Recommend to me some training materials for understanding DSLR cameras

Started Dec 2, 2009 | Discussions
Garet Jax New Member • Posts: 11
Recommend to me some training materials for understanding DSLR cameras

Hello all,

I am a rank beginner with DSLR cameras and with advanced photography in general. I have recently put an order in for a Canon T1i kit with a 55-200mm lense. Please point me to some training materials:

1) Books
2) Videos
3) CBTs
4) Online courses
5) Websites/Threads

to help me start learning to take better pictures and also to effectively use the camera.

Thanks a lot.

Mike_PEAT Forum Pro • Posts: 13,339
All of the above. Seriously...

Garet Jax wrote:

3) CBTs

What's this?

to help me start learning to take better pictures and also to effectively use the camera.

All the materials you've listed are a good for learning. I suggest starting at your public library and see what they have (they may even have videos).

Can't really suggest titles (if that's what you were looking for) because there are tons out there and everyone learns differently. I could give you titles like "Complete Photography Course" or "dSLRs for Dummies" but those would be obvious.

There's four basic levels (actually a lot more but to keep it simple:

  • basics of exposure (shutter speed, aperture, ISO, etc.)

  • learning the controls of your particular camera (you may find a book for your particular camera)

  • learning to see

  • being creative (more advanced)

There's also camera clubs, meetup groups that you can join where you hang out with fellow photographers.

Rakumi Veteran Member • Posts: 6,256
Start wtih your manual....

And move on to things like Wikipedia for understanding terms (this is how I began). Before you can fully understand photography, you must know what the terms mean and how they actually function. Things like aperture, its not enough to just know what it does but how it actually functions in a camera helps and wikipedia can define these things. Key terms to look up is aperture, shutter, ISO if you do not know these things in and out. I did and then tested what I learned in practice and kept little notes to remind me how something works and what it effected in real time.

Secondly check out such sites as for understanding of lenses. this can help also and has good lens reviews. That is how I started.
Quickly shooter, draw your lens or prepared to get shot.

Rakumi Veteran Member • Posts: 6,256

Some basics for shooting in particular conditions. This also helps you choose a lens.

Also you want to have a camera with an ISO of at least 1600 or better with little noise at high ISO.

Basic controls for manipulating your camera:

(Each control yeilds a positive and negative effect, so the right combination is vital)

Shutter speed (Natural control) - Slow shutter speed increases the amount of light taken in (like recording over the same image). To slow your shutter speed down means you need a steady hand. Stabilization helds steady your handholding shots and allows you to slow the shutter speed between 2 to 4 times slower than shutter speed you would use if you did not have stabilization. (shutter speed has incriments). Or you can use a tripod and slow down your shutter speed as slow as you want. Shutter speed can be slowed down so much, it can make a dark room look bright. The negative to this is when you are taking a picture of subjects that are moving. Slowing down the shutter speed will cause a blur image with moving subjects. Stabilization only stops camera shake and not subject movement. 1/1000 and up is great for stopping motion. 1/15 and below are great for taking in large amounts of light.

Now if you increase shutter speed, you can freeze action. So much so that you can make a sprinkler's drops visible as individual drops. This is how you catch movement with out motion blur or blur picture in general. Yet the negative is sometimes not enough light is taken in when you are shooting in a dim room or night setting. This will cause a dark image, sometimes not even viewable at all.

Aperture (Natural control) - The aperture is the hole that lets in light on the inside. If the aperture is wide (lower f value), you collect more light. If the aperture is narrow (larger f value), it collects less light. The max aperture is the largest it can open. Some common aperture values are f5.6, f4, f2.8. All lenses can narrow their aperture to levels you will probably never use, such as f22 or 30 something. Common use range is from f8 and larger. If it is too bright outside you want to use a more narrow aperture to avoid a super bright or all white image. Also a smaller aperture sometimes creates a different depth of feild effect than a wide aperture. On the flip side, if it is dark out, a wide aperture will increase the light intake and allow for a better picture in a dim or dark setting. Because this increases the intake of light and does not need a slow shutter speed to make the picture brighter, you can maintain faster shutter speeds and still get some dim lit images with out a flash source.

ISO (Unnatural control) - This increases the sensors sensitivity to light. If you increase the the ISO higher, it becomes more sensitive and utilizes its light more so than in lower settings. The negative to this is it causes what is known as "noise" creating a grainny factor in the picture. Some cameras control for noise better than others, but none the less experts suggest using ISO levels at 100 and 200 levels. ISO is a great option to have though you should use all the "natural" control methods to get your picture right before the need to increase your ISO.

