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How-To Guides

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How to Choose the Best DSLR Lens

One of the biggest advantages of owning a DSLR camera is the ability to change lenses. Different lenses offer the ability to take different types of pictures and create special effects that just aren’t possible with a basic point-and-shoot camera. Most amateur photographers, who want a camera for family photos and vacations, will stick with the basic lens that comes with the DSLR camera. However, if you want to take pictures with a professional edge, then it is important to know what each type of lens is for.

Don’t be surprised to find that the lenses sometimes cost more than the camera itself. The brand of camera you buy will have a very specific mount for the lenses. This means that if you purchase a Canon camera, you need to get a compatible lens that will fit into a Canon mount. There is little chance that you can fit a lens designed for Nikon on a Canon camera. When choosing which camera to purchase, it is a good idea to price the lenses you think you will want in future and ensure you get the quality as well as the price that you want both now and further down the road. You will choose either a prime or a zoom lens. A prime lens has a fixed focal length, such as 35 mm, while a zoom lens allows you to adjust the lens to varying lengths within a range, such as 18-50 mm.


Here are some basic lens types:

  1. Normal – Lenses fall into this category when they have a range around 50 mm.  This is the average distance most people can see, so it most closely reflects a natural, or “normal”, range of vision. This is the lens most often used for everyday events, such as a birthday party or a day at the zoo.
  2. Wide-Angle – A wide-angle lens has a length of less than 35 mm. This is one of the hardest lenses to learn to use effectively. It can create a short focal length and exaggerate depth in a photo. A wide-angle lens is sometimes used for sunset shots, for example. It makes things seem farther away than they actually are. 
  3. Telephoto – A telephoto lens can go as high as 600 mm. These lenses are used for wildlife photos and sports. For example, many sporting events are snapped at around 400 mm. A telephoto lens makes things that are far away seem like they are near.

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How to Use Your DSLR Camera

For consumers who are used to a point-and-shoot camera, switching to a DSLR camera is sometimes a challenge. The biggest challenge may be in learning how to focus on a subject, since point-and-shoot cameras have an autofocus option. Pictures taken with a DSLR may come out blurry because of “camera shake.” Fortunately, there are a few techniques that will help you taking pictures like a pro in no time.


  1. Learn how to hold the camera. It is human nature to hold the camera at arms-length, so the LCD screen can be easily viewed. However, this leads to blurry images because it is nearly impossible to hold the camera steady. Instead, hold it with both hands wrapped firmly around the outside edges and pull the camera close to your body. Instead of looking at the LCD display to see the image being taken, use the viewfinder or look just over the top of the camera.  
  2. Even your breathing can throw off the shot. Just before you snap the picture, take a slow and deep breath, hold it and then push the button. Once the picture is snapped, you can release your breath.    
  3. Be gentle with your shutter button. If your DSLR is in continuous mode and you push too hard and long, you will wind up with 100 pictures of the same shot. If you jab too fast, you risk shaking the camera or missing the shot altogether. When you first get your new DSLR camera, practice taking basic shots around your home so you can learn the correct pressure to apply and how long to hold the button down to take the pictures you want.
  4. If your camera has an auto-focus mode, use it at first until you get used to the different shutter speeds of the camera.
  5. Play with the aperture settings of your camera. If you want to blur the background and make the subject sharper, use a larger aperture and if you want everything sharp and focused, use a smaller aperture. It is only with trial and error that you will learn the best settings for the effect you want with your pictures. 

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How to Choose the Right ISO Setting

The ISO settings of your camera dictate how sensitive your camera is to light. Lower numbers mean the camera is less sensitive to light. Full sunlight might call for a setting of 100, while a dark setting would call for a higher setting. ISO100 is a typical setting and offers clear pictures without a lot of grain in the image. Most digital cameras come with an auto-ISO mode. However, there are some situations where you may want to create a grainier effect or a sharper image. There may also be occasions when there is a lot of movement or you just want to let in more light to the picture. Use the following guidelines as a rule of thumb for choosing the right ISO.


  1. When taking a picture outside during the daytime, use a low ISO setting of 100. This setting works well with a tripod to avoid a blurry shot. If a tripod is not available, lean against a wall or rest your elbows on a surface to steady the shot. Most modern DSLR cameras will automatically adjust your other settings, such as aperture to match what you’ve chosen for ISO.
  2. Use higher ISO settings at sporting events or when the subject is moving. Start with an ISO of 1000 and go up from there. Although DSLRs do have some built-in features that prevent the grainy effect that non-digital cameras sometimes give at these high ISO speeds, the lowest ISO you can use will result in the sharpest image. So experiment and see which setting works best.      
  3. Use a high ISO setting at indoor events where the light is low, or when you want to take a grainy photo. In a dimly lit room, start with an ISO 800. The darker it is the more light you want to let into the lens and a higher ISO is required.     
  4. Get in the habit of checking the ISO setting before taking pictures. It is easy to set the ISO high in a dark room and forget to set it back. The result can be grainy pictures that should have been crisp and clear.          
  5. If you notice too many shadows on sunny days, bump your ISO up from 100 to 200 or even to 400. This will vary based on the time of day you are shooting. It is common practice to start with 100 in full sunlight and move the ISO up from there.                   

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How to Take a HD Video with a DSLR Camera

Digital cameras have been able to take short videos for years. More and more people enjoy uploading videos to social networking sites of their baby taking his first steps or their daughter scoring her first soccer goal. So cameras have utilized fast shutter speeds and taken short clips of 30-seconds to a couple of minutes in length. Some of the newer digital SLR cameras are now able to take longer videos and of higher quality. The ability to change lenses allows for some features that before were only available to professional cinematographers and movie studios. The changes in the capability to take high definition videos with digital cameras means that users now have the ability to produce their own short films that come close to professional quality.


Although each brand of camera will vary a bit in how HD video can be taken, the following basic tips will make your videos the highest quality possible.

  1. The first thing you must do is to create stability. Remember that the typical DSLR was made to take four to six frames per second steadily, but shooting a high definition video requires 24 frames per second. Stabilize the camera with a tripod for the best results.
  2. Purchase an outside microphone and record the sound separate from the images because sound quality is generally rather poor for the typical DSLR video recording. You will need some video editing software to splice the sound and video together later.  
  3. Set your camera to video recording mode. On most cameras this is indicated with a small icon that looks like a movie camera. The reflex camera should make a sound as the camera auto-adjusts to movie mode.
  4. Autofocus on the subject of the movie. The user manual for your specific model will detail how your camera’s autofocus works. Typically, you will hold the shutter down halfway with the subject centered in the viewfinder or LCD screen.
  5. Press the shutter button down fully to begin shooting the movie and press the same button to stop recording.
  6. Remember that most DSLR cameras can only hold about fifteen minutes of continuous video recording. You will either need to have additional memory cards on hand to swap out after that time or limit your recording to shorter segments.

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« Frequently Asked Questions
Why DSLR Instead of Point-and-Shoot? »
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