RSS Email

DSLR for Dummies-Digital #Photography How To Series Part 2

Hello and welcome back to this DSLR for “dummies” series brought to you by The Beginners Lens. Last week we shared the many reasons you might want to get yourself a DSLR camera. This week we’re delving a little bit deeper to help you to move away from the far over-used Auto Mode!

Your DSLR has a dial on it that probably looks a little something like this:

This is the mode dial. If you already have a DSLR but haven’t gotten around to learning about the different modes, you’re probably familiar with at least one…the Auto Mode (indicated by the green rectangle on Canon, x on Nikon). This post is going to help you break out of your regular routine and start using the manual controls available to you.
You might be wondering why you should use manual controls?

Well it’s about flexibility, and more importantly, getting the photos you really want! With a little bit of knowledge, and some dedicated practice time you’ll open up a whole new world of photographic possibility. It’s not difficult, but you’ll need to be patient with yourself as you learn something new.

Take a look at the mode dial again. There are several modes to either side of the Auto Mode; these are the presets and the manual modes. Depending on the model you’re using, the presets are likely to be Flash off, Portrait, Landscape, Sports, and Close-up, and perhaps a few more.

On the other side of the dial you’ll see the manual controls. Just to complicate matters the camera manufacturers like to give their controls similar, yet different annotations so we’ll go through the most commonly used brands here. If you’re a Canon user the manual controls available to you are likely to be TV, AV, and M (at the very least) you may have a few more. If you have a Nikon camera, you’ll see A, S, and M on the mode dial. So what the heck do all of these letters mean anyway?

TV (or S for Nikon users) stands for shutter speed priority, where AV (A) stands for aperture priority, and M denotes the fully manual mode. If you don’t see any of those letters, you should refer to your camera manual.

For today we’re going to get to grips with the aperture priority mode, the easiest of the manual modes. Instead of diving head first into technical jargon, we’ll describe the aperture in terms of what it means to your photos. The aperture determines the depth of field of your photo, or how much of your photo is in focus. You can choose to have the entire scene in focus (as far as the eye can see) or you may want the foreground in focus and the background blurred (which is great for portraits). As you progress with this feature you may want to experiment with having both the foreground and the background out of focus with your subject in the middle!

Take a look at the examples below:
As you can see that the photo has a large depth of field, where the whole landscape, including the foreground (the mountain) and the background (the sea) are equally in focus.


Photo By Tulasi Nandan Parashar courtesy of Flickr

On the other hand, this photo has a shallow depth of field, meaning the subject (the flower) is in focus, but the background is blurred.

On DSLR cameras the aperture is indicated by an F-number in the viewfinder or on the LCD screen. The higher the F-number, the more of the photo will be in focus. On the other hand, if you were taking a photo of a flower and you want the flower to be in focus but the background to be blurred you would use a low F-number. Let’s take the above photos as an example. The landscape image above was taken with a large F-number, to ensure the entire scene is in focus, whereas the image on the right was taken with a small F-number to create the beautiful creamy background.

So to use the aperture priority mode on your DSLR, move the mode dial to AV (or A for Nikon users) and set the value of the F-number using the command dial. The command dial is usually located on the handgrip, but each camera is different so you may need to refer to your user manual at this point. Once you’ve got your F-number set, the best way to understand how aperture works is to take several photos (of the same scene) with different F-number values to see how changing the F-number value affects the photo.

Start with the subject close to you (less than a yard or approximately 1 meter away) with a bit of perspective in the scene. Focus on the subject with a large F-number, you should see that everything in focus. Then, decrease the F-number to the lowest number possible, and now you should see the subject in focus but the background blurred. Note that if you zoom in at this point, the blurred effect will be accentuated.

There you have it, your first steps out of Auto Mode! Easy, right? Feel free to enter your questions in the comments as you experiment. We’ll be glad to provide additional help if you need it!

Calling all casual photographers and photo nuts don’t miss The Beginners Lens Big App Giveaway this summer! If you’re into iPhone photography, enter via The Beginners Lens to win a $100 iTunes Gift Card!! The Beginners Lens is a new online source for mobile and digital photographers, featuring tips, tricks & tutorials for beginners and beyond. With free and premium video content spanning a range of photographic topics including everything related to the iPhone camera, digital camera buying guides, gear & software, accessories, online photo services, and much much more…there’s something for everyone at The Beginners Lens.

Get more tips & tricks on iPhone photography & digital photography at The Beginners Lens.

A Matter of Perspective: Listening to Radio as a Parent

Before my current job, I worked in radio for 6 glorious long years. I worked in the promotions department and did some on air stunts from time to time. They needed a guy to dress up as an Easter Bunny and work the drive through of Krystal’s or eat a rather large burger, I was their guy. Every time I tell people that, they say that it sounds like something I do. Not sure what that says about me. I eventually grew up and started working in non-profit. I also grew up as a blogger and started writing about my daughter.

In addition to making a fool of myself, I also dealt with complaints from listeners. Think customer service for a product you can’t touch or use. Part of my daily tasks were answering emails.

I would get ones like:

“I can’t believe the DJ said that was Kelly Clarkson when duh its Pink.”


“Please listen to my band via MySpace page and play it on the radio. The fact that corporate radio doesn’t support locals is why you suck.”


