Photography and Blogging (Vol. 2): Camera Basics

I waited a while before I got my very first DSLR. I started my blog with a small point-and-shoot camera with the conviction that one doesn't need fancy equipment to be a style blogger. I actually still maintain that notion but that said, I happen to love the way my photos turn out with a lens that can give me that fancy blurred background. 
I took my time getting to learn the functions of my point-and-shoot, then learning all the functions of my interchangeable lens camera, and finally my DSLR. 
Full disclosure, I bought my current Canon EOS Rebel T5 from the refurbished section of the Canon website because I found that to be more affordable and less shady than a third party seller. If you have a tight budget, I recommend going the refurbished route as well. Buying fancy equipment is all well and good but unless you know how to use the functions, the camera is kind of wasted. Never fear, I am here to help you learn a couple of the basic functions of your DSLR to help get that perfect photo! There are three things you really need to understand first: Shutter Speed, ISO, and Aperture.

Shutter Speed

In layman's terms, the shutter speed controls how fast the camera clicks. The higher the number, the faster the speed. Easy, right? If you raise the shutter speed, you'll most likely get less blur when you click your camera which is great, you don't want a blurry photo. BUT when you raise the shutter speed, you let in less light meaning you're sacrificing photo brightness. You want to play around with your shutter speed a bit before shooting. In low-light situations I like to put the shutter speed down at around 60 or 80 meaning the camera will shoot at 1/60 or 1/80 of a second. Any lower and the photo starts to blur. In high light situation (such as outdoors on a sunny day), I can put my shutter speed as high as I can at 4000 (or 1/4000 of a second) without losing any light!


ISO stands for "International Standards Organization" and it's the industry's standard for measuring sensitivity to light. In terms of capturing photos, it basically means that a higher ISO is going to mean a brighter picture. Sounds great, right? There's a catch though - the higher ISO also means more graininess in a photo. Conversely, a lower ISO means less graininess but a darker photo. For my blog, as we shoot primarily outdoors, we keep the ISO at 100 on a sunny day and at 200 on a cloudy day or when shooting in the shade. For indoor photos, I try to keep it at 400 or lower, depending on my light situation.


If you guys like that background blur in my photos, listen up! That blur in the back is called "bokeh" and you can get it with the aperture setting of your camera. Aperture controls how much light you let into your camera. A lower aperture or a bigger f-stop number (that's right, it's opposite!) means less bokeh, aka a crisper background. A higher aperture setting or a lower f-stop number will get you more bokeh aka a blurry background. Like all the other settings though, this one comes with a catch too: higher aperture can also mean an unfocused photo. It's tempting to have all of your outfit of the day photos be at f1.8 but that can mean a lot of unfocused photos or focus in the middle of the photo but not on your face. We usually put our f-stop at 2.0 for full body outfit shots and at 1.8 for mid-shots or face shots.

I hope this helps those who are new to blogging photography. If you have any questions leave it in the comments - or conversely, if you're a professional photographer (or just have a lot of experience), give us some advice!


  1. I'm still figuring out ISO, but it's challenging to learn a complicated camera! So much I just rely on "AUTO" settings for everything!

  2. Can I just say thank-you for this post?! I've had a DSLR for a few years now and never really used it to it's full potential because every instruction manual that I found was too overwhelming. This was basic but just what I needed to get started figuring out all the fine details. I saved it to my pinterest to use to practice this weekend!

    xoxo, SS

    Southern and Style

  3. Totally bookmarking for when I start camera shopping! So much helpful information.

    -xo, Azanique |

  4. Honestly, I have never been the best at understanding all of the camera mumbo jumbo, I just find it all so overwhelming but I really need to buckle down and try to figure it out.

  5. These are good tips! Thanks so much for sharing!
    When I got my new camera a few years back I was eager to learn all about f-stop and ISO, but then I realised it had this handy on-screen thing that referred to it as lightness and background blur, haha! Id does show me the settings in 'technical terms' if I want but I turned that off and just use blur and lightness to get the photo I want, ha!

    Hope you are having a lovely weekend! We are getting our family Santa photo done tomorrow, gotta get a move on with my Christmas cards, haha! :)

    Away From The Blue Blog

  6. I am so glad I ran into this post. Definitely just bookmarked as I'm in the process of researching cameras! Thanks for the useful tips and info!

    Rachel //

  7. I wish I knew more about cameras and photography! It’s all so interesting!

  8. I have learned so much about photography from blogging! It amazing what you can create when you learn how to use those three settings.

  9. This is really helpful! I tend to be a point and shoot kind of photographer, so any info I can get helps.
    Tori || Victori Media

  10. great photography tips!!
    kisses from the sandpit ❤︎

  11. Love the tips! I just got the new iPhone and I am so amazed at the quality and ease of use with portrait mode.. which DSLR's were just as easy!

  12. You broke this down so simply- I've been using a DSLR for a few years now and still don't feel like I totally understand my camera and all these settings :D

  13. Definitely going to have to forward this post to my mom AKA my current photographer lol. Thanks for the tips, Deborah!

  14. Thank you for this, girl!! I am having some lens issues and never knew Canon had its own refurbished section--checking if Nikon does as well (unless I can use a Canon lens on my Nikon cam?).
    xo Annie
    New England Romance

  15. These are awesome tips! I took a photography class in college since it was required for my major, but I've seriously forgotten everything I learned since that was about 4 years ago. Just in reading this post lots of stuff is coming back to me!

  16. I love this post and definitely needed to read it! I pinned it so I can refer back to it!

    The Blush Blonde

  17. Awesome tips, lady- upping your photography game as a blogger is so important!

    Le Stylo Rouge

  18. Dear Deborah,
    I see you know much more about photography thank I! And you learned a lot during your blogger time - your wonderful pictures are the proof.
    Thanks for sharing your insights!
    xx from Bavaria/Germany, Rena


Thank you for your comments! I read every single one :]