How do cameras get better

Beautiful photography: what you need to know about your SLR camera!

Basically anyone can take pictures these days. Thanks to the rapid spread of smartphones, digital photography is booming like never before. And yet: there are worlds between snapping snapshots with the smartphone and creative photography with a digital reflex camera.

Get out of automatic mode

Even the most expensive camera will only take great photos if you know how to use it properly. For a reflex camera that means first and foremost: get out of automatic mode! Because if you only take photos in automatic mode, you are giving away all the great creative design options that an SLR camera offers and with which much nicer photos can be created than with a compact camera or smartphone.

Think about it like this: Would you buy a Ferrari just to drive around in a circle in first gear with the handbrake on in the supermarket parking lot?

If you want to take your photography to the next level, you must first familiarize yourself with the three most important settings of your camera.

Single lens reflex camera for beginners: aperture, shutter speed, ISO

First of all: light is the most important thing when taking photos. No photo without light.

There are three settings you can use to control how much light your camera takes in: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Our infographic gives you a first impression of how the three influence each other. You can also print out the graphic, so you always have it with you as a cheat sheet when taking photos.

The aperture - sensitivity to light and depth of field

First, let's talk about the round opening in the lens of your camera: the aperture. Similar to the pupil in our eye, you can open the aperture wide or less, depending on the light conditions.

If it is rather dark and you need a lot of light, open the aperture as far as possible. If it is very bright and you need little light, you reduce the aperture - just as your pupil narrows when it is very bright outside.

The aperture setting is unfortunately a bit confusing at the beginning. The reason: the larger the aperture, the smaller the f-number. The aperture value always has a small "f" in front of the number. With standard lenses, the smallest possible value (i.e. the largest aperture) is usually f3.5 or f4.0. The highest value (i.e. the smallest aperture) is f29.

In addition to the brightness, you can also use the aperture to control the depth of field. Do you know those photos where the subject in the foreground is razor sharp but the background is blurry? This effect is due to a shallow depth of field. The more open the aperture, the smaller the depth of field. If you want to use the depth of field effect, you have to set the f-number as small as possible.

Shutter Speed ​​- Record or Freeze Motion

You use the shutter speed to control the exposure time of your photo. You can think of the camera shutter as a curtain that opens and closes when triggered to let a certain amount of light into your camera. Depending on how long the shutter opens, your camera will pick up a lot or little light. All of this usually happens in a split second.

What is exposure time good for? On the one hand, you can use a slower shutter speed to create well-lit photos even in poor lighting conditions. In low light or in the dark, a slow shutter speed helps ensure that the camera receives enough light. On the other hand, you control the representation of movement in your image via the shutter speed.

If you want to "freeze" very fast movements, choose a low shutter speed. If, on the other hand, you want to display movements fluently and dynamically, you need a relatively long shutter speed. Moving objects "blur" - this is how movement is suggested to the viewer.

But be careful: With a high shutter speed, it is particularly important to keep the camera absolutely still so that the image does not blur. From a certain shutter speed and depending on the lighting conditions, you can only do this with a tripod or a solid surface.

ISO - photosensitivity and grain

The ISO value is the third of the three most important settings on your camera. It's actually quite simple: the higher the ISO number, the more sensitive your camera is to light. So if you are shooting in low light, it helps to increase the ISO number.

The downside of the coin: the higher the ISO number, the more visible the pixels in your photo will be. Whether you're using an entry-level SLR or expensive professional equipment, if your photos look grainy, it's probably because of a high ISO number.

If the lighting conditions are ideal, you should therefore choose a low ISO number. If it is darker, you increase the ISO number - your picture will be better lit, but also be a bit more pixelated.

Most graphics programs include filters to reduce the grain of a photo in post-processing. If your photo is more pixelated, you can soften this effect a bit.


So these are the most important settings on your SLR camera. How they are related exactly and how you can use aperture, exposure time and ISO for creative photography, I'll explain in the coming parts of our series about creative photography. In the next part I will show you step by step how you can adjust the aperture manually to achieve great effects!

Do you have a digital reflex camera (DSLR) and just want to take nicer photos? Tired of complicated technical and photographic jargon? Discover more photo tips in the Wunderkarten magazine!