“I am a parent of a 3 year old, 5 year old, and a 10 year old. Every morning we listen to radio station WXYZ because you market yourself as the family fun station but your DJs this morning played Soulja Boy and they proceed to explain “what superman that ho” means in detail. How is that Family Friendly? I want someone to call me! And now that I have your attention, let me tell you about the other songs that disturb me…”For most of them, I had canned replies or I forwarded them on to a program director or our general manger. I always thought that those parents were overreacting to what we played on the radio. Come on, just change the channel if you don’t like what you hear.

I officially want to go on record saying I am sorry that I thought those thoughts. The other day, I was listening to the radio. Yes, I have an iPod but radio got me where I am today so I still support it. Danni, my 3 year old daughter, was in the car when All-American Rejects song Gives You Hell came on. Danni started singing along so I flipped the channel and Britney Spears song If U Seek Amy was on the next channel. I rushed to change that channel. For those that don’t know say the name of the song 10 times as fast and you will know why I hate that one. Next came Kelly Clarkson I Do Not Hook Up.

I am not super conservative but these are words and phrases I do not want my kid using at Mother’s Day Out. I finally switched over to the family friendly one I used to work at and they were playing and I Do Not Hook Up on there. I gave up and we just rode in silence. Then my daughter validated my point by asking, “Did they ever find Amy, Daddy?”

BuckDaddy blogs almost daily at BuckDaddy’s Blog. Along with product review and giveaways, BuckDaddy tells funny stories about his 3 year old daughter, Danni. you will laugh, cry, and probably start taking birth control.

Dover Publications – Free Weekly Samples

During these economic times, it’s more important than ever to find frugal ways to feed, clothe, and even entertain your family. Fortunately, the Internet is full of creative ideas, freebies, and samples that can help. One of my favorite such treasure troves is the weekly Dover Sampler, which you can get sent to your inbox every week – all you have to do is supply your e-mail address.

So just who is Dover Publications, and what is this sampler all about? Well, Dover Publications is a nifty publishing company that has been around since 1941. They specialize in republishing low-priced editions of works in the public domain (why pay $7.95 for your high school student’s required copy of Ethan Frome when you can get it for $1.50 in a Dover Thrift edition?), and in publishing fun and creative coloring and activity books, often using vintage clip art or reproductions of famous works. They also sell CD-ROMs of royalty-free clip art, which means you can use it for run or profit without having to worry about copyright violations.

So what about this Dover Sampler? It’s simple: in exchange for your e-mail address, every Friday Dover will e-mail you a link to a web page offering you dozens of free samples from their hundreds of titles. Just to give you an idea, the most recent sampler link gave me one or more pages from each of the following Dover publications:

Clip Art

  • Victorian Designs
  • Persian Designs and Motifs
  • Jazz Age Art Deco
  • Spot Illustrations and Motifs

Coloring Books

  • Color Your Own Bakst Ballet Designs
  • Wedding Traditions from Around the World
  • Art Nouveau Patterns
  • Leonardo da Vinci Stained Glass

Children’s Favorites

  • Cats and Kittens Stained Glass Coloring Book
  • Cut & Color Paper Dolls: Maria and Megan
  • Favorite Poems of Childhood
  • Hidden Pictures Coloring and Puzzle Fun

and Miscellaneous Books

  • The Romance of Tristan and Iseult
  • Contemporary Stained Glass Sidelights
  • Our Vanishing Landscape
  • Radford’s House Designs of the Twenties

In previous samplers, I’ve gotten origami instructions, classic Arthur Rackham fairy tale illustrations, Color Your Own Tiffany Windows, How to Draw Horses, Fashion Drawing, Logic Puzzles, and more. Many of the samples are in black and white for coloring, while others are in full color, such as a page of vintage Christmas designs that would be gorgeous on do-it-yourself cards.

Now what can you do with all this? Well, each week, you can explore the sample pages and save the ones you like simply by right-clicking, choosing “save image as”, and naming the file. The pages will save as jpgs that you can then cut and paste into Word or Publisher, resizing them to your liking. The clip art designs are wonderful for adult crafters to use when making greeting cards or other ink stamp type art, and the children’s samples are obviously great for kids. These pages can be a weekly treat for your child, or you can save up a variety of pages over several weeks and months and produce an impressive activity/coloring book. You can even print the pages on the back of scrap paper and put them in an old three-ring binder, for the ultimate in frugal, eco-friendly fun.

Naturally, Dover provides these samplers in the hope that you will peruse their title list and eventually order something — and you actually should take a look at their offerings because they have so many wonderful and inexpensive products! However, I’m happy to report that Dover is completely non-intrusive — they don’t send obnoxious amounts of e-mails, and their privacy policy states that they do not sell customer information. I’ve been very happy with their sampler, and I think more people should know about it. One note: I would recommend not saving up the e-mails for too long, because eventually the link may become inactive. They do seem to last at least several weeks, but I was unable to open some that were a few months old. In any case, I’ve gotten to the point where now I open the e-mail as soon as I get it, because I can’t wait to see what they’ve sent me this time!

This guest post was provided by Amy from Amy’s Stocking Stuffers. Amy has an awesome website with awesome finds. Check out her site you might find that perfect Stocking Stuffer that you have been looking for.