How to Get Started Using DSLR Camera Settings

StockSnap_4CLVYHVZ2LIf you recently purchased a fancy new DSLR or you are thinking about making the investment, you might feel overwhelmed at all the options and settings on it. Too many amateur photographers invest in great cameras but stick with the automatic mode and never learn how to properly use their camera. The advanced settings and modes in your DSLR camera were designed to help you shoot even better photos. If you feel overwhelmed or don’t understand what all the buttons on your camera mean, this article will explain the basic camera settings in your DSLR.

  1. Aperture

Aperture can seem confusing at first but it’s an important concept to understand for photographers. If you look at your lens, there is a circular opening where light comes through. The aperture settings control the size of that opening. If you widen the aperture, the opening will get larger and more light will be allowed in. If you narrow the aperture, the opening will get smaller and the less light you let in. If you narrow the aperture, more of the photograph will appear to be in focus. If you widen the aperture, less of the photograph will be in focus.

The important thing to know about aperture is that it’s represented in numbers called f-stops and that if the number is lower, it is a wider aperture and lets in more light. If the number is higher, it’s a narrow aperture and lets in less light. For example, a small f-stop, such as f/2 lets in more light than f/8.

You want to think about the lighting and exposure in a photo, as well as, the focus of the photo when you are experimenting with aperture. If it’s an extremely sunny day, you will probably want to use a higher f-stop so that you don’t let in too much light and over-expose the image. But on a darker evening, you will want to let more light in and use a lower f-stop. Read our in-depth beginner’s guide to aperture here.

2. Shutter Speed

The shutter speed refers to the amount of time it takes for the aperture blades to close to take a photo. It is usually just a fraction of a second. Shutter speed and aperture go hand in hand to creating a well lit, properly exposed shot. When you set the aperture and push the shutter-release button, the shutter will open and close allowing light to strike the sensor for a certain length of time.

Generally, you want to use a faster shutter speed, especially if you are shooting action shots. A faster shutter speed can help you capture the very instant of action.

However, you may want to shoot with a slower shutter speed if you are feeling creative and you want an intentionally blurred or overexposed photo. For example if you wanted to blur the fans in the background of a track meet, you would use a slower shutter speed while panning along with the runner.

3. Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority ModesStockSnap_HBBR93DVH6

Now that you understand shutter speed and aperture, you can understand these two modes in your camera. Aperture Priority is designated as Av or A on your camera dial and Shutter Priority is designated as Tv or S. These separate modes are often referred to as “semi-automatic” shooting modes.

In Aperture priority mode, you as the photographer will chose the aperture value and the camera will automatically set the shutter speed. In Shutter Priority mode, you choose the shutter speed and the camera will automatically set the aperture.

When you want to experiment with depth of field or motion blurs or action photography, we recommend experimenting in these two modes. If you want to have everything in focus or practice with background blur, use Aperture Priority. If you are working on action photography, use Shutter Priority. They can help you learn and feel more comfortable with aperture and shutter speed while still allowing the camera to do some of the work.

4. ISO

ISO measures how sensitive the camera is to light. It essentially controls the amount of light required by the sensor to achieve a certain exposure or brightness in your photo. Low ISO settings require more light to achieve an exposure. Generally if there is a lot of light already, say you are shooting outside on a bright sunny day, you will only need a low ISO number. But if you shoot in darker conditions, such as inside or in the evening, you will need a higher ISO number.  The important thing to remember when using high ISO number is that the higher the ISO, the grainier or noisier the photo will be. Most DSLRs have an “auto-ISO function,” which is very useful for new photographers.

5. Focus

You want to make sure that the subject of your photo is in focus, no matter what settings you use. DSLRs come with auto-focus modes, making it easy for you to set your focus. Focus modes rely on focus points in your camera. When you look through your viewfinder, you will see a number of squares or dots across the screen. When you press your shutter halfway down, one of these squares will be highlighted in red. That means it is the active focus point of the shot.

This is an overview of your camera settings and it should help you get started feeling comfortable with your camera.

We always suggest that you keep practicing with your camera and experimenting with different modes and settings. The more you play with your camera, the more you will improve!

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Georgetown vs. Duke Men’s Lacrosse

This past weekend, DC Sports Photography Academy and our newest student, Bill, were on the sidelines when the Georgetown Hoyas took on the Duke Blue Devils in men’s lacrosse.

Bill has long been a photo enthusiast. When he son began playing youth sports,  Bill began photographing his games. He enjoyed photography so much that he began to upgrade his equipment and turned his passion for sports photography into a full-fledged hobby. He currently photographs for a George Mason men’s basketball blog and he loves doing it. He will also work for his alma mater, Elon University, when they are in town.

