This piece of content is a part of the free e-book Photography for Beginners (E-book with Videos): The Easiest Way to Learn DSLR Photography From the Comfort of Your Home. To see all the contents in this e-book, click here.

3. Introduction and Warm-Up to DSLR Photography

What is a DSLR Camera, How Does it Work and What Are Its Different Parts/Functions?

DSLR stands for Digital Single-Lens Reflex camera. You don’t have to worry about what that term means because frankly speaking, it’s not going to help you one bit. As I said, I’ll keep the focus on only those things that will really help you become a great photographer.

But let’s look at the different parts and functions that make up a DSLR camera to understand how it works:


A camera lens is a major part of the DSLR camera. It’s an optical device that is detachable and fits in front of the camera body.

You can think of it as the human eye. Its job is to allow the light to come inside the camera.

In a DSLR camera, you can attach and detach a lens from the body, enabling you to use different types of lenses as you’ll learn later on.

Let’s see how you can attach and detach a lens to the body.

Watch the video below to see what to do. Alternatively, you can read the description too.

Video 1: How to Attach and Detach a Lens to the Camera Body

Nikon users, click here to watch the video

Canon users, click here to watch the video

Here’s what you have to do:

  1. Find the lens release button located to the left of the lens, like shown in the image below:
  2. Press this button and while keeping it pressed, rotate the lens till it comes off. Be careful while performing this step as the lens can pop out of your hand if you are not paying attention and holding it firmly.
  3. To attach the lens, first find a white mark on the lens, like shown in the image below:
  4. Then find a white mark on the body of the camera where the lens attaches, like shown in the image below:
  5. Bring the lens close to the body in such a way that both the white marks, on the lens and the body, are next to each other, like shown in the image below:
  6. Once, the lens is fitting in the body in such a way that both the white dots are connected to each other, just rotate the lens till you hear a click. That’s it!

The best part of a DSLR camera, and something that makes it unique and so popular is the fact that you can use different types of lenses for different purposes.

For instance, if you go to a zoo, you’re likely to find that the main animals like the lions and tigers are far away from you.

With a normal camera, you may not be able to get too close to them. But with a DSLR camera, you can change your lens and attach a telephoto lens. Telephoto lenses are bigger and help you zoom and reach far away things. That is because they have a higher focal length.

Again, I won’t go into the science part of it, so just for your understanding, focal length is the number that you see on the lens as shown in the image below:

Focal length is measured in millimetres. The lens shown in the image above has the focal length 18mm – 55mm. Simply speaking, these numbers mean how much you can zoom in or zoom out.

For instance, in the 18-55 lens, at 18mm you can see a lot of the scene. If you want to zoom in and go towards 55mm, you have to rotate the zoom ring, as shown in the image below:

As you go to 55mm, you’ll see that you are zooming in.

Watch the video below to see how this actually looks:

Video 2: Understanding Focal Length

Nikon users, click here to watch the video

Canon users, click here to watch the video

Lenses in which you can zoom in and zoom out are called as zoom lenses.

There are other type of lenses called as prime or block lenses, which have a fixed focal length. For example, the image below shows a 50mm prime lens for Canon and Nikon.

In such a lens there is no zoom ring. The focal length is fixed. So if you want to zoom in, you have to physically go closer to the subject. The advantage of these lenses over zoom lenses is that they are usually much sharper and as you’ll later learn, they allow for a wider aperture, something which is very important. You’ll be learning about what aperture is and how it works when we start learning the manual mode.

The bigger the focal length number, the more you can zoom in. For instance, one of my favourite lenses for wildlife photography is the Tamron 150-600 as shown below:

Tamron is a company that manufactures lenses so don’t let that word confuse you. Pay attention only to the focal length. It says 150mm-600mm.

That means with this lens you can zoom in till 600mm, which is a lot more than the basic 18-55 lens. So with such a lens, you’ll be able to get very close to things that are far away.

Lenses that allow for such big focal lengths are called as telephoto lenses.

On the opposite side is something called as a wide-angle lens.

These lenses allow for focal lengths that are very less, for example, a 14mm-24mm lens as shown below:

They are called wide-angle because at lower focal lengths you can see a lot of the scene as they allow you to zoom out more.

Where do you think such lenses will be used? If you guessed ‘Landscape’, then you are right. Since you can zoom out more and see more of the scene, landscape photographers love these wide-angle lenses.

There are lot of other type of lenses so we won’t go into that right now.

The purpose was to make you understand what focal length is.

Let’s move on to the next part of the camera, which is the mode dial.


Mode Dial

A mode dial is a circular dial that you see on top of the camera, as shown in the image below:

As the name suggests, a mode dial is used to select the mode that the camera operates in.

You’ll see a lot of different types of modes. But most of them are not of much use.

There are two important ones – Automatic and Manual.

When you are in the automatic mode, it’s easy to shoot as the camera does everything. But as we’ll learn in this book, it has a lot of disadvantages.

Our job is to learn shooting in the manual mode.

In the manual mode, every setting is under our control so it’s more difficult and that’s the reason most people who buy a DSLR never learn it.

But this video e-book will make it very easy for you to learn the manual mode.

We will soon learn about the different settings in the manual mode.

But before that, there are some other basic things which we have to cover.

So let’s move on to the next important component of a DSLR.


Live-view refers to using the DSLR’s LCD screen to shoot, as shown in the image below:

All modern day DSLRs support the live-view function.

To activate the live-view, you have to press the live-view button. Let’s see how we can do this:

Watch the video below to see what to do. Alternatively, you can read the description too.

Video 3: Activating Live-View

Nikon users, click here to watch the video

Canon users, click here to watch the video

  1. Press the live-view button as shown below for Nikon D5300 and Canon 700D respectively:
  2. Once you press the live-view button, you will see that the LCD screen gets enabled allowing you to see through it.

Note that the placement of the live-view button can differ from camera-to-camera, so I suggest you see your manual in case the button on your camera is located somewhere else.

The other way of shooting is through the viewfinder, which is the hole that you can see through, as shown in the image below:


Shooting through the viewfinder is generally faster and more convenient, especially when shooting moving subjects. However, during the course of this ebook, we will stick to using the live-view so it’s easier for you to follow.

Let’s move on to the next component:

Focus Point

As the name suggests, a focus point is a point that is used for focusing on a subject. Here’s how it looks:

In live-view, it’s usually a square, like you can see in the image above.

Like you’ll soon be seeing in the video about taking your first shot, it’s important that the focus point touches on your subject.

For instance, in the upcoming exercise of taking our first shot, a cup will be our subject. To make sure that the camera focuses on the cup, the focus point has to lie on the cup. This will become clear when you do the exercise.

For now, let’s move on the next component.


Even if you skip this part, it won’t make a difference at all. But since we’re on the basics, let’s cover it anyway.

A sensor is the most important part of the camera, which is located in the camera body. It receives light and converts it into the image you see (Actually it’s much more complicated than that but we won’t be going into it).

Just think of it as our brain. Our brain produces the image from the light that comes through our eyes.

Similarly the sensor uses the light that comes through the lens. So the sensor is like the brain of the camera.

The bigger the sensor, the better the image quality.

DSLRs have stronger sensors than the ordinary and cheap point and shoot cameras.

Look at the diagram below to understand all this:

You can see that the light coming through the lens. When you press the shutter button (the button on top of the camera) to take a shot, the mirror and the shutter give way so the light can reach the sensor.

I know you must be thinking what shutter, aperture, etc. are. Don’t worry, we’ll be covering that very soon.

Alright! We’re almost ready to take our first shot, so let’s get started.

Next Chapter: Taking Your First Shot