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Digital Photography for Beginners with DSLR cameras

Learn how to take stunning photographs by mastering both the technical and creative sides of digital photography.
Instructeur :
Mahefa Abel
English [Auto] En savoir plus
Instructions on how to hold your camera correctly, which will help you to get sharp photographs.
Sound advice on how to choose the right camera lens for each situation.
The necessary confidence to change the most important camera settings correctly at the right time, which in turn will allow you to get perfect photos every time.
The ability to compose photos that are well balanced and very pleasing to the eye.
The skill to spot creative photographic opportunities that will make your photos stand out from the rest.
The ability to take stunning photographs that tell stories of your vacations, adventures and functions, capturing memories in the process.

<< The first of six digital photography courses by Villiers Steyn >>

UPDATED in October 2020!

Master the most important settings on your Canon or Nikon DSLR camera and learn how to look at your surroundings through new, more creative eyes, so that you too can take magazine-quality photographs of your friends, family, vacations, events and anything else that is beautiful and important to you.

Learn how to take Beautiful Photographs with your DSLR Camera

  • Learn what equipment is necessary and how to use it correctly
  • Master all the most important camera settings
  • Become aware of different light sources and how they influence the look of your photos
  • Develop and eye for striking composition
  • Learn to look at your surroundings with more creative eyes

Develop the ability to capture moments and memories

Ever wonder how the pros get those stunning shots? Believe it or not, most of the breathtaking photographs you see in magazines and online every day are photographed with DSLR cameras just like yours. DSLR cameras are powerful tools that give you the ability to take stunning photographs that capture all those special things you see and moments you experience – photos that you will cherish for the rest of your life. The key to success is to use the camera correctly and that’s what you will learn in this course.

As a beginner, you may feel overwhelmed and intimidated by all the camera’s dials, buttons and settings, but that will be a thing of the past once you’ve completed this course. My goal is to fill you with confidence, not only when it comes to choosing good settings, but also when you compose your images. By the end of this course, you too will take stunning photos with your DSLR camera.

Content and Overview

This course is divided into two broad components: first we cover all the technical aspects, like camera equipment and support, as well as the camera’s most important settings. After that we look at the artistic side of photography, which focuses on light, composition and creativity.

It has been structured in such a way that you won’t ever feel overwhelmed by technical jargon, complicated camera functions or obscure principles. The aim is to keep everything as clear and simple as possible, and this was achieved by tackling each important photographic element separately in short and concise lectures that last between 2 and 5 minutes each. The majority of lectures consist of both teacher-style video clips (where I explain a setting, principle or tip) and slides, both of which contain photographic examples and audio (where I interpret each photographic example).


How to use your Camera Equipment:

  • How to hold your camera correctly, which helps you to get sharp photos every time.
  • Which lenses to use for which photos, so that you can best capture a specific subject or scene.
  • How to change lenses correctly in order to prevent irritating dust spots from forming on each photograph.
  • What your DSLR camera’s limitations are and how to compensate for them when you’re photographing scenes with high contrast.
  • Why and when you should support your camera on tripods and bean bags.

How and when to change Camera Settings:

  • Different Shooting modes (which allows you to be more creative).
  • File size and format (ensuring that you take the best possible quality shots).
  • White balance and Metering mode (which allows you to influence the ‘warmth’ or ‘coolness’ of your photos and the way that the camera exposes what it sees.
  • Drive mode (which allows you to shoot like a pistol or like a machine gun).
  • Auto focus mode (which tells the camera whether you’re photographing something standing still or something that is moving).
  • Auto focus point selection (which allows you to focus on either the whole subject or scene, or on a very specific part of it).
  • ISO (which allows you to take sharp photos in low light conditions)
  • Exposure compensation (which allows you to quickly make a photo lighter or darker).
  • How to influence the depth of field in your photos in Aperture Priority.
  • How to freeze action or capture movement in Shutter Priority.
  • How to use the little pictures, or Scene selections, on your camera’s Shooting mode dial.

How Light influences your photos:

  • How to take colourful, representative images in front light.
  • How to highlight detail and texture in side light.
  • How to capture dramatic back light images that contain silhouettes and golden rim light.
  • How to take photos in diffused light on overcast days.
  • How to use your camera’s built-in flash effectively.