Before the game, we worked with Bill on setting up his camera for fast action and finding the right shooting location. It can be difficult to find the right spot and get focused during fast action play but as the game continued, Bill became more comfortable.

After the game ended, we talked about the best techniques for editing photos. We went through his photos together so we could offer him pointers on how to edit each photo so that the finished photo is truly spectacular.

As you can see in the incredible photos below, Bill caught on quickly! Now that Bill is armed with more knowledge and skills, we can’t wait to see how Bill takes his lessons with DC Sports Photography Academy and continues to shoot fantastic sports photos!


Are you ready to start shooting like a pro, like Bill? All skill levels are welcome at DC Sports Photography Academy! Visit our Packages page here to learn more about our packages and book your game today!

How to Use Remote Cameras for Sports Photography

This month, photographers all across the country are setting up their gear to get the best photos during March Madness. If you have ever shot a sporting event, you probably already know how hard it can be to cover every angle possible. Especially in high level, fast-paced games like the basketball games during March Madness. That’s why photographers use remote cameras.

sports remote cameraRemote cameras allow photographers to shoot multiple areas of the game, race or match, without actually being there. It also offers a way to achieve multiple angles that photographers often cannot achieve on their own.

If you want to get started using remote cameras, there are a few things you should know. First you have to ensure you have the right camera. Not every camera will work as a remote camera. You need to have a specific port to plug in a PocketWizard. A PocketWizard acts as a switch that allows you to trigger the camera.

You will need two PocketWizards for remote cameras. One attaches to the remote camera and the other is used to trigger the remote. The second PocketWizard can be connected to a handheld camera or it can be used as a standalone transmitter.

Finally you will need a bracket or floor plate that will attach to the remote camera. It is essential that you receive permission from the building or the referees before you mount a remote. You want to ensure that it’s in a safe space and is not a hazard to the players or interfere with the game. Not only will this save you from interference and losing the job, but also from damaging your camera!

Once you have all your gear and permission from the building to set up a remote camera, you need to find the right place to set up your remote camera. You want to think where the action is going to occur and the different about the angles you can capture.

remote camera how toMany sports photographers choose the point of major action to set up their remote cameras. For example, in hockey you may want to set up a camera above one of the goals to get a overhead shot. In basketball, behind the hoop is a great way to capture really great action photos.

You can also choose to set up your remote camera fro
m above to try and capture the full view of the game, which would be impossible to catch from your spot on the floor.

Or maybe you want more options and angles of shots. For example, setting up a camera on the floor, while you’re on the other side of the court. Or setting up a remote camera behind a lacrosse goal while you’re on the other side of it, to give both perspectives of shots.

_RCS0261No matter where you choose to set up your remote camera or how you choose to use it, they can be invaluable tools if you want to advance your sports photography career.

The next time you are browsing through sports photos, take a look at the different angles to determine if a remote camera is used and where it was set up to give you a better feel for how photographers use remote cameras for high profile games.

For more step by step instructions, check out this video by Imaging Resource on how to mount a remote camera here.

Understanding the Three Types of Sports Photos

Sports is more than just action shots. A great sports photographer captures each part of the sporting event, telling an entire story through their photos. You can also do this by focusing on three different types of photos you can take during a sporting event.


Action Photos

As the name implies, these photos focus on the action in the game. It’s the jump shots, the goalie saves, the finish line crosses. These photos require you to anticipate the action of the game and be scanning the field and moving with the action.

To capture great action photos, we recommend having a basic understanding of the sport you are shooting and positioning yourself in a place where the action might take place. Sometimes that means running to home plate to catch a runner coming home.

Men's Basketball vs FordhamEmotion Photos

There is more to sports photography than the actual action. Sports photographers also capture the emotions of the athlete and the game. You want to think about the bigger story of the game, more than just the plays. It may be capturing an injured athlete being support from his teammate. Or the fans reactions after a game-winning shot.

If you want to capture emotions in your photos, it is important to continue shooting even after the whistle blows. Some of the best emotions occur just after the play. And remember, it’s not only the players who have emotions throughout the game. Remember to shoot the coaches, the team members not in the game and the fans as well. Those types of shots can add to the story.

crowdlas02.jpgGraphical Photos

Graphical photos are not as well known as the other two types of photos but they are often the most spectacular shots. In graphical photos, photographers tell the story through little details and small moments. For instance, in a group photo where the helmets of the players are all pointed to the coach, giving his pre-game speech.

