Do you have one of those big, professional looking DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) cameras? Do you have any idea how to use the settings on it?

If you are like most people, you answer yes to the first question and no to the second.

I’m going to briefly go over three different terms for you: aperture, ISO and shutter speed. These can all be adjusted in the manual settings on a DSLR camera to take better pictures. Look through the instructions for your camera in order to learn where these settings are displayed and how to adjust them, since every camera is different. Knowing what these terms mean and how they affect your photos can take your picture from good to great.

The first term is aperture. What it means: the size of the hole in the lens which allows light in. Also represented as: f-stop. The smaller the f-stop, the larger the aperture. What it does: adjusts the depth-of-field. A large f-stop number brings more objects in both the foreground and background into focus. A small f-stop will create a sharper foreground and the background will be more blurry. For something like a portrait, a small f-stop will allow you to create more attention on the subject of your photo. A large f-stop is good for landscapes, where you want the whole picture to be in focus.

The next term is ISO. What it stands for: International Standards Organization. What it means: how sensitive your camera is to light. What it does: lets you know what kind of light conditions you can use. The lower the ISO, the less “noise” will be in the picture in low-light conditions. Many cameras now have a low ISO of 100. Use the lowest settings possible in lower light conditions. A faster ISO will make your sensor more sensitive, which allows it to take pictures faster. If you are at a concert or somewhere else where flash would be ineffective, up your ISO to get a better picture.

That brings us to our last term, shutter speed. What it means: the length of time the camera’s shutter is open. The faster the shutter speed, the faster the shutter opens and closes. How it is represented: in fractions of a second. Usually you will see it listed as a number and “ where “ means a second. You want a faster shutter speed when taking pictures of movement when you want to freeze the action. You use a longer shutter speed to create things like motion blur. The longer your shutter speed, the more important it is to either securely hold the camera or have it on a tripod. If your camera doesn’t have a long enough shutter speed for what you want to do, you should be able to find a remote trigger that will extend it for you.

Knowing how to use these settings can help you take better photos with your digital camera. I recommend testing out all three of these settings on simple subjects around your house before you attempt to use them on something that will really matter to you.