Beginner's guides to digital SLR Photography

Beginners’ guides to digital SLR photography

A simple-language series taking the mystery out of cameras

Primers

Before you start

Most of you won’t need to read the articles in this section. But if you’re completely new to the subject and find it all a bit confusing, then these short and simple primers will help make sense of the rest of it.

A quick primer for people who are starting

If SLR cameras seem completely alien to you then this short article will clarify some core issues. Understanding this stuff gives you a real advantage when you jump into the getting started article   MORE …

Making sense of blur

blur

Here’s another easy primer for people just starting out. Understanding the differences between the main causes for blur will give you a huge advantage later on   MORE …

What’s depth of field?

depth of field

Some people confuse depth of field with focus, but they’re not the same thing and it sure helps to know the difference   MORE …

basics

The essential basics

Now the fun begins. This is what’s at the heart of every DSLR. This stuff will free you up to finally take control of your camera.

Getting started: what you need to know

When you bring home that fancy new toy with the interchangeable lenses and a manual that tells you everything except how to take pictures, you suddenly realise things are complicated. Crazy complicated. So, where do you begin?   MORE …

Learning from examples

The getting started article revealed the advantages of an SLR and how it ‘thinks’. Now we put that knowledge into action with a bunch of real situations   MORE …

Understanding shutter speed

It’s one of the most basic things involved in driving a camera. Here’s what shutter speed means   MORE …

Understanding aperture

aperture

Like shutter speed, aperture is one of the fundamental things involved in getting a correct exposure. Here’s what you need to know   MORE …

Focusing a modern digital SLR camera

dog

Modern SLR cameras can focus automatically with speed and accuracy. You just want to make sure they focus with speed and accuracy on the right thing   MORE …

Egret

Common problems and their solutions

Delving a little deeper, now it’s time to fix the little things that often go wrong.

Washed-out colours in photos

We’ve all experienced it: taken photos in beautiful surroundings on a delightful sunny day, only to be disappointed by how bland the colours turn out. Here’s what’s happening, and how to get those colours back   MORE …

Understanding exposure compensation

Modern digital cameras do a great job at getting the exposure right — most of the time. Here’s how to get great shots the rest of the time   MORE …

Working in harsh midday light

The kind of harsh light you get in the middle of the day makes it especially difficult to get beautiful images. Some areas are likely to be blown out, and the rest is probably going to be high in contrast and low in colour. Here’s what you can do to put some life back into those midday photos   MORE …

Getting sharper pictures

swallow

It can be frustrating to have the latest, greatest gear and yet still get a bunch of fuzzy images. If your camera isn’t producing the tack-sharp pictures you were expecting then here’s a rundown of the usual causes   MORE …

Understanding dynamic range

Dynamic Range

Photographers sometimes talk about having problems with dynamic range. Here’s what it means, and what you can do about it   MORE …

Where to focus

Here’s a really handy trick for you landscape photographers. It will help you get as much of your scene in focus as possible   MORE …

Noise in your images

Photographers sometimes talk about noise in their pictures. Here’s what they’re talking about, and what you can do about it   MORE …

moon

Photography at night

If photography is the capture of light then you need to know a few tricks when there isn’t any.

Taking pictures of small critters in the dark

turtle

There’s a lot of wildlife to be found at night. Taking pictures of it doesn’t have to be complicated   MORE …

Taking photos of the moon

At night time, your camera’s going to struggle to get a decent moon exposure. Unless you use this easy method   MORE …

Photographing the Milky Way

This stuff can get complicated or easy. Personally, I’m a big fan of easy. And you can get great results without spending a fortune on fancy equipment   MORE …

Taking photos of lightning

lightning

Lightning can produce spectacular images. Here’s how to capture them   MORE …

histogram

Technical stuff explained

Things that seem complicated don’t have to be.

APS-C vs full frame

bird

When choosing a digital SLR or a lens to go with it, it helps to understand the difference between APS-C and full-frame cameras. Here are the differences, and what they mean for your photography   MORE …

Pixel density

How tightly the pixels are packed into your camera’s sensor affects how much detail they can capture. Having enough pixel density therefore allows you to see more distant stuff. So it’s almost like having a longer lens   MORE …

Megapixel madness

Camera megapixel counts now exceed what most of us will ever use. Here’s what you need to know to see through all the megapixel madness.   MORE …

How big will your photo print?

Here’s what you need to know, plus a calculator, to predict how big a photo will print and whether it has enough resolution for the job   MORE …

Making sense of sensors

Camera manufacturers love boasting about megapixel counts. But they rarely talk much about the size of their sensors. The truth is, sensor size contributes a lot more to image quality than megapixel counts. Here’s why   MORE …

Understanding histograms

histogram

After you take a shot, your digital SLR might display a little graph on its rear screen. It might look confusing, but it’s a handy thing. And it’s dead easy to understand what it’s saying once someone explains it to you. Which is what I’m about to do now   MORE …

How to choose a lens

lenses

Choosing the right lens or lenses for your SLR will not only help your photography — it can also save you a heap of money. Here’s a bunch of questions you can ask yourself that will narrow down your choice of which lens to buy   MORE …

Tips for using tripods

I’ll admit right up front: tripods are awkward and they slow us down. But sometimes they’re essential. Here are some tips for getting the most out of them   MORE …

JPG versus RAW

Which is the best option for how your camera takes pictures? There’s JPG. There’s RAW. And then there’s JPG plus RAW. I tell you how I like to work, and my reasons why   MORE …

Fast lens, slow lens

Digital SLR photographers talk about fast lenses with the kind of reverence motoring fanatics talk about fast cars. Here’s why they rave about them so much and why they can sometimes (but not always) be so expensive   MORE …

Understanding colour temperature

The whole subject of colour temperature (or white balance) sounds scary. But really, it’s not a big deal   MORE …

Understanding resolution

resolution

You hear a lot of talk about resolution in photography. For example, there are the resolutions of your image, your screen and your printer. Here’s what that stuff means and how they all relate to each other   MORE …

How much camera gear do you need?