What perfect Composition is:

  • When to change the camera orientation from horizontal to vertical.
  • How to blur the background of a perfect portrait photos in 4 easy steps.
  • How to apply the Rule of thirds to ensure beautifully balanced photos.
  • Where to leave the correct amount of space in your photos.
  • How to draw your viewers’ eyes into your photos with the help of leading lines.
  • How to compose striking images by changing your angle.
  • 5 simple steps to perfect composition!

How to become a more Creative photographer:

  • How to use reflections in your photos.
  • What a natural frame is and how to find and use it in your images.
  • How to incorporate different complimentary colours in your photos.
  • How to use repetition effectively in your photos.
  • How to highlight the size of something by incorporating and element of scale, and finally,
  • How to tell a story with your photos.

Take a moment to view the course Promo Video, as well as those lectures that have been made available as free previews.

Keep in mind, if you’re not happy with the material, there’s a 30-day no-questions-asked full money back guarantee! So don’t hesitate and enrol today, and watch as photography quickly becomes your new favourite hobby…!

“Villiers’s presentation skills are superb and better than anything else I’ve attended or enrolled in before. Not only is his technical knowledge of his subject outstanding, but he is also willing to share practical advice accumulated over years.”

Helgard de Preez – South Africa



This lecture serves as a welcome to the course and contains a brief overview of what you can expect. At this stage you are probably tempted to skip to the fun, more creative lectures in Section 5 and onwards, but it's best to rather go through the whole course without skipping lectures.

Overview of the course.

This lecture provides a more in-depth look at what you can expect to learn from each of the eight sections of which this course is comprised, namely.

  • Section 1: Introduction to the course and what you'll need to get started.

  • Section 2: Camera Equipment

  • Section 3: Camera Settings

  • Section 4: Aperture and Shutter speed

  • Section 5: Light

  • Section 6: Composing your shots

  • Section 7: Creative photography

  • Section 8: Course summary

Lecture 3: What you need with you.

In this lecture, I list everything you will need to have with you for the duration of the course.

Ice-breaker: Spot the mistake!

This lecture comprises an exercise in identifying common mistakes that new or amateur photographers often make, but which are easily corrected with a better understanding of the settings and functions on a DSLR camera.

Camera Equipment


The equipment you use doesn't need to be top-of-the-range for you to get great shots. In this brief introduction to Section 2, I run through the questions you can expect to have answered in the lectures that follow on DSLR cameras, lenses, and other useful photographic equipment, namely:

  • What is the difference between a DSLR and a compact digital camera?
  • Which camera make is best?
  • Is my camera good enough?
Is my camera good enough? Different makes and models.

In this lecture I briefly discuss Canon and Nikon DSLR cameras and why this course focuses on these brands specifically. In the Supplemental Resources you'll find two external links to Wikipedia that list all the Canon and Nikon camera models, allowing you to compare your camera's specifications with others.

The most important thing to remember is that your camera is good enough! The challenge is to learn how to use it correctly...

Choosing the right lens for the right occasion.

Lenses are by far the most expensive facet of photography, whether you've chosen photography as a hobby or a career. This lecture explains which lenses work best for which types of photography, for example: why wide angle lenses are best for landscape photography and indoor marketing shots, while zoom lenses are better for portrait photographs and other shots that look best with a blurred background. We also take a look at the correct way to change lenses to minimise damage to your camera body.

How to hold your camera correctly when taking photos.

In photography, how you stand can influence your photograph as much as what settings you use. In this lecture, I provide a brief demonstration on the correct stance and positioning when holding a DSLR camera and an explanation as to why this is so important.

Do I need a monopod, tripod or beanbag?

In this lecture I discuss why photographic supports are necessary indoors or in low light conditions. I also explain the differences between monopods, tripods and beanbags, what situations they're likely to be of use, as well as the advantages of using supports to get sharper shots.

The limitations of your DSLR camera.

A good photographer knows that it takes more than an understanding of your camera settings to get the best shots. In this lecture I discuss the differences between what we see and what the camera 'sees', and demonstrate how to compensate for these differences by getting a firm understanding of your camera's limitations and how to work around them to get the best photographs possible.


