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First Camera and the Basics

Buying your first DSLR camera and learning all the features can seem overwhelming, at first. As mentioned in a previous post, we ordered our camera through Amazon. The day the camera arrived in the mail was the first time we held it without a cord attaching the camera to the display and a sales associate breathing down our neck. We ordered a camera bundle from Cameta Cameras which included a couples lenses, wireless remote, tripod, Nikon bag, cleaning kit, battery pack, and a couple other items. We were overwhelmed as soon as we opened the box. There was so much to learn.  Fortunately, learning the basics isn’t very difficult. 

Reading the camera’s instruction manual is key to learning the camera’s features and settings. This blog is based on our camera, the Nikon D5200. The features and basics should be similar for other cameras. If you need an instruction manual for a Nikon camera use this link: https://support.nikonusa.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/13948/~/nikon-product-manuals-available-for-download .


The important settings to learn to use are the ISO, shutter speed, aperture and histogram. There are many other useful settings, but these are the most important. Check your camera’s instruction book for a diagram of the settings. 


The ISO determines the sensitivity of the sensor to light. Using the lowest ISO setting you can is best. A higher ISO will make the picture look grainier. A lower ISO is used during the day. The ISO needs to be increased at night so the pictures don’t turn out too dark. 


The shutter speed is how long the shutter is open allowing light to reach the sensor. A fast shutter speed is needed to freeze motion. A slow shutter speed keeps the shutter open longer allowing more time to capture movement and let in light. 


The aperture is the diameter of the lens opening. The smaller the number of the aperture, the wider the opening is. The higher the aperture, the smaller the opening is allowing in light. Aperture is expressed as a range of f-stops. 


The camera’s histogram is an important tool. The histogram displays the light range of a photograph in graph form. The left side shows shadows. The right side shows highlights. Ideally, the graph will look like the mountain peak is in the center. If the peak is tall or on the left side, the picture is underexposed (too dark). If the peak bulges or extends off the right side, the picture is overexposed (too light). Changing the aperture or shutter speed is necessary. 


Learning to use these settings can be overwhelming. When we feel lost we watch videos by Tim Grey or Joe Brady. Their videos are helpful and easy to follow. We also focus on one feature and learn all we can about that feature before moving on to the next one. With practice, changing the settings on the camera becomes as familiar as using the TV remote. 

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