The good news is you don’t need a lot of camera gear to take great photos. In fact, less can be better   MORE …

Ladybug

Photography words deciphered

They just can’t seem to stop themselves. Every field, including photography, seems to have its own jargon.

What’s a 100% crop?

eye

Digital photographers sometimes talk about 100% crops. Here’s what it means   MORE …

What is bracketing?

snake

Photographers sometimes talk about using bracketing to get their photos looking right. Here’s what it means   MORE …

What are specular highlights?

The term ‘specular highlight’ sometimes comes up in photography. Here’s what it means   MORE …

praying mantis

Taking things further

There’s a lot of fun to be had in these techniques.

Taking photos of sunsets

sunset

When you take a picture of a sunset you generally want the sky to come out right rather than the ground. It’s easy to make sure that happens   MORE …

Lighting up the foreground in a sunset shot

You don’t have to limit your sunset shots to only being about the sunset. Here’s how you can light up the stuff in the foreground   MORE …

Macro photography 1

With a few of these tricks up your sleeve there’s no limit to the kind of fun you can have immersed in the tiny, bizarre world of macro. This is the first page of a two-part guide offering all the stuff I wish I’d known earlier   MORE …

Macro photography 2

Turkey

Following on from the previous article, now I’m going to talk about some ways to take your macro photos to the next level   MORE …

Using a telephoto lens to blur the background

This is a handy trick for making your subject stand out from its background. Here’s how it works   MORE …

A simple trick for improving wildlife photos

I mention this a few times throughout these photography guides, but I’m devoting a whole page to it this time because it’s worth stressing and it’s also such an easy thing to do. I’m talking about just getting down (or up) to the subject’s eye level to take your shots   MORE …

Bird photography 1

bird

They’re all around us, but getting a good shot of one can be exasperating. Here are some tricks to help your bird photography   MORE …

Bird photography 2

In the first section I gave a bunch of suggestions for getting started in bird photography. Here are some more ideas, starting off with birds in flight   MORE …

Isolating your subject from its background

Sometimes you want to stop the background from mucking up your photo. It’s handy knowing how to isolate your subject from everything going on behind it. And digital SLRs make it easy   MORE …

How I take my photos of frogs

frog

I’ve been getting a lot of nice feedback from my frog photos. So I figured it would be good to explain how I work. It’s not difficult. You just need a bit of patience and a tripod. Oh yeah, and some frogs   MORE …

Wildlife photography

If there’s anything better than seeing an animal in its natural habitat, it’s getting a picture of it too. But animals can be notoriously uncooperative photo subjects. Here are some tricks used by the professionals to improve their chances   MORE …

Using software to ‘fix’ your photos

People familiar with image-editing programs like Adobe Photoshop are able to do some clever stuff to their photos, but how much work does a photo need to make it great? The answer might surprise you   MORE …

Taking action photos of dogs

You’d think it was difficult. I mean dogs can move really quickly, right? But it’s easy if you know the right settings   MORE …

Eastern Dwarf Tree Frog

Sneaky stuff

Here are some software tricks used be the pros.

Image stacking

What do you do if you can’t produce enough depth of field to get your whole subject in focus? You create a stacked image. Here’s how it’s done   MORE …

Sneaky deep-etching

deep etched tree

Here’s a fast way to cut crazy-complicated objects out of their backgrounds   MORE …

Creating an instant sepia look

With Photoshop you can get this effect in seconds   MORE …

ladder

Quick tips

A whole bunch of tips and tricks that I wish I knew about earlier

Preventing blown-out highlights  •  Don’t forget the background  •  Dinner plates in photography  •  Specialise if you want to get really good  •  Don’t settle for the most obvious angle  •  Don’t have a heavy dew? Then fake it  •  Working with extreme backlighting  •  Do your camera settings at home  •  Focus on the eyes  •  The best way to go wide  •  Taking photos of young birds  •  The advantage of working in slow motion  •  A trick for getting great colour into macro  •  Aiming for super-small depth of field in macro shots  •  A trick for reducing camera shake in weak light  •  Looking through ugly barriers  •  A tip for macro photography in awful light  •  Yep, this shot really was taken in moonlight  •  A handy trick for taking pics of flying birds  •  The difference the quality of the light makes  •  Taking advantage of very bright light  •  How much editing is enough?  •  The secret to getting great colour  •  Another way of taking pictures of flowers  •  The best time to fix mistakes  •  A tip for making panoramas  •  Sometimes, blurry is good  •  Working with big macro subjects  •  Using a telephoto lens to shoot macro

duck

Extras

The bits that don’t fit anywhere else

The elusive waterskiing duck

It started out as a fun idea, until the ducks figured it out …   MORE …

My weird UFO pic

I didn’t even notice it until I downloaded it to my computer   MORE …

Photo Gallery

Some of my recent images   MORE …

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