Picture taking situations:
Assuming clear skies in all cases and sunny outside.

9am in a park of a moving dog?
ISO low, fast shutter speed, mid aperture

7pm (dim) on the street person walking?
ISO mid, mid shutter speed, large aperture

9pm inside regular lit room of a flower on the table?
ISO low, slow shutter speed, large aperture

9pm inside regular lit room of a person sitting?
ISO high, mid shutter speed, large aperture

Lenses - Some lenses have fixed apertures and changing apertures. Some lenses have stabilization (IS, OS, etc = Image Stabilization, Optic Stabilization). Some lenses have sonic motors which give faster auto focusing (Hypersonicmotor = HSM, Ultrasonicmotor = USM). All lenses have a different focal length range and can or may not be macro based. All of these things are written in the name of the lens so you know what you are looking at just from what it is called and if that lens is right for you. Example. The canon kit lens is called, canon 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 IS. This means it starts at 18mm and can zoom to 55mm and that at 18mm, the f value is 3.5. When you zoom to 55mm, the aperture becomes f5.6. This is natural for a lot of consumer level lenses. Most pro lenses have a fixed aperture meaning it is the same thru out the entire focal length. Example, Canon 24-105mm f4L IS USM. This lens stays at f4 all the time which is good for when you need a constant aperture for the long end. The "L" stands for their pro line.

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Quickly shooter, draw your lens or prepared to get shot.

Hanson2120 Forum Member • Posts: 72
Re: Recommend to me some training materials for understanding DSLR cameras

Try Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson

Also, here are some websites with tutorials:

They all helped me. Also, when you have time, shoot raw and try shooting the same shot with different settings. Then later, when you look at them on your computer, if you are using DPP (software included with your new canon), right click on the photo and click "info" and you will see all of your camera settings for that photo, including aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc. If you have taken multiple pics of the same subject but with different settings, you can then see how the different settings affected your photo. All it costs is a little time. That's the great thing about digital. Most photo editing software worth its salt will also display the EXIF or camera settings. DPP and ZoomBrowser are just programs that come with all new EOS DSLRs.

Have fun, I have!

jkuse New Member • Posts: 8
Re: Recommend to me some training materials for understanding DSLR cameras

I am also a beginner and I found (through this website) a downloadable interactive ebook called 123di that I think is fantastic. I am not yet 1/3 of the way through it but I am enjoying it immensly thus far. It takes the user through the basic theory of how digital imaging works to practical applications of the camera and editing software. Each chapter is broken down into basic, essential and advanced sectionss so you can get as in depth as you like in each topic. The advanced sections seem VERY detailed and are too much for me right now, but I'm sure as I get more experienced I will go back and use the info. Very good interactive illustrations make the basic and essential sections very easy to understand. The ebook contains over 5000 pages of info, is easily searchable, well lais out. At 49.95 for the download I feel as though I got excellent value. You can preview it here:

Really, I cannot reccomend it enough.


chuxter Forum Pro • Posts: 21,714
Re: Recommend to me some training materials for understanding DSLR cameras

Gosh. To properly reply to that request, I would have to exceed Unka Phil's 6000 character limit. Some of us "regulars" on the Beginners Forum have created websites that give better, longer answers than we can here.

My website is in my signature block, but I'll help you navigate to the part you want:

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Charlie Davis
Nikon 5700, Sony R1, Nikon D300
'I'm from Texas. We have meat in our vegetables.'
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Phine00Del Junior Member • Posts: 30
Re: Recommend to me some training materials for understanding DSLR cameras

As a fellow newbie I second Hanson2120 and recommend Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. I ordered it after seeing it was recommended by several people on this forum and it's a GREAT book. I feel like I've got a good understanding of the theory behind exposure after reading that book, it's an easy read too. Now I just need to get out and practice what he explained.

BlueRose Regular Member • Posts: 229
Re: Recommend to me some training materials for understanding DSLR cameras

I bought my 40D in June this year and spent LOTS of time both on line and in the library looking for reference information

Above is a post I put up on my Beginner Photography blog which has all the places I found with useful information - some short book review and websites and blogs.

I also have a good collection of links in the Blogroll section which are ones I found particularly useful for a beginner.

Be prepared to do a lot of reading but make sure you put time into practicing as well

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