Master your camera using these 5 basic principles

Find out everything you need to know about your digital video camera in less than 30 minutes!

I remember when I first started out with film and video. The concept of recording digital video with a small DSLR camera seemed magical. How does that thing even work? What do all these buttons actually do? And while it might be fun to just click around and find out for yourself, if you want to generally learn how to use your digital camera, you’ll want to check out this video below.

YouTuber can be in just under 30 minutes Tomorrow filmmakers breaks down all of the basic principles you need to know in order to be as good as master of your camera. These tricky terms like frame rate, ISO, shutter speed, aperture and white balance are quickly demystified with a few simple explanations and helpful examples.

So, if you want to get started with digital videography, here is everything you need to know! We’ll also dive a bit further into each of these core camera concepts, with some additional resources and information below.

Frame rate

The frame rate is one of the most important basic principles of both film and digital videography. It’s also a great choice as it will help you make your decisions about the rest of your camera settings. For a bit of history, check out the origins of frame rates in film here.

For most projects, 24 frames per second (fps) is the best and most cinematic option. However, there are pros and cons to other frame rates that can change the feel of your projects and produce some interesting effects when shooting high-speed subjects (such as helicopter blades).


ISO on its own simply refers to your camera’s sensitivity to light. The origins of ISO go back to the time of film itself, as the different film materials would react with different light sensitivities, which in turn would affect the speed of the film. Along with the film itself, the same principles can theoretically be applied to our own eyes. Which begs the question: what is your eye’s ISO?

However, to really understand ISO you need to look at the entire exposure triangle, which also includes shutter speed and aperture. These three elements of video together tell what kind of footage you get with each shot as you adjust various aspects such as brightness, blurring, graininess, and depth of field.

Shutter speed

In addition to ISO and aperture, shutter speed is another important element of video, as well as an important aspect of the exposure triangle. In general, you usually want your shutter speed to be twice as fast as the reverse of your frame rate. For example, if you’re shooting a scene at 24 frames per second, you want your shutter speed to be 1/48 (or 1/50).

As with many rules for filmmaking, however, there may be times when you want to experiment with different shutter speeds to achieve different creative effects. Here you can read about how shutter speed can be used for everything from action scenes to slow motion to epic time-lapse.


While ISO deals with graininess and shutter speed blur, aperture is your gateway to defining the depth of field of your video.

The aperture itself only refers to the hole or opening in your camera that the light travels through. The size of the opening is represented in a value called the aperture. This is defined by: the smaller the opening, the larger the aperture, while the larger the aperture, the smaller the aperture.

It can be a little confusing to understand at first (here’s another helpful video), but the big advantage is simply that the larger the aperture, the deeper your depth of field will be, and vice versa. If you want to learn more about depth of field, here is everything you need to know.

Once you master it, you can also start shifting your depth of field using more advanced techniques like rack focus.

White balance

White balance

After all, white balance is one of the simpler concepts that your digital video camera can at least understand (but still difficult to master).

While color corrections and gradations can be necessary for advanced filmmakers, both in-camera and on editing platforms like Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro, the basics of white balance are simple.

The first time you record video, you should use white balance to tell your camera what color is white in your given lighting situation. Your camera can usually do the rest, as long as the lighting stays constant. Even so, there are numerous automatic settings that you can use to adjust the white balance on the fly.

And that’s it! With these five basic principles, you should be able to get started with the digital video camera of your choice. And all in less than 30 minutes.

Any questions? Leave them in the comments.

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