Photo Basics: So Many Buttons

   Hello everyone.

   So you've bought your first DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera, congratulations. But if you're coming from point and shoot or this is your first camera besides your cell phone, you will notice there are a lot of buttons. On top of that there are more menus than your local shopping mall's food court. Not to worry, after reading this you will know how to avoid the suspicious looking
Mexican food and go for the good stuff. Actually I am always tricked by the suspicious "tacos" too, so maybe this is the blind leading the blind here.

   Anyways! Where to start? I suppose it's necessary to point out that this is a Nikon d3100 in my example photos. If you have a Sony, Canon, Pentax, etc. the buttons and menus will differ. But most brands have the same buttons and menus regardless of where they put them or what they call them. Also, I will not go over every single menu and I will not go into a huge amount of depth on any one topic. I have to save something for later posts right? Instead I will merely tell you what some of the most important buttons are and perhaps a little bit about what they do.
      First thing first, the on off switch! If you don't know what this does...well... I'm sorry. However, this also has probably the most important button of all, the shutter button. Pressing this takes a picture. This button has two stops to it. If you half press it down and hold it the camera will auto focus the lens. Once it is focused, you can press it the rest of the way down and it will snap a photo. Simple so far right?
   Next is the info button(blue) and exposure compensation button(red). Pressing the info button will turn on or off the display on the back screen. Half pressing the shutter button will do the same thing. The exposure compensation button will brighten and darken your photo. Holding this button down and spinning the thumb wheel on the back will change the aperture in your lens. (More on aperture in a later post)
   This dial is the shooting mode dial. Turning this will put the camera into different modes. Again, I will cover what these modes do in a later post.
   Onto the back of the camera. This green arrow is a wheel that you can turn with your thumb. Simply turning this alone changes your shutter speed. Holding down the exposure compensation button and turning this wheel changes your aperture.
   If you push the live view switch (red arrow) to the right, you will see everything the camera sees on the screen. In this live view mode pressing the button right in the center will begin recording video.     
   The blue arrow points to the control pad. While you are in menus you can navigate up, down, left, and right. Pressing that OK button in the center selects whatever is highlighted in the menu.
   This Yellow arrow is the delete button and deletes the selected photo or video.
   Ok going from top to bottom this time. First is the playback button. This will show you all the photos and videos you have taken.
   The menu button is right under that and will take you into all the camera's menus. Here you can change different settings.
  Under that is a zoom out and in button respectively. When viewing a photo you can zoom in and out with these buttons. The zoom out button will also allow you to view your photos as a list of thumbnails on the back of the screen as well if you first hit the playback button once. If you do not have a photo selected and you are in liveview mode, hitting these buttons will zoom in and out of the image on the screen so you can check focus.
  Next is the info button. When you are in the regular shooting menu, pressing this button allows you to select different quick options.

   Ok so menus. For this I will only point out a few important ones. For the rest you will need to just play around with them. But the ones I point out are the ones you should be most concerned with in my opinion.
  • Format memory card: This will delete everything currently on your memory card. It also allows the camera to "communicate" with the memory card in the most effective way.(to put it in simple terms) This way there will be less chance of information getting messed up when going from the camera to the card. It is a good idea to format your card before you shoot for the day, and to take all your images off your card and transfer them into your computer at the end of the day. Remember, this deletes everything on the card.
  • Image quality: This changes the way your camera records information and creates your image files. I will go into this a bit more later but for now know that JPEG is a smaller file and RAW is a larger file. Later I will explain why RAW is the best option.
  • White Balance: Again, another topic for a later blog post. I personally leave this in Auto White Balance, though not always. Probably one of the only settings I leave in auto.
  • ISO sensitivity settings: This will change per photo and is a lot like changing to higher or lower speed film in 35mm cameras. Higher ISO means more light is captured on your image sensor. Again, a complicated topic that must have its own post.
 
   That's about it. I am sorry if this post was boring to some people and I am sorry if it opened up more questions than it answered. That is often the case with photography. Rest assured that I will go into more depth about some of these things. I didn't do that in this post because they are very complicated subjects and if I did so this would be longer than Homer's "The Odyssey." However I do hope that this and my future Photo Basics posts will help at least one person on the road to whipping out their camera and making a scene.


As always if this post helped you, or you know someone who could benefit from this, please be sure to share it! If I missed anything important, or I messed something up please leave a comment. You can also leave a comment telling me how beautiful my MS Paint editing skills are too. Also, please read my other posts. They're not all about photography and you may just find a post that gets you through a little bit of that boring work day.