4 March 2015


At the start of this year I decided that I wanted to do some tips/guide posts on my blog, as I love reading them because they are so useful! Without a doubt the number one thing that I get the most compliments about, when it comes to my blog, is my photography. That's why I asked on Twitter whether or not you would all like me to do a post on some DSLR basics, and a lot of you seemed really interested, so that's what I am doing today!

This post isn't about how I go through my whole photographing and editing process (that's a post for the future), but instead covering some of the tips that I have learnt when it comes to making the most of my DSLR! I'm not saying that my photography is perfect, nowhere near it infact, but once I got my head around these following aspects it got a lot better than it was.

I believe that you can use most of these following features on a non-DSLR, however I'm fairly sure that they are optimised on DSLRs, so for the sake of things I'm just naming this post "DSLR Basics", to clear that up!

Just a little note too before I get into everything - all of the following instructions, when I talk about certain buttons etc, are referring to those of my Canon EOS 600D, so if you are using a different camera you will have similar buttons and functions! If you're having troubles finding them maybe have a look on Google or in your camera's user manual.

Be prepared for a long post here, as I'm going to cover 4 basics - white balance, ISO, aperture and shutter speed! All of these things mean that you will have to leave the nice comfort zone of auto, and move onto manual. It took me quite a long time and practising to get used to this, but now I never use auto since I could see such a difference in my photos when I switched to manual! 


White balance is strangely one of the things that I hadn't heard about until recently, but it's now essential for me! When I first heard about white balance I was fairly confused, as the name would imply that it is something to do with the level of brightness in photos, I was wrong though.

Infact white balance is basically the colour balance in your photos - e.g an incorrect white balance for your setup may result in your photos coming up with a grey or pink tinge, which you obviously don't want! Whenever I used natural light for my photos I would often find that all of my photos would have that pinky-red tinge (which you can spot in some of my older photos, when I didn't use a softbox), but since sorting out my white balance this doesn't happen at all. I believe that the problem you experience is because natural light isn't a pure white colour, meaning the camera misinterprets the light and alters the colours of the items in the image, whereas a softbox bulb is a very white light so you don't get the same problem!

The way correcting your white balance works is that the camera knows what the colour white is! By taking a photo of a white surface (you'll see why in a minute), the camera realises what levels would need to be altered to make the image appear completely white, and remembers this for future photos. This means that when you come to take your next photo, the camera will apply those conditions that it noticed needing changing previously, to help retain the colour balance of the photo!

The white balance only needs correcting once during your photographing session! However I'd say that you obviously will need to correct it whenever your natural light changes aswell, but only for significant changes, such as a cloud going infront of the sun and making the place you are shooting in much darker than previously.

How to: To set the white balance, take a photo of a white surface, in the place you're going to be taking photos. For this you could need a flat, white surface, such as a piece of white paper or a white balance card! You must make sure that you take the photo, of the white surface, in the place you are going to be taking your normal photos, because if you don't, the light will be different so would defeat the object of correcting the white balance.

Once you've taken this photo, go to view the image, by pressing the play button, and find the white surface image. Once you've found this press the "menu" button, go to the second section from the left, at the top, and select "custom white balance" (which should be 4th down the list of options)! Make sure that you have your white surface image selected, press the round "set" button, and then "OK". Then you can get on with taking your photos!

| ISO |

ISO is the feature that measures how sensitive the camera sensor is to light! This is altered by changing the ISO number on your camera. A low ISO number, such as 100, should be used if you are in a very bright area, and a higher number, such as 3200, should only be used in very dark areas. There is a very handy guide, which I found on Pinterest, on which ISO number to use in what circumstances!

Using a high ISO number, normally 800 or above, will result in higher "noise". If your image has noise it will look grainy, especially if you zoom into it! This means that it is better to keep to an ISO of 800, or hopefully less, unless it is really needed.

How to: To change the ISO number go onto any of the customisable image options off the dial (A-DEP, M, Av, Tv or P), and make sure that you see all of the details on the screen, rather than any images or a view out of the lens. Then press the "ISO" button, which for me is on the top of the camera, near the dial, and select whatever ISO number you would like!


The aperture, also known as the f number, is the feature that controls the depth of field and how much light is let into the lens. This is changed by altering the aperture/f number, which in turn controls the shutter, and how open it is! A small aperture means that the shutter is kept very open, and a large aperture means that the shutter is kept quite closed (this is a good guide).