This lecture is a summary of everything covered in Section 2: Camera equipment (including camera makes and models, lenses, photographic supports like beanbags, monopods and tripods), holding your camera correctly as well as the limitations of DSLR cameras.

Mastering Camera Settings


This introductory lecture details the camera settings this course focuses on, namely:

  • Shooting modes
  • File format, size and quality
  • White balance and metering mode
  • Drive mode
  • Auto focus mode
  • Auto focus point selection
  • ISO, and
  • Exposure compensation
In this lecture I stress how having a firm understanding of these basic settings will benefit you later, in the more creative lectures further on in this course.
Choosing the right shooting mode.

In this lecture, I highlight the various Shooting modes (all the pictures and letters on that little dial at the top of your camera) DSLR cameras are capable of, what they control (or allow you to control), and where and how to change them on both Nikon and Canon camera bodies.

By the end, you'll understand why you'll need to change your shooting mode to P (Program Mode) for lectures that follow.

File format, size and quality.

In this short lecture, I give a brief explanation of the difference between Jpeg and RAW files and what they mean to you, as an amateur photographer, in terms of camera function, file size and processing.

I also show you how to select the right file format, size and quality, namely: Jpeg, large, fine.

White balance and Metering mode.

In this lecture, I guide you through the White balance and Metering mode functions on both Canon and Nikon DSLR cameras. White balance is useful when the light conditions you're photographing in affect the temperature of your photograph, in other words, when your photographs come out too blue or too orange. Setting your Metering mode to evaluative metering (Canon) or matrix metering (Nikon) will ensure the camera reads the light across the whole frame. I demonstrate where you can change these settings on Canon and Nikon cameras, when to adjust them, and which default settings are best to leave them on.

Drive mode. Shooting like a pistol vs. shooting like a machine gun.

Sometimes, a single shot just isn't enough to capture an extended moment of action. It's in moments like these that knowing how to change your camera's Drive mode from taking single shots to taking multiple shots one after the other comes in very handy. In this lecture, you'll learn where to find this setting on your camera, and in what situations you're likely to want to change it.

The setting includes the following options:

  • Single shot (only one photo when you press the shutter button)
  • Continuous shooting (a burst of photos in short succession when you press the shutter button), and
  • Timer (which waits between 2 and 10 seconds to take the photo after you've pressed the shutter button).
Auto focus mode. Is your subject moving or standing still?

Many amateur photographers don't realise that modern DSLR cameras are capable of not only focussing on still-standing objects, but on moving objects too. In this lecture, I explain, in basic terms, how the camera does this and how Auto focus mode function can benefit you in everyday photography.

We look at the following three options within this setting:

  1. One Shot (Canon) / AF-S (Nikon) for still-standing subjects
  2. AI Servo (Canon) / AF-C (Nikon) for moving subjects, and
  3. AI Focus (Canon) / AF-A (Nikon) for subjects that are standing still, but that are likely to move soon.
Focus points. Selecting only one or activating them all.

Moderns DSLR cameras provide photographers with multiple focus points to choose from. In this lecture, you'll learn when it's valuable to have all of those focus points activated (the camera chooses what to focus on), and when it's best to select your own focus point (you choose what to focus on). Also, when you're selecting your own focus points, I explain a process known as focus-recompose, an easy way to keep your focus point in the middle without sacrificing good composition in your photograph.

ISO. Ensuring that you get sharp photos in low light conditions.

Nobody likes a blurry photograph, and one of the easiest ways to prevent them is to change your camera's ISO-value. In this lecture I demonstrate how low light conditions cause blurry photographs and how an increased ISO-value will allow you to get faster shutter speeds, which in turn, gives you sharper photos. I also warn you about the fact that very high ISO-values create result in grainy photos.

Make a mental note: Higher ISO-values give you a faster shutter speed in low light, allowing you to eliminate blurry photos.

Exposure compensation. Making your images lighter or darker.

As a photographer, there are always going to be times when you want to make your photos lighter or darker. Exposure compensation is the easiest setting to change to make that happen. In this lecture, I guide you to your camera's shortcut for Exposure compensation and provide some tips on when you're likely to need to change it for subtle or dramatic changes in the white areas and black areas of your photographs.