It’s the details that help add to the story like  the shot of a challenge flag lying at the coach’s feet or the catcher’s mitt lying alone on the bench. These powerful photos will add to overall story and look great in a portfolio. So be on the look out for visually appealing graphical moments during the games and look for the tiny details.

When you add these three different types of photos together, you are able to truly tell the story of the sport though your photos, which is exactly what a great sports photographer does in every game!

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6 Biggest Mistakes New Sports Photographers Make

When you are first learning a new skill, you are going to make mistakes along the way. It is simply part of the process. But there are some mistakes you can (and should) avoid to help you become a great sports photographer right from the start. These are classic mistakes that many sports photographers make but that can be easily avoided.


  1. Reviewing your photos after taking a shot

This is called “chimping” and it is a big no-no for sports photographers. Chimping is when you check every photo you take on your LCD after you’ve taken it. The reason you should not do this in sports photography is that it takes your eyes off the action. You never know what could happen next at a sporting event so you want to ensure you are keeping your eyes on the action! There will be plenty of time to review the photos after the game.

2. Stopping when the whistle blows

Even though the players stop after the whistle blows, it doesn’t mean you need to stop shooting. A central part of sports photography is capturing the story and emotions of the moments and those emotions often come after the play has been made. Keep shooting during time outs or after the action has stopped. You never know what emotion or moment you can capture.

3. Not knowing the venue and the rules of the venue.

It’s always important to be somewhat familiar with the venue of your sporting event and the rules you need to follow while you’re photographing. Depending on the level of the sport, there may be certain areas you can shoot from or certain places you are supposed to stand. You definitely want to be aware of your surroundings and the rules.

4. Using a flash

Flash photography is strictly prohibited. It is incredibly distracting to the athletes and will automatically give you away as a “newbie” photographer. You can adjust your settings to help you brighten up your photos.

Women's Basketball vs Dayton

5. Sticking to one angle

In sports photography, there are many different angles and ways to capture the moment and tell the story of the game. Great sports photographers understand the need to experiment with angles, anticipate action and move throughout the event to show many different aspects of the game.

6. Worrying about getting the perfect shot

It’s easy to do. We all want to capture the best shot of the game but when you worry or try to anticipate the best shot, you might end up missing something spectacular. Stay in the moment and stay in the action and keep shooting. During the editing phase, you can access the results but during the game, have fun, stay in the moment and relax. You will end up having much more fun and probably capturing better photos than if you were worried!

Wrestling vs EdinboroReady to improve your sports photography skills? Sign up for a class with DC Sports Photography Academy! You can choose one game to try it out or book multiple games to really enhance your skills. We offer classes for all levels. Our classes are live college sporting events where you can shoot the game with a professional, learn new skills and capture photos for your portfolio while having a blast! It’s an exciting and one of a kind photography class that you won’t find anywhere else!

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The Right Camera Settings for Great Action Shots

It’s essential that you get yourself set up for success before the action starts in sports photography. Before the starting whistle blows and the game begins, get your camera set up with the right settings so you can shoot like a pro!


Check your shutter speed and set it to the appropriate speed. Remember this depends on what you are shooting and how fast the subject is moving.

Set your camera to the lowest possible ISO setting for the amount of light you have to work with. If you are shooting outdoors, use ISO 100 or 200. If you are in low light, use higher ISO numbers. It’s important to note that the higher the ISO, the more “noise” or graininess a photo will have. It’s important to find the right balance between noise and blurriness when finding the right ISO setting for your event.

Adjust your aperture. The aperture is the opening of a lens that light passes through and it is calibrated in f/stops. It can be a little bit confusing when you first start off. The lower the f/stop means that the larger the opening in the lens and the higher the f/stop, the smaller the opening. A larger aperture (meaning a lower f/stop) will help you increase your shutter speed and give you a shallower depth of field to help isolate players from the background. This will also help you have a fast enough shutter speed to stop the action.

Try burst or continuous shooting mode. Continuous shooting mode can take multiple shots at a time and can be best for certain types of fast-moving sports. However, remember that your memory card will fill up faster with burst mode so be sure yours has enough capacity or you will have to delete shots at half time or time outs.

If you are shooting an indoor event, you will need to adjust your white balance setting. The preset daylight white balance setting will usually work for outdoor lighting. Because indoor lighting is artificial, you may want to set up a custom white balance or it can impact your camera settings and change the colors of your shot.

You also need to turn your flash off! This is key! Flash photography can distract the players. If you have a slow lens that requires flash, you may want to invest in a faster lens or rent one from DC Sports Photography Academy.

Remember, above all, that sports photography is something that requires consistent practice. Get your settings correct and remember that with each game, you will improve more and more.

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