A small aperture, such as f/2.8, means that the very open shutter lets lots of light hit the sensor, however the depth of field is very shallow. Whereas a large aperture, such as f/22, only lets a small amount of light in, but the depth of field is very deep! 

For those of you who don't know what depth of field is, it's basically how far back you can see in a photo. You know when you see a pretty photo of a lipstick and the focus is on just the lipstick, then all of the background is very blurred? Well the person who took that would have used a small aperture to achieve a shallow depth of field! Then when you see a landscape photo, or an image where the background is fairly visible, a bigger aperture would have been used.

How to: Again, to change the aperture go onto any of the customisable image options off the dial (A-DEP, M, Av, Tv or P), and make sure that you see all of the details on the screen, rather than any images or a view out of the lens. After this, press the "Av" button, which is a little below the viewfinder button, and whilst holding down this button, change the number by moving the little wheel near the capture button, which is towards the front of the camera.


Shutter speed controls how long the camera's sensor is left exposed to the light! Like the ISO and aperture, the shutter speed is altered by changing a number. A faster shutter speed means that it will an image will be sharper, as the image has had less time to be exposed to anything that may effect it. A slow shutter speed means that the sensor is left open for a longer time, which will help the image gain more light! However you need to be careful of this, and should use a tripod, otherwise the image can be effected by simple things such as the little movement of you breathing!

A slow shutter speed, such as 1", means that the sensor would be exposed for 1 second and would gain a large amount of light! Then a fast shutter speed, such as 1/1000, means that the sensor would be exposed for 1/1000th of a second to quickly capture an image, maybe a bird flying, but wouldn't catch very much light.

There's also a rule of thumb when it comes to shutter speed! This is that the second number in your shutter speed, e.g the 1000 part of 1/1000, should be atleast twice the focal length of your camera. For instance, if I was using my 40mm lens, I should use a shutter speed of atleast 1/80, and if I was using my 18-55mm lens, I should use a shutter speed of atleast 1/110! This helps ensure that the image is sharp, and should only really be broken if you need to take a long exposure image. 

How to: As with the two previous functions, to change the aperture go onto any of the customisable image options off the dial (A-DEP, M, Av, Tv or P), and make sure that you see all of the details on the screen, rather than any images or a view out of the lens. This time all you need to do is scroll the same wheel you used when changing the aperture, until you see whatever shutter speed you would like!

So they are the four basic camera functions that I think we should all know! I hope that you liked this post as it was actually really fun to write, so please let me know if you'd like me to do more photography or tips posts in the future. It would be lovely to know if my post helped you learn anything new too!

What part of your photography would you most like to improve on?


  1. This was so so so helpful, I can't even explain! No one else has explained it as clearly as this. I got a Nikon D3200 last year and I adore it but I've been stuck firmly in auto for fear of 'messing it up' haha :)


  2. This was so helpful! White balance was new to me too, but I think it makes a such a difference to your photos. x


  3. This is great! I'm just about getting used to manual on my 700d ... but this has really helped!

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  4. This post is a god send. I'm looking to buy a DSLR and felt unconfident on how best to use one. This has helped greatly!
    Kathryn /Cherries in the Snow

    1. Great tips I am getting a dslr soon and wouldn't of thought twice about altering the settings but you have opened my eyes so thank you!
      Simple synth xo

  5. Such a fab post, and really great tips! I hadn’t thought about the white balance before will definitely try this next time :)

    Charlee XO | CharmedCharlee

  6. I've just learned about White balance and how to customize it and I love it.. though taking the photo is such a pain because my camera won't do it. The thing I want to improve most on is learning how to use my camera so that I don't get frustrated for a long time before I film my videos.. I don't have much of a problem with photography since I can just neutralize the color in PicMonkey..


  7. I have a fairly pricey camera and only ever keep it on 'automatic' settings. I've bookmarked this post as I need to get to grips with it!! xx

    Hannah x | hannatalks

  8. This was nice and you explained it well. I'm in photography class and we learned this too.

    Jackie | fashionxfairytale | bloglovin' |

  9. This post is so so handy! I'm looking at getting a DSLR too :)

    Jenna | jennaloves3.blogspot.co.uk

  10. what a helpful post!

    from helen at thelovecatsinc.com

    ps. you can win the rose gold GHD set on my blog - click here!

  11. Great post! Very informational :)


  12. This is a great post! I've recently brought a DSLR myself and even though I sort of know how to use it a little extra information is much appreciated!

    hannerking xx

  13. This was really useful, and made me understand each of the different parts to the camera in an easy way. Thank you xx