This lecture provides a quick summary of all the settings covered in Section 3 of the course, namely:

  • Shooting modes
  • File format, size and quality
  • White balance and Metering mode
  • Drive mode
  • Auto focus mode
  • Auto focus point selection
  • ISO and
  • Exposure compensation

Aperture and Shutter Speed


This introductory lecture leads us into Aperture and Shutter speed, two of the most important aspects of photography in any field.

Influencing depth of field in Aperture Priority.

In this important lecture, I explain Aperture in simple, easy-to-grasp terms, by guiding you into the shooting mode 'Aperture Priority', where to find this function on your camera, how different quality and size lenses affect aperture, and most importantly, how photographing in Aperture Priority affects the depth of field (how much or how little of the photograph is in focus). By the end of this lecture, you'll have a good understanding of how low f-values on your camera gives you a shallow depth of field and how high f-values give you a great depth of field, and the importance of this to you as a photographer.

Aperture Priority shooting mode = Av (Canon) and A (Nikon)


Low f-values = shallow depth of field (only a little bit is in focus)

Large f-values = great depth of field (a lot is in focus)

Freezing action or capturing movement in Shutter Priority.

Though Aperture Priority is the shooting mode amateurs and professionals generally choose to photograph in, in this lecture on Shutter Priority (a shooting mode where you choose the shutter speed) I explain how changing the shutter speed-value can help you freeze action or even capture movement. You'll see examples of both frozen action and captured movement for some ideas on how this shooting mode can enhance your own repertoire of photographic skills.

Shutter Priority shooting mode = Tv (Canon) and S (Nikon)

Using scene selections (those little pictures) as a backup plan.
Anyone with a DSLR camera will have seen those little pictures on the Shooting Mode dial, along with Automatic, Program, Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority. In this lecture we take a look at a few of these scene selections, what they're for, and what happens to your camera's settings when you activate them. They're handy tools for a beginner, but if you want to improve your photography, it's best to know why the little running man is good for photographing action, and what's going on in your camera when you select the mountain for a beautiful scenery shot. Hopefully, by the end of this course, you won't even need them.
BONUS LECTURE: Introduction to the Exposure Triangle

This lecture is a summary of all that we've covered in the Aperture and Shutter Speed section of the course, a reminder that Aperture Priority allows you to choose your f-value, which affects your depth of field, and Shutter Priority allows you to choose your shutter speed to freeze action or capture movement.



This introductory lecture focuses on what you can expect from this section of the course, namely, light, its various forms, and how to use them all to enhance your photography.

Front light - taking colourful and representative photographs.

When you first pick up a camera, it seems instinctive to take photographs with the light behind you. The subject, whatever it is, is then lit from the front and it is therefore known as Front light. There are advantages and disadvantages to photographing in front light, and by the end of this lecture and the examples I have included, you will understand why this type of light is usually good for representative, guide book-type photos, but not necessarily for landscape photos or for highlighting texture.

Side light - highlighting texture and capturing three dimensional images.

In this, second lecture on light, I explain Side light, as well as how to apply it in situations where you want to highlight texture, detail and depth in your photos with the help of shadows. Though this lecture falls within the 'Creativity' section of the course, in this lecture I challenge you to start merging what you learned about camera settings earlier on in the course with what you see when you start noticing light and its uses from different angles.

Back light - capturing dramatic silhouettes.

Initially, photographing into the sun goes against the grain, but once you've completed this lecture on Back light, and you've had a good look at the stunning silhouettes and striking silver and gold haloes you can create by mastering it, you'll understand just how valuable this kind of photography can be. Again, I not only explain the use of back light, but also challenge you to apply some of settings you learned earlier on in the course for the best results.

Diffused light - shooting in overcast conditions.

Many amateur photographers leave their cameras at home on overcast days, but those who understand light will tell you they're some of the best days to take photographs. In this lecture, I discuss how you can use Diffused light to capture photos that are well-exposed and often beautifully vibrant.

Flash light - using the camera's own artificial light source.

Your camera's flash can be a little daunting to use, but this lecture will demonstrate how useful it can be, especially in conjunction with diffused and back light. You will learn where and how to change your flash exposure for situations where you find your flash is a little too harsh or too dim.


This lecture provides a brief summary of the most important points from this section on front, side, back, diffused and flash light.



