter speed will let you freeze motion if you choose a faster shutter speed. A slower shutter speed will increase the amount of motion blur in your images. A good example would be including a subtle blurring of the wings of a kestrel, as it hovers in the sky. You capture this activity with a slower shutter speed. Adjusting the shutter speed also affects the brightness of the image in a similar way as adjusting the aperture. If you select a faster shutter speed, you’re reducing the time that the shutter is held open, which lets less light into the camera’s sensor, resulting in a darkening of the overall image. Conversely, you will notice images become brighter as you slow down the shutter speed, as you’re causing the camera to hold the shutter open for slightly longer, letting in more light onto the sensor as a result.
Manual Mode lets you control / adjust both shutter speed and the aperture. Choose this option if you want total control over determining these two settings rather than letter the camera’s algorithms calculate the most appropriate settings. You may be fine with that; but, then again, taking manual control will allow you absolute control over the artistic process and outcome with your photography.
Focusing Modes (Single Point Vs. Spectrum)
This relates to how the autofocus system works. You may have the experience of turning on a DSLR camera and, when you go to focus the camera, in order to take a test shot, a bunch of different indicators flash upon the LCD or Electronic Viewfinder (EVF). These indicators are the different points of the spectrum that have been activated and the camera calculates that certain areas are the ones that you may want in focus, and these are typically represented by red or green boxes over different parts of the image. What typically works better (and by that, I mean, is more reliable and less annoying), is to go into your camera’s menu system, turn off the spectrum focusing option, and switch your camera so that it focuses just on a single point (typically in the center of the frame, although you can adjust this, such as placing the single focusing point over the point where a key subject is or will be in your image so that you get that subject in focus)
You may not use this feature all of the time, but there are certainly occasions when you’ll want to take advantage of the exposure compensation setting to help improve the overall quality of your image. The exposure compensation settings are measured in values, with zero in the middle, then you either go to the plus values, to brighten the image, or into the minus values, to darken the image. Why would you want to do this, when you’ve already adjusted the brightness with either the aperture, shutter speed, and/or ISO settings? The problem is, with modern DSLR cameras, the algorithms they use tend to result in overcompensation of light quality with the resulting image. If you’re photographing in dark conditions, such as at night or in the evening (when you get those darker blues, for instance), without using exposure compensation, the camera will calculate that any source of light, such as street lights, lanterns, etc., will be rendered extremely bright, as the DSLR overcompensates to make sure the light can be seen in the dark environment. Professional photographers will often deal with this by using the exposure compensation feature, and dialing down into the minus values, typically going to -1 of exposure compensation, in order to tone down those light sources in the resulting image. Conversely, when out in a really bright environment, such as in snow, an exposure compensation value of +1, or even +2, will help to combat the camera’s tendency to overcompensate in the other way. What you’ll typically find is that without adjusting the exposure compensation settings, anything that’s white in your scene will most likely be rendered a really ugly grey color. By adding a value of +1 or +2 of exposure compensation, you’re able to bring back that brilliant white.
Highlight Control (The Blinkies)
Some DSLRs allow you to turn on a highlighting feature that is often referred to as “The Blinkies” (because when you go to take a photo and have the camera’s settings such that it might result in part or all of the image being washed out or lost in brightness, the LCD screen will “blink” at the areas that will become overexposed). This is something you wouldn’t want if, say, you were photographing a bride on her wedding day. If you overexpose the wedding dress, you are likely to lose any subtle detail, and you most likely won’t be able to recover the detail in post-production (e.g. Lightroom), because the software won’t have any data for those overexposed parts of the image. So, Highlight Control is often a good warning indicator to have turned on.