man holding a camera while fixing the settings

5 Best Tutorials for Understanding Camera Settings

Have you found that you really enjoy taking photos on your phone and want to try something more professional? Are you a photography enthusiast looking to take your images to the next level?

You’ve purchased your new camera, but you just don’t get the camera’s settings. There’s just so many to set and reset.

And of course, you really need to know which settings are for what type of situation, like taking pictures in low light conditions for example.

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What about camera types? Do you know the difference between DSLR settings and compact camera settings?

Of course, you might already be familiar with camera settings and types and just want a refresher.

Whatever your background, you’ve probably tried looking online for some guidance – especially if you misplaced your camera’s instruction manual like many of us tend to do.

There are a ton of online tutorials out there toting being the best for understanding camera settings. You’ve got step by step articles and YouTube How-To videos.

The search for truly good guides can be frustrating and tedious.

But it doesn’t have to be.

How We Chose Our Ratings


Choosing the best camera settings tutorials involves a lot of thought.

Firstly, we wanted to make sure we have guides that both beginners and experienced photographers could access. This means tutorials with little technical jargon or jargon that is well explained. There’s no sense in reading or watching a tutorial if you can’t understand what they’re trying to explain.

Our chosen tutorials also needed to be informative without being overwhelming. Too much information at once can completely negate any facts that you’re trying to comprehend. We found some very lengthy guides but tried to search for specific chapters that benefitted you the most.

And finally, we took entertainment into small consideration. Reading about camera settings isn’t the most exciting endeavor, so this mostly applies to the video tutorials we found. We wanted to speakers to have some charisma – no monotones here.

5 Great Online Tutorials for Understanding Camera Settings


Now that you know how we chose our ratings for camera settings tutorials, you’re ready to see our actual list.

We tried to include both video and article tutorials. Some people prefer reading over the steps to adjusting their camera settings. Others may prefer watching a fellow photographer explain and following along on their own cameras.

Our chosen guides also provide information applicable to both DSLR and compact cameras.

We broke our top 5 list down by guide and included chapters or videos we found to be the most crucial to understanding camera setting basics.

1. LifeHacker Guide by Adam Dachis

Adam Dachis

Image by Adam Dachis via Unsplash

The “Basics of Photography: The Complete Guide” by Adam Dachis of the LifeHacker website is a great, easy to understand guide for both photography newbies and experts. Dachis explains everything you need to know about the basics of cameras, editing, and camera settings.

Plus, his guide includes images, and the formatting is easy on the eyes. It is very accessible and organized as well.

Dachis also includes some additional resources you can look into, including resources for purchasing your own digital camera if you haven’t done so already.

If you want to cut directly to the chase and focus only on what he has to say about camera settings, we have two chapters for you to check out.

The chapter of his guide entitled "Part II: Your Camera’s Automatic and Assisted Settings" goes over shooting modes, flash modes, image enhancement settings, as well as some video settings. If you’re already familiar with basic camera features, you can skip to this chapter without losing out on vital information.

Once you’ve read Part II, move right on to “Part III: Your Camera’s Manual Settings.” This will cover the foundation of all photography and the camera settings associated with it – the exposure triangle.

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The exposure triangle consists of three parts – ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. If you’re a beginning photographer, familiarize yourself with those terms – they’ll come up a lot, including in this guide.

Overall, we found Adam Dachis’ LifeHacker photography guide to be helpful and very accessible even for beginners. We grant it and the associated chapters 5 out of 5 stars.

But before we move on, we’d also like to include one more tutorial by Adam Dachis. If you have questions about low light photography, consult his answer to a reader’s question regarding this topic. It has both video and written explanations, including camera settings to adjust.

2. Peter McKinnon Vlogs

Peter McKinnon is a YouTube vlogger and photographer. Although not all of his videos are guides, he does offer some tutorials to teach his viewers the camera basics, including camera settings.

What sets McKinnon apart from others offering guidance is his easy manner and entertaining presence on camera. He is informative and helpful without using a lot of photography jargon, perfect for the beginner.

On his YouTube page, we recommend checking out his Tutorials Playlist and his Two Second Tuesday playlist. These contain his photography guides as well as other content, including video tricks.

For those looking strictly for camera settings guides, you’ll first want to watch McKinnon’s “Camera Basics” video. This initial video takes an amusing look into the exposure triangle. While he explains the terms and settings, you’ll see images appear on the screen that correspond with the symbols on your camera. This will allow you to easily follow along with him to get you familiar with your individual camera’s settings.

