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Tips & Tutorials >> All Tips & Tutorials

Understanding the functions: Basic guide to your first camera


Heading overseas with your camera for the first time? Some of the best photos you’ll capture will be from being in the right place at the right time, which happens when you’re travelling. Sound like a pro with this cheat sheet for your next photography adventure. 


All you need is a camera body and two of your favourite lenses, possibly mid-range zoom and long. A good option to consider would be the EF24-105mm f/4L IS II USM lens. Bring a few smaller memory cards and keep them separate from the camera so you don’t lose all your photos. Pack your battery charger and protect your gear in a padded bag. 

Read more about the EF24-105mm f.4/L IS II USM lens here: EF24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Review 

Photography starter kit Canon camera and accessories


Familiarise yourself with your camera. To help you control the exposure and capture better photos, take note of these terms: 

Shutter Speed

Also known as exposure time, shutter speed is the length of time your camera shutter is open and exposing the camera sensor to light, which is how long your camera takes a photo. Set it to fast, for example, 1/500 of a second, when photographing people on the move, or as slow as 1/4 of a second, for scenery. For night shots such as capturing light trails like the image below, a tripod comes in handy. 

Learn the basics of shutter speed here: Camera Basics: Shutter Speed

EOS 5D Mark II, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens, f/22, 25sec, 28mm, ISO100 by David Pacey
Use a slow shutter speed to capture light trails


If you’re shooting portraits, use a bigger aperture (smaller f-number e.g. f/1.8) for a shallow depth of field to focus on the person, like in the photo below. Use a smaller aperture (bigger f-number such as f/32) for buildings and landscapes to give you less depth so more of the subject is in focus. 

Understand more about aperture and how to use it: Camera Basics: Aperture

monochrome portrait of woman against blur background

EOS 600D, EF50mm f/1.8 II lens, f/1.8, 1/1600sec, 50mm, ISO100 by Marjan Lazarevski
Use a smaller aperture to achieve a sharp focus with blurry background  


This measures how sensitive your camera is to light. Set the ISO to 100 when shooting outdoors and increase as the light fades. Remember the higher ISO, the grainier the image. 

Read more on ISO basics here: Camera Basics: ISO Speed

starry night sky shot on Canon EOS 5D Mark III

EOS 5D Mark III, EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens, f/2.8, 30sec, 16mm, ISO3200 by Paulo Valdivieso
Watch out for noise in your photos when using a high ISO setting at night

Find out how ISO impacts your shots: What is ISO speed?


Apply the rule of thirds by placing your subject off centre, and your typical holiday photos turn into something more interesting. How you frame also makes a difference; shoot through a window or include foliage in the foreground to add depth and layers. Tip: Incorporate human elements into your landscape shots to add intrigue. 

Learn the elements that make up how you compose a photo: Basics of Composition

purple and white flowers in vase on the lawn

EOS 5D Mark II, EF85mm f/1.8 USM lens, f/1.8, 1/320sec, 85mm, ISO100 by Sodanie Chea
Improve the composition and balance of your image with the rule of thirds


Look out for the golden hour, that hour just before sunset where everything you photograph looks magical. Avoid shooting at noon as the light tends to be harsher at that time.

Improve your photography with these lighting tips: How to Play with Lighting

EOS 5D Mark III, EF17-40mm f/4L USM lens, f/8, 1/30sec, 22mm, ISO50 by Guillaume Armantier
Notice how the light during the golden hour transforms your shots 


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