This introductory lecture on Composition highlights what I'll be discussing in the following seven lectures, namely:

  • Camera orientation
  • Blurring the background effectively
  • The Rule of Thirds
  • Giving your subjects space
  • Leading lines
  • Using different angles, and
  • Five steps to perfect composition.
Camera orientation - holding your camera horizontally or vertically.

Camera orientation comes naturally to very few people, so in this lecture I share some of the pointers or things to watch out for that will help you decide whether to hold your camera horizontally or vertically. The shape, height, width, or quantity of what you're photographing plays a very big role in how you should hold your camera, and though there isn't always a right way and a wrong way, you'll notice the difference in the effect of the photograph immediately once you start noticing these things before pressing the shutter button.

Taking excellent portrait photos - 4 steps to blur the background.

Blurring the background can turn a mediocre portrait shot into a great one, and it's often easier to do than you'd think. In this lecture, you will learn four important steps, a combination of common sense and some of what you learned in the 'Settings' section of this course, to help you blur the background of your portrait photos.

The four steps are:

STEP 1: Make sure the background is far behind your subject

STEP 2: Make sure the background is uncluttered

STEP 3: Zoom in as much as possible with a long zoom lens, and

STEP 4: Choose a low f-value in Aperture Priority.

Applying the Rule of thirds to get better balance in your images.

You may have heard that it's useful to have a good eye for composition, and while that's true, it isn't something you need to be born with. There are a few easy-to-follow rules to guide you to well-composed photographs, and in this lecture I explain one of the most important: the Rule of thirds. Essentially, there is a natural division on a photograph that creates lines that are naturally pleasing, points that the eye is automatically drawn to, and by the end of this lecture you will know where they are an how to manipulate the composition of your photographs to take advantage of them.

Leave enough space around your subject.

Never underestimate the value of space around your subjects – it can often play as important a role in the composition of your photograph as the subject itself. In this lecture I demonstrate how easy it is to consider the space all around your subjects and the direction they're looking or moving, and the difference it makes when you've harnessed the whole picture without chopping bits off or boxing-things in.

How leading lines draw your eyes into the photograph.

In this lecture, I explain how there are times when its all about lines and how they draw the eye into a scene or picture. These are called leading lines, and when captured well, they can turn a moment into a journey for the eyes – a very effective tool for any photographer. By the end of this lecture, you will have a better idea of where to look for and how to harness leading lines in your photography.

Different angles for new, exciting perspectives.

One thing you may have noticed about professional photographers anywhere is that they seldom stay in one place for very long, but you may not have noticed that they never photograph at one level for very long either. They crouch, squat, crawl and climb, even to the point of lying on the floor or climbing trees if the occasion calls for it. In this lecture, you'll find out what an enormous difference these changes in angle can mean for your photography.

5 steps to perfect composition!

This lecture incorporates a rundown of what you've learned from the previous lectures on composition in a step-by-step, easy to remember guide to perfect composition. Following these five basic steps will have you composing beautiful shots naturally in no time.

The five steps to perfect composition are:

STEP 1: Decide on the camera's orientation - horizontal or vertical

STEP 2: Decide how close or how far you want to be to the subject (i.e. is it a portrait or landscape shot)

STEP 3: Move around your subject to change the light and background

STEP 4: Move up and down to change the angle, and

STEP 5: Make small in-hand movements to place all the elements in the right places within the frame.


Good composition combined with a firm understanding of settings makes for excellent photography. This lecture is a summary of the main points covered in the 'Composition' section of this course, including:

  • Camera orientation
  • Blurring the background of portrait photos effectively
  • The Rule of thirds
  • Giving your subjects space
  • Leading lines
  • Using different angles, and
  • Five steps to perfect composition.



In this short introductory lecture you will find out what you can expect from the 'Creativity' section of this course, namely how to:

  • Photograph reflections
  • Use natural frames
  • Make the most of colour
  • Use repetition
  • Harness scale, and
  • Tell a story.
Look for reflections.

Mirrors are everywhere, and we can't resist them – nor should we when it comes to photography. In this lecture, I demonstrate how to capture reflections in all manner of surfaces, both natural and man-made, by combining what you've learnt about settings and composition from previous lectures. By the end you'll find you can capture them almost anywhere.

Use natural frames.

Framing photographs comes naturally to most, but not usually before taking the shot