You've got a DSLR camera, but don't really know how to use it. Maybe you're not even sure what DSLR stands for ("digital single-lens reflex") or basically any camera that has interchangeable lenses. You snap some pictures but they seem out of focus or blurry. Or they just lack clarity, depth or maybe even the color that you really want. I hope these few tips can help you get started.
There are some terms that and acronyms that are used frequently that you should be familiar with. We saw one earlier; DSLR. Here are a few more basic photography and camera related terms that you should learn:
ISO: pronounced "eye-so" - a numerical value that represents the camera's sensitivity to light.
Shutter Speed: the length of time light is allowed to hit the camera's sensor, measured in seconds.
Aperture: also referred to as "f-stop" - refers to the size of the circular hole in the lens that lets in light. The larger the hole, the more light is let into the sensor. The values for aperture are a little backwards though. The lower the aperture number, the larger the hole. For example, f/2.8 is going to let in a lot more light than f/16.
White Balance: measurement of color temperature of light in an image (incandescent, florescent, sunlight, shade, and cloudy are the most common)
Auto focus: this could be broken down into multiple parts but I'm going to keep it as simple as possible. Auto-focus (AF) means that the camera and lens are going to achieve focus on it's own when the shutter is pressed. Not to be confused with AF points and AF modes within the camera settings.
Manual focus: means that you have to adjust the focus manually, by hand. The lens will not focus for you.
Tip #1) Learn The Exposure Triangle
Now that we know what some of these terms mean, we need to see what their purpose is and how they correspond to each other.
The easiest way for me to remember what my settings should be at is to first ask myself what I'm photographing. If it is any type of action, I am going to want a fast shutter speed so that I can freeze the action without getting any motion blur. Once you nail down your shutter speed, you can build the other legs of the triangle around that. As a general rule of thumb, you want to keep your ISO as low as possible. The higher the ISO, the more noise and grain you are going to get in your images. So, we started with a fast shutter, and a now we have a low ISO. The last thing to adjust is the aperture. There are two things I think about when setting my aperture: the lighting and the background blur. A lower f-stop is going to give you a shallow depth of field, which means that only your subject will be in focus and everything else will be blurry.
Tip #2) Get comfortable shooting in manual mode
Manual mode, the M on the camera dial shown here, renders complete control of the camera settings to the photographer. This is where your knowledge of the exposure triangle is going to come in handy. When you can control how the camera "sees" and captures the light, you will be able to shoot confidently in almost any situation.
Tip #3) Learn when the lighting is best
If you are going to be shooting outdoors, you need to know when the best time to take pictures outside is. Sunrise and sunset are the best times of day for photoshoots. High noon can be one of the most difficult times of day to shoot, because of the harsh lighting from the sun and the shadows it creates. No matter what time of day it is, you should be conscientious of where your light and shadows falls on your subject and background.
Tip #4) Always focus on your subject's eye
You've probably heard the saying "the eyes are the window to the soul." This needs to be the clearest part of the entire photo and needs to draw the viewer in as if they are actually looking into a pair of eyes.
Tip #5) Practice, practice, practice!
You don't have to have a real life model to practice with. When I first started, I would use my toy horses outside and experiment with my settings that way. YouTube is another great resource. If you ever have any questions, I'm only an email away.