Ever sit and look at your camera and feel like it is speaking a different language to you? It’s really easy to get overwhelmed when trying to start being friends with your DSLR. And it’s even easier to just stick to what you know because you don’t know what everything does.
Well today there is no more excuse- we’re going to start speaking camera and knowing just what all those buttons do! If you’re an experienced user, you’ll note there is a good deal I am leaving out (like all of the menu functions), as this is meant as a beginner guide. If you’d like to learn more about a topic, you can click the links I’ve provided, or check out another more in-depth resource.
Also, I am showing on my Canon xsi, so not all buttons will be the same as yours- but many are standard (my t2i has a few notable differences, and Nikons may as well- so you should consult your user manual if you’re confused).
Let’s start with the front of our cameras:
Up top, you’ll see the shutter button. This is what you press to get your camera to “go”. Push halfway to focus, all the way to take the picture.
Then you’ll see the metal flash “shoe”. This isn’t a button, but it is where you will attach your external flash.
On the front of the camera, you’ll see a little lightening button. This will turn your flash on- either by popping up your camera’s flash, or triggering your external flash and telling it to fire next time you take a picture.
On your lens (I know, not really a part of your camera body itself) you’ll see a little button saying “af” and “mf”. This will change your lens to either automatic focus (hold the shutter button down halfway and it will focus for you) or manual focus (you move the lens around to get it right).
Underneath the EOS on this photo (without an arrow pointing to it) is the lens release button. Hold this to change out your lens so you can add a different one.
Ok, that was pretty painless, right? Now let’s move to the back:
Starting on the top of the camera, you will see a dial. When in a semi-manual mode, you can change your aperture and shutter speed with this dial.
The ISO button is fairly self explanatory- it sets your ISO. To learn more about ISO, check out this handy guide.
The on/off switch is another pretty easy one to figure out 🙂
Above the on/off switch, you’ll see the different camera modes on a dial. Select the mode you’d like to use here (and don’t fear the manual and semi-manual modes!). You can learn all about each mode here.
Next we will get to some – and + buttons. When in playback mode (you are looking at a photo you already took- see below) you can press these buttons to zoom in and out of the photo. I use this a lot to be sure the pictures I took are clear and in-focus. Otherwise, the buttons will help your focus:
To set your focus, hit the + button and select the focus point you’d like. (learn more about this function here).
To lock your exposure (a post in itself), you’ll hit the – button.
We’ll check out the +/- AV button next- this is your exposure button. When in manual mode, hit this to switch exposure (otherwise the dial will default to shutter speed).
WB will bring up your white balance menu. More about white balance can be found here.
Ok. Almost there! Now we’ll check out the control dial buttons.
When you hit the menu button (on the top back left side of your camera) the four buttons with arrows work as selection buttons. Want to change menu items? Just press up, down, side or side and “set” to select. It’s pretty intuitive. The menu mode itself could be a whole series of posts- stay tuned!
First off the top button is your metering mode button. Since this is a bit more advanced than we are going to get into, we’ll leave it for another day.
The right button (with an AF) switches your camera into autofocus mode.
The down button sets your picture style- landscape, portrait, etc- which your camera has its own predesigned settings for to make your photos look their best. If you don’t set this accurately and use Lightroom, you can change some of it in Develop mode down at the very bottom of the menu.
The left button is the shooting mode button. This button allows you to chose single shot or multi-fire shooting if you’d like to take bursts of photos at once.
Below the circle you’ll see a play and a trash button. The play button will bring up your photos so you can scroll through them (hit the left and right buttons to scan through your photos), and the trashcan icon will delete your photos.
Menu Button (that’s a whole post… change all your cameras internal settings and more)
Display button- shut your display off to save battery- this will mean your photos don’t display right after you take the photo.
What buttons do you use the most? Are there any you’d love to learn more about? Let me know!
Don’t miss any of the Love Your Camera Series! Sign up for the mailing list for exclusive tips and tricks, deal codes and fun here:
And be sure to follow Sweet C’s on Instagram where I share some of my favorites:
Or join the Love Your Camera facebook group where you can share photos, get ideas and ask questions!