Getting started with a Digital SLR
Honestly, if you just move the dial to “M” mode and tape it there, after a week you will be far and away better than 90% of amateurs out there. That’s what everyone had to do until the 70s, and they didn’t even have a screen to make sure they got exposure right.
Here are the basics of what you need to know:
There are three camera settings that control exposure – shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. Set the Iso as low as you can for the amount of light you have (daylight 100-400, twilight ~800, indoor 800-3200), then set shutter and aperture according to fine adjustments in lighting. There is a lightmeter inside the camera; use it, then check exposure on your screen to make sure it’s okay.
Shutter speed (1/60, 1/125, 1/250, etc) is the amount of time the shutter is open. A rule is to keep the shutter speed at 2x the length of the lens to get sharp handheld shots (18mm = ~1/60, 50mm = 1/125) – this can be knocked down significantly once you get better.
1/15 is for getting blur on slow objects while panning example, and 1/125 is just about the fastest you can use for panning fast objects. 1/250 will freeze sports with less motion, and by about 1/500 you should be fast enough for most action.
Aperture (also f-stops) is how wide the lens is open. Small numbers correspond to large openings. f/2.8 is rather large, f/16 is rather small. Small aperture numbers (large openings) mean less is in focus. (Think of it this way – if you need glasses, take them off. Looking through squinted eyes or making a small hole between your index finger and thumb will make everything look sharper.)
Finally, ISO. Iso is simply how sensitive to light your camera is. 100 is the best one because it gives you the best image quality, but in lower light you can go down higher and higher until you are able to shoot (100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200). I would recommend trying to stay under 1600 90% of the time. Only go to 3200 if you really need it; the image quality gets pretty bad.