Photography Tips DSLR Camera

Phoenix Arizona Photographer Photography tips DSLRPhotography Tips DSLR Camera

With Christmas right around the corner many of you might be getting a beautiful new DSLR camera from Santa.  Super exciting, right? But there is so many options, buttons and so much to learn. I wanted to share with you, some tips someone shared with me over eight years ago.

Advice from a Professional 

One of the first workshops I took, was from Mark Wallace locally in Tempe, AZ. It was an in-person and hands-on workshop. He is an incredible instructor and photographer. I was fortunate enough to take a hands on workshop from him locally here in Tempe, Arizona at his studio. Since my class, he was contracted by and now has hundreds of free videos through Adorama T.V. that you can find here. The videos are one-on-one and start from the basics and advance to lighting techniques. I highly recommend you watch them. With all that said, the first tip was one that I got from Mark himself.


  1. Take your camera with you everywhere. This was Mark Wallace’s words of wisdom. I still do this to this day. My friends and family will attest to this. This goes back to the old practice makes perfect rule. Whether you are a hobbyist or looking to start your own photography business the only way to get better is to practice. Practice indoors, outdoors, during the day, at night, with available light. The best way to understand your DSLR is to practice. For me, my camera has become a part of my body and soul. Without my Nikon in hand or at my reach, I feel like something is missing.

                           A little lesson on manual mode

2.Take your camera off AUTO and put that baby in Manual– A scary thought I know, but let me talk you off your ledge and explain why we should use manual. When you take photographs in AUTO your camera is deciding what your aperture, shutter speed, white balance, as well as ISO will be. Have you ever taken a picture indoors at a party and you think it’s great, only to pull it up on your computer later and realize the picture temperature looks blue or yellow? That is because your camera has chosen that setting for you.  You are probably already wondering but wait, what is ISO and white balance? Let me break it down for you.

Turn your camera in Manual

On my Nikon it looks like this:

Phoenix Arizona Photographer Photography tips DSLR

Now that you have your camera in Manual there are four important terms you must know.


as Nikons website defines it

Aperture refers to the opening of a lens’s diaphragm through which light passes. It is calibrated in f/stops and is generally written as numbers such as 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11 and 16. The lower f/stops give more exposure because they represent the larger apertures, while the higher f/stops give less exposure because they represent smaller apertures.

This may seem a little contradictory at first but will become clearer as you take pictures at varying f/stops. Be sure to check your manual first to learn how to set your camera for Aperture Priority, then try experimenting to get comfortable with changing the aperture and recognizing the effects different apertures will have on the end-result image. Stop in and read more on aperture on their link above, they also have a aperture chart that might help you better understand.

Shutter speed

You can think of shutter speed as exposure time, or the amount of time the sensor cover opens and closes, letting light into the cameras sensor.

Fast Shutter Speed

Fast Shutter speed is typically what I use for movement. My daughter’s soccer game, or a client photography session with a one year old who has skipped walking and went straight to running. In situations like these I find myself photographing at a shutter speed of 250 and above.  Anything less than 100 there is blur and the image is out of focus. I always want my subjects in focus.

                                       Long shutter speed

 Long shutter speed I always use my tripod when photographing long shutter speeds. Long shutter speeds are used when photographing things like Tempe Town Lake Bridge and it’s changing colors at night or Downtown Phoenix at Night. I also use slow shutter speeds when I am photographing a landscape photograph of a waterfall, or a creek. This creates a beautiful look in which the water is still flowing or moving and everything else around the water is nice an in focus.

Phoenix Arizona Photographer Photography tips DSLR
Waimea Waterfall, Kauai, HI – Long shutter speed

Slow shutter speeds

Every camera is different, but I find that with my shaky hands and photographing anything below a shutter speed of 100 my photographs are not tack sharp. Even with my vibration reduction lenses. So I rarely go below a speed of 100 if my camera is not on a tripod.

Understanding ISO

ISO– This is important and a game changer for photography. This is what will prevent you from using the terrible flash on your camera and allow you to capture the ambient light of a wedding reception. ISO is the cameras sensitivity to light. So the lower the ISO the less sensitive the camera is. In everyday situations I always keep my camera at a lower ISO, usually 100 and maybe up to 400.

However, if I am in a situation where it is dark or there is little light to work with I have no trouble bumping my ISO up rather than use my on camera flash. Other options would be off camera flashes or strobes.  The downfall to ISO is that it will create noise in your image. Again, I ONLY adjust my ISO to a higher setting when I am in a situation that does not have necessary lighting.

Phoenix Arizona Photographer Photography tips DSLR
High ISO image taken at 4th of July

White balance

For me this is one of the most important settings in your camera yet it seems to be so overlooked. This one setting which takes seconds to set up, yet saves so much work in post production. Having to fix this in Photoshop is so time consuming.

White balance is the color temperature of the room or outdoor location in which you are photographing. Example, florescent lighting tends to cause a blueish color temperature to the image. I personally never leave my White balance in Auto. This again is allowing your camera to pick the temperature for you.

White balance options

You can either go into the white balance setting and select the temperature of your location. Example, sunny, daylight, florescent, or cloudy. I know there are other options as well. I chose to manually set my white balance. This can be done with a white balance grey card, or I use an Expodisc. The Expodisc takes a few seconds to use and my white balance is always fantastic.

These are really just a few tips to get you started with your new camera whether it is Nikon or Canon! I hope this was helpful!

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Hi there, I am Melissa. We moved to Arizona when I was five years old, so I consider myself a desert native. I am the mother of three wonderful children, a wife to an amazingly loving and extremely intelligent man, and a lover of animals. (We live on a small farm) I am the proud pet owner of a Chocolate Lab, miniature wiener dog, 26 chickens, 2 goats, a horse, and a miniature horse named Switch. Photography has always been a passion of mine, and 13 years ago I was able to form a successful small business doing what I love. I feel so blessed that God gave me this gift that I can pass along to others and bless them with.