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Beginner Camera Basics in 5 Minutes

Learn about aperture, shutter speed, ISO and more in one easy tutorial
Photo of the back of a camera

We get it: digital cameras are not the easiest devices to understand. Sure, you might be able to take a simple picture or review an image on the screen on back, but do you really know how your feature-filled camera works?

If you’re like most beginner photographers, you are probably mystified by 90 percent of what your camera can do. And that’s too bad because it could mean you’re not getting the most out of your photos. Fortunately, there are helpful tutorials from experienced photographers like Dan Weinel of Gear Focus who explains digital camera basics for beginners below.

“In this video we go over the most important camera settings for beginner photographers,” he says. “Digital camera basics for beginners can help new photographers learn how to set-up their camera and how each of the main settings affect the final image.”

The best part, if you’re short on time and want something simple and straightforward, is Weinel’s camera basics video at the bottom of this post gives you the scoop in just five minutes. In the video he discusses focusing, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. He also explains how each setting affects photography and shows how to use ND filters to adjust exposure.

Here’s a rundown of some of the photography fundamentals he explains in full in the clip below.



“The aperture controls how much light is hitting your sensor,” he notes. “A lower aperture number means that the iris or the physical mechanism that is closing down and opening up is wider, which means more light is going to hit your sensor. A higher number means that iris is closed down, which means less light.”

Depth of Field

“Essentially what depth of field is is the separation between your in focus objects and your out of focus objects. With a lower aperture number when your iris is open real wide, you’re going to have a shallower depth of field. So, you’re going to have your subject stand out from your background more.”

Shutter Speed

“Your shutter speed measures the amount of time per second that light is going to be hitting your sensor. When you look at your camera that’s going to be the fraction you’re going to see next to your aperture reading. Most cameras will allow you to have your shutter open for a few seconds all the way down to a few thousandths of a second. The longer the shutter is open the more light we’re going to get into our camera sensor.”



“The best way to think about your ISO is kind of like a volume knob. What the ISO does is control the amount of voltage that goes across your camera sensor. With a higher ISO number you’re going to increase that voltage and with a lower ISO number you’re going to decrease that voltage.”

In you want to get more help on understanding the basics of photography, check out this easy camera tutorial and this video on how to shoot manual.


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