DSLR Camera Controls Guide

When you first take your new DSLR camera from Nikon out of its box, you are going to see that it has a lot of buttons and dials. And these can certainly be overwhelming. This is likely why so many people I teach photography confess that they just leave their camera in Auto and hope for the best.

Here’s an overview of the important controls on your Nikon DSLR Camera. Note that several camera models will have slightly different controls, but the majority will have the following options.

Mode Dial

dslr camera mode dial

The mode dial is the first dial you’ll want to locate. This is the dial that tells the camera how much control you want over its different settings. You just turn the mode dial that indicates that Manual Mode is selected.

To change the dial, rotate the mode dial, which is normally at the top left hand side, to point to 'M'. Some of the models may have the mode dial at the top right hand side.

Exposure Compensation

Almost every camera out there, including almost all smartphones, will have some form of exposure compensation feature. This lets you instantly make the image brighter or darker by either increasing or decreasing the exposure compensation.

You will point the camera in such a way where you find good light, point it towards a subject/object which has an adequate amount of light. Keep the camera on a stable surface to make sure the composition does not change.

Camera Setting For Shutter and Aperture

Approximately every camera has a control wheel, which you rotate to increase or decrease these settings. If you are in aperture priority mode, the control wheel will increase and decrease the aperture setting.

If you are in manual mode, then you will require to be able to adjust both the shutter speed and the aperture. Many cameras handle this differently – many contain two wheels, many allow a button that you depress to switch what you are changing.

ISO Button

dslr camera iso button

If you are in manual tone and set the aperture and the shutter speed and then change the ISO, you will see the image getting brighter and darker.

If the ISO value is 100, which is the smallest value, then you are good. Oppositely, press and hold the ISO button and turn the dial towards your left until you get it to ISO 100. In some Nikon DSLRs, the minimum ISO is also 200.

Focus Mode

Focus is the method of assuring the subject we are catching a picture of is sharp. An out of focus image will create a blurry result that is not very perfect.

The camera will let you control the focus yourself manually. In this manual mode, you will have to adjust the focus ring, which is usually found on the camera's lens. It will be a ring all the way around the lens which you can rotate to adjust the focus.

Metering Mode

Check the camera metering indicator which displays a dotted line with – and + on either side of the line. 

Usually, you can check the right exposure through the meter when you press the shutter release while you’re looking through your viewfinder or in live view.

At the End - Practice is Everything

Shoot every day. Make a photo journal. Give yourself assignments. Invent your own themed Photo a Day challenge and make it a ritual to post to social media. After 365 days of shooting and posting, look back and see how your skills and experiences have improved.