The Benefits of Shooting: DSLR Edition

Amateur photographers are everywhere. They are seen all over social media and some are now gracing the glossy pages of well known magazines. But how did these people learn to use that cumbersome clunky camera.  With a camera you learn by doing (and Youtubing). In today’s media culture where everything is photographed and recorded having the proper skills means knowing how to use your equipment well. Over the course of this week we have navigated the various settings and components of the camera. Some aspects I found straightforward and obvious, others were a bit blurry.

Let’s start with the basics. What is the difference between a DSLR and a mirrorless camera. A DSLR or digital single lens reflex camera uses a single lens that light travels through to a mirror that alternates and sends the image to the viewfinder or the image sensor, according to The Digital SLR Guide.

In contrast a mirrorless camera completely lacks a mirror mechanism, “which means that the light passing through the lens always ends up on the imaging sensor. Since light is no longer reflected on an optical viewfinder mirrorless cameras typically rely on electronic viewfinders and LCDs that basically project what the imaging sensor sees. Because of [the] lack of a mirror mechanism and an optical viewfinder, mirrorless cameras can be made simpler, lighter and less bulky when compared to DSLR cameras,” according to PhotographyLife.

Now that you know how to distinguish between the two, how do you use them? Both DSLR and Mirrorless cameras are equipped with multiple focus features such as manual, portrait, landscape, close-up, sports, etc. which allow the camera, with your help, to focus on the subject and take beautiful photographs, however knowing a bit more about the features will truly set you apart.

First, ISO or International Organization Standardization according to Photojournalism: The Professional’s Approach by Kenneth Kobrè, is an acronym for the light sensitivity of your camera sensor. The most common ISO camera speed settings are: 100, 200, 400 and 800. Depending on your digital camera you may have settings in the range of 64, 100, 160, 200, 400, 640, 800, 1600 and higher. The lower the ISO number, the slower the speed. The higher the ISO number, (for example 1600) the faster the speed.

Use an ISO of 100 or 200 when taking photographs outside in brightly lit conditions. In contrast if the sky is overcast or in a lower light situation use an ISO within the range of 400 to 800. At night or in cases of extreme low light you may need to set your camera ISO to 1600.

Another important function of the camera is Shutter speed, or digital reaction time. This is the delay between the time you press the shutter button and when the shutter opens to capture the image.

Lastly, a third function of the camera is the F-Stop or camera aperture which controls light and your depth of field. This is simply how close or far something appears. Aperture is measured on your camera in fractions so the smaller the number say F2.8 the larger the opening to let in light, and in opposition the larger the number like F32 the smaller the opening for your camera to let light in.

Once you have the basic concepts you can hone your abilities to shoot Bobby’s soccer game or the riot that breaks out in Venezuela. Through the course of this lesson I learned for photojournalists this knowledge is paramount. Those in the profession have to think on their feet and adjust their cameras and sometimes lenses on the whim of lighting that can change in a matter of moments. I also learned that in today’s climate photojournalists need an inquisitive nature and be constantly learning about new technologies. Many photojournalists now capture images on their smartphones and some are using drone technology. Like print and broadcast, photojournalism is experiencing a transformation thanks to technology.