DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) Camera Settings Simplified

Before I get started, I want to let you know about my Nikon bias. Although I have owned and used many Canon lenses, my preference is Nikon. It’s not that I think Nikon’s are superior, but rather the variety of lenses and compatibility with different models within the Nikon range. As a wedding photographer, I have found that I can save so many dollars by reusing my lenses with the newer Nikon models.

Keep it simple stupid. This phrase was said to me many years ago in a training session on “How to Communicate” at a major UK telco. (I won’t mention names out of fear of reprisals, but I do joke). It was an absurd statement, I thought at the time. Over the years of working in a training environment, I realized that trainees and potential students had a major gripe about how complicated things were. I realized that I didn’t have to use fancy words or sentences to show things, so I changed my writing and training styles.

There are many articles on settings for cameras. Most of these articles have one thing in common: the complicated language they use to explain what each setting does. When I started photography, I encountered the same obstacles as you: a lot of complexity and no clear, simple guidance. I needed some guidance about the meanings of each setting and its effects. I wanted to understand how each setting affected the other settings on my camera.

This article assumes that you are interested in getting to know your camera. What I won’t do, however, is show you the “amateur” settings such as scene modes or the (green camera setting) Auto setting. These settings can be very useful if you have the right photo conditions, but I am sure you will have realized by now that you want your camera to perform to its maximum potential.

Let me quickly move on to the main settings of your DSLR camera.

P (Program Mode).

The P mode is a step up from the Auto mode if you have only used your camera’s auto mode. Your camera will still intelligently adjust the majority of settings, but you can now control your flash, ISO (sensitivity and light), and white balance.

Flash – It does exactly what it says on its tin. You can switch on the flash, as well as increase or decrease its output. To get better exposure shots, you can increase flash output if the lighting conditions are too dim. You can also decrease flash output if the lighting conditions are better.

ISO – You can adjust your ISO settings if you don’t have enough light or don’t want to use flash to expose your shot (or your subject from a distance). Your camera will increase your ISO to boost the available light. This is similar to how a repeater for your phone signals boosts your signal.

White balance – This is a great tool for indoor photography, especially in areas with poor lighting. You can choose from a list of preset settings to adjust for lighting problems. There are many settings available, including cloudy and warm. You can also choose manual white balance, which allows you to tell the camera what true white is. Use a white card. This is a very advanced setting, so I won’t get into it here.
S (Shutter Priority).

What is the shutter? It is easiest to imagine the shutter as your eyes. Your closed eye is the camera’s sensor. If you want to let lots of light into your eye (the sensor of the camera), you could open your eyes for five seconds. This would allow enough light to expose your image. You could, however, open your eyes for just 1 second if you need less light. The shutter of your camera works the same way. The shutter speed of your camera (how long you keep your eyes open) is measured in fractions. To properly expose your shot in low light conditions, you will need to lower the shutter speed.

You can control shutter speed with the Shutter Priority setting. Your camera can also control other settings, such as flash, ISO, white balance and flash.

An (Aperture Priority).

Your camera’s Shutter setting and Aperture work together. The same principle applies to the Aperture setting. If you open your eyes wide, they allow in as much light as possible. As you close your eyes, they absorb less light. You can adjust the Aperture setting to control the amount of light that reaches the sensor, which will help you expose your shot properly.

M (Manual).

The manual mode is the most advanced setting for your camera. This mode gives you complete control over your camera settings. Once you are proficient in the other settings, the next step is to master the one below.

This setting lets you play around with the ISO, Shutter, ISO, and Aperture settings to achieve professional results. If you are a skilled user, you can do this. Be aware that this setting can be confusing. Before you do anything, make sure to know your camera settings. It took me years to master it.