Photography for Bloggers: Getting To Know Your Camera

We’re so excited to have another guest series to share with you, this time from Danielle over at Sundaes and Spaghetti! Danielle is sharing her best photography tips for bloggers in this series, starting with getting to know your camera. Check out the article below to learn about all of the settings on your camera, and how to actually use them!


As a mom, I want to take wonderful pictures of my child. As a blogger, I know how important pictures can be for increasing traffic to your blog. As a non-professional photographer, how can you make that happen?

I am so excited to be writing a series of guides on how to take better pictures. I hope that you will find this information helpful and be able to use it to take better pictures.

I got my DSLR camera (a Canon Rebel) about three years before having my daughter. The first thing I did was put it on full manual and read lots of blogs to learn more about how the camera actually works. I figured that if I have a nice camera, I might as well figure out how to really use it. So that’s what I am urging you to do. Take control of your camera! In order to do that you will need to know a little bit about the settings within manual mode.


Here is what my display looks like:


These are the four settings I will be focusing on in my articles:

  1. Shutter speed
  2. Aperture
  3. ISO setting
  4. White balance

So what do all of those settings mean? Let’s break them down one at a time.


Shutter Speed

Shutter speed refers to how long the shutter on your camera stays open. A fast shutter speed will freeze motion, while a slow shutter speed will create a motion blur.



The pictures above are from a trip my family took to last summer to Tahquamenon Falls in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (if you are ever there I suggest visiting, it’s very pretty). As you can see the picture on the left (which was taken with a fast shutter speed) looks like water is stopped mid fall. The picture on the right (taken on a tripod with a slow shutter speed) the water looks like it’s in motion.

Shutter speed is measured in fractions. The smaller the fraction (1/1000) the faster the shutter speed. The larger the fraction (1/40) the slower the shutter speed. Keep in mind that once you start slowing down shutter speed, you will need a tripod, or something to stabilize the camera. Just the movement of you pushing the button to take a picture can result in blurry picture. It’s also important to note when taking pictures of subjects that move, a slow shutter speed may not be the best choice.


For example, I was taking pictures of my daughter playing with dishes.   She was moving all around and I had my shutter speed set at 1/4. Result? Blurry picture.




Once I increased my shutter speed, I was able to get a nice in focus shot.




Take away? Slow shutter captures motion, fast shutter stops motion.



Aperture refers to the lens opening. The opening can be wide or narrow. The wider the opening the more light gets let in. The narrower the opening the less light gets in.


The aperture is measured in f-stops. Here is where it gets a little confusing. The smaller the f-stop the wider the aperture. The larger the f-stop the smaller the aperture.

pic2wide pic3narrow


So, why do you need to worry about aperture?   Aperture is what determines your depth of field. You can have either a narrow or wide depth of field. When you have a narrow depth of field, more of the photo is in focus. With a wider aperture, less of the picture is in focus. Many times when taking portraits, you want to use a wider aperture so that the subject is in focus and the background is out of focus. Here is an example: pic4flowerapAs you can see with a wide aperture only a little of the flower is in focus, but with a narrow aperture the whole flower is in focus. Here is another example: pic5annab Once again, with the wide aperture just my daughter and the bucket are in focus. With the narrow aperture the background is more in focus as are the blades of grass around her.

Take away? Narrow aperture (higher f- stop) means more of the picture will be in focus. Wider aperture (lower f- stop) means the background will be blurry.

I feel that aperture is one of the most complicated settings to learn about. To really learn about, you have to practice, practice, practice! 


This setting has to do with your camera’s sensitivity to light. The lower you set your ISO, the less sensitive your camera is to light. This means you would want to choose a low ISO setting when there is ample light available for you to shoot your picture, or you are able to use a slower shutter speed to allow more light in.

The higher the ISO the more sensitive your camera is to light. This means when you are trying to shoot a picture in the dark, but do not want to lower the shutter speed or make the aperture very wide. For example if you are trying to take a picture of dancing at a wedding, you would probably need to up your ISO in order to keep your aperture and shutter speed low.

Bumping up the ISO does result in something called “white noise” which is similar to film grain. If you take a picture of an object with a high ISO and then try to blow it up, it won’t look as clean as if you shot it with a low ISO. ISO really works hand in hand with shutter speed and aperture, so I will talk more about ISO in my future articles.

White Balance

Have you ever snapped what you think is going to be a great picture, then looked at your camera only to find the image seems blue, yellow or red?   This happens due to white balance.

All light has a temperature (measured in Kelvin). Some light sources have a cooler temperature while other sources of light have a warmer temperature.  Cooler temperatures have more blue light than warmer temperatures. Our eyes adjust for the different temperatures of lights automatically.  When on auto white balance (awb) your camera has to “guess” what it thinks the light source is. It then makes adjustments to the color cast based on that “guess”.   If it thinks that the temperature of the light is cooler, then it will be more sensitive to cool light.

For example, here are pictures of a flower I shot outside on a partly cloudy day. pic9whitebalancetwopic9whitebalancetwo As you can see the flowers shot with the tungsten and fluorescent auto white balance have a much more blue cast to it. pic10whiteblaanceone Once again, you can see how the tungsten looks way too blue.   The AWB picture is also slightly bluer than sun or shade setting. The shade setting really brings out the pink of the flowers. So what do you do when AWB makes your picture bluer or redder than you want? Manually change the white balance. It’s really easy to do. Here is what the white balance setting looks like on my camera. pic11whitebalance

  1.  Auto White Balance
  2. Sunny
  3. Shade
  4. Cloudy
  5. Tungsten
  6. Fluorescent
  7. Flash
  8. Custom

Well, those are what I feel you need to understand about the camera settings. In the next article we will talk more about how all of these settings work together.
You can visit Danielle at her blog or Etsy shop, and follow her on Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest. Check out her full bio below!

About Danielle Siero

Danielle is a former first grade teacher turned stay-at-home-mom. Born and raised in Michigan she is the author of the blog Sundaes and Spaghetti where she blogs about life and her adventures as a new mom. She is also the owner of the Esty shop AlthreadySewSweet, where she sells a variety of baby related items. Some of these items include skirts, tutus, and diaper bags. She lives with her husband, daughter, and two cats less than a mile from where she grew up. In her "spare" time she enjoys working on her photography and sewing skills. She also loves cooking and baking, all the seasons Michigan experiences, MSU, and football season.

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  1. 3' says

    These are great tips! I use my boyfriends DSLR, I mainly learn from watching him using it but seeing ‘aperture’ illustrated and ‘ISO’ defined here has really helped. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some better pics now 🙂

    • 4


      Thanks so much for reading the post! I am so glad my illustrations are helpful! I tried to include as many as I can, since I learn much better when I can see what is being discussed! Good luck with your camera!

    • 6


      So glad you found the information helpful! I was so lost when I first got my camera, but through lots of practice (and taking lots of pictures of my cats) I slowly got better.


    • 8


      Hi Gigi,
      I am so happy you were able to find my tips useful! It was pretty overwhelming for me when I first got my camera, and as a non professional photographer, there was a ton to learn! So glad you liked the tips! There will be more articles to come, so be on the look out! 🙂

  2. 14' says

    This is one the most detailed photography posts ever. Thanks so much for posting and sharing this on the Merry Monday Link Party. Shared on my FB fanpage and pinned.

    • 15


      Thank you so much for your comment! I’m glad you liked the post! 🙂 I know when I was trying to learn how to use my camera there was so much to learn. I hope that I will be able to help others learn how to use their camera.

  3. 17' says

    Very helpful information! I will be getting a DSLR soon (hopefully ;)) and this info will definitely come in handy. I pinned and am featuring this post for this week’s Merry Monday Link Party. Come back tonight to check it out!

    • 18


      Thanks so much for your kind comment. I am so glad you were able to find my article helpful. I love my DSLR. They take great pictures, even more so when you take control of you camera. Thank you also so much for featuring this article on your Merry Monday Link party! I will have to check it out more often (I love myself a good link up ;)).

  4. 19' says

    This is a superb article and really helpful to me, love the side by side comparison shots you’ve included. I’ve had a lovely canon DSLR for a couple of years now, but whilst I never use it on Auto, it takes me ages fiddling around with settings to get the shots I want. I only vaguely know what F stops are etc and usually get the shot through trial and error, so this is really useful and gives me more clarification of what the settings actually do!

  5. 20' says

    Really helpful article, I’m so glad I found it! I have been using a regular camera for my photography until recently when the lens developed a fault which I attempted to fix myself…. It didn’t go well (I broke it)

    A friend gave me an old FinePix DSLR, despite the pixels being low, the quality is amazing and perfect for web images. This article has helped me to understand some of the settings, so thank you!

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