What is a DSLR camera?

D-S-L-R stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex. This is how it works: A DSLR camera has a series of mirrors inside the body of the camera that reflects the light coming through the lens into the viewfinder so you can see it.

When you click the shutter button to take the photo, for a split second, your viewfinder goes dark. This is when the bottom mirror lifts up (reflex), blocking your view (the split second of darkness) and allowing all the light that is coming through the lens to pass by the shutter and strike the sensor to create an image.

DSLR cameras have two main components, the camera body, which you can think of like your brain, and the camera lens, which you could think of like your eyes. These DSLR camera lenses are interchangeable, so essentially you can change out your eyes to capture different perspectives of your story. For instance, wide-angle lenses will capture you more of your surroundings and a zoom lens will show you something further away, sometimes beyond your natural view.

Both the camera lens and the camera body work together to create your image, just like our eyes and brain work together, to interpret our visual experiences. Though we see in movies, what we are creating with a digital camera is a still image.  Unlike with our mobile phones or a point-and-shoot camera (which is always in Auto mode), with a DSLR camera, you have full creative control over the light, focus, and movement in your scene using the settings within the camera.

In our beginner photography classes, one of the first things you learn is that a camera can only see light. So if we want to control the focus and movement within that light (to bring our best stories to life), we need a camera that we can creatively control. That’s where we have to leave the iPhone behind and grab our DSLR camera.  There are three settings within a DSLR camera that give you control over your light, focus, and movement. They are ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed. You don’t have control over these settings with any other kind of camera, except a mirrorless camera.

If you already know you want to learn how to use your camera with confidence, check out our photography classes.

Photo Quiz

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