Next, check out McKinnon’s “Camera Basics 2” vlog. In this video, he explains focus settings, white balance, and the camera settings associated with them. He also gives you advice based on his own experiences about which settings are going to be the most useful to you.

With his charismatic delivery and simple explanations on somewhat complex ideas, we give Peter McKinnon’s vlog tutorials 4.5 out of 5 stars.

3. Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace Video Series

The “Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace” video series on Adorama TV offers a ton of helpful videos exploring all sorts of photography concepts, tricks, and tips.

While not quite as humorous as Peter McKinnon, Mark Wallace is like that college professor you enjoyed listening to – calm, but passionate about what he discusses.

His series’ page on Adorama has a lot of videos to choose from, but we highly recommend his “Understanding the Exposure Triangle” series.

Even just the first of the six videos offers a lot of information useful to both novices and experts looking for a refresher course on aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. By the end of the series, you’ll have a full understanding of the exposure triangle and how to best use each setting for it on your camera.

“Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace” on Adorama TV earns 4.5 out of 5 stars. You can also check the videos out on YouTube.

4. Curtin’s Guide to Digital Cameras

“Curtin’s Guide to Digital Cameras and Other Photographic Equipment” on the Short Courses website is very much like an online textbook. It offers a lot of information on digital cameras, settings, and accessories all in one place.

Looking at the index page might prove intimidating, but we found three specific chapters for you to take a peek at right away to help better your understanding of camera settings.

The first chapter you’ll want to read is Exposure Modes. It discusses what each part of the exposure triangle is, the modes for each on a camera, and which is best for what types of photography.

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Next, take a look at the Focus chapter. It goes over the importance of focus, the three main focus settings, and each of the focus modes.

And finally, read the White Balance section of the guide. This will get you familiar with what white balance is, all of the camera settings involved with it, and what each of those settings does.

Once you’ve read those three chapters, we feel you should be ready to get out there and experimenting with those settings yourself.

The “Curtin’s Guide” is definitely designed for those with some reading time on their hands. It’s still accessible enough for beginners while also offering enough information to satisfy experts as well. While a bit intimidating when you first find yourself on the guide index, the information offered is still invaluable. It gets 4 out of 5 stars.

5. Geoff Lawrence Photography Tutorials

A little more user-friendly than our fourth pick for best camera settings tutorials, the “Geoff Lawrence Photography Tutorials” offer slightly less information while still being highly useful to all photographers.

Each section provides information about various aspects of photography. Each article has tips and links to other articles in case you need an explanation or a refresher on certain items mentioned.

There are two places to start for understanding camera settings.

For the basics of exposure along with some tips and helpful links, read the Camera Exposure page.

If you want to know how to set up your camera’s white balance manual settings, the White Balance page is where to go.

There are a lot of helpful articles on the “Geoff Lawrence Photography Tutorials” page. If you’ve got the time, browse through the various sections. Or you can focus on aspects specific to your needs, like Exposure or Color.

We give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Newbie’s Guide

Okay so maybe you enjoyed out 5 top tutorial picks, but you’d like to delve further into it on your own. You want to know how to find your own guides online. And maybe you want some photography advice.

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Image by Mikaela Shannon via Unsplash

If either is the case, we’ve got some wisdom to share.

Google and YouTube are your best friends. You can use keyword searches on either platform to find specific articles and videos on topics you want to learn about.

For example, if you wanted to find out more about camera settings for white balance, you could type “white balance settings tutorials” into the search bar. You can also enter in variations of that phrase to find more results.

Shorter articles are nice, but not always the best for learning new concepts. Try to find guides with images as well, especially for longer pieces. Images often help clarify what is being discussed.

Once you’ve found and studied all the guides you feel you need, you’re ready to practice. This is important to learning anything, but especially photography.

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Don’t be afraid to play with your camera settings. Take it out and experiment taking pictures of various things while switching up the settings. Take pictures of the same thing multiple times using different settings at different times of the day.

The only thing limiting your photography is your own creativity and fear. Even when you feel you’ve mastered a setting, keep practicing. There is always room for improvement on technique.

If you do take some pictures that you don’t find frame-worthy, try editing them with some editing software. We’ve found that Adobe makes two of the most discussed editing software programs – Lightroom and Photoshop.

Find the Best Tutorials for Understanding Camera Settings

There you have our top 5 picks for tutorials helping you to understand camera settings. These guides all have a lot of great information and will easily answer any questions you might have.

With these 5 guides in one place, you have quick access to a ton of photography information.

Remember that practice makes perfect. Don’t just read or watch tutorials – get out there and put the advice to work.

Happy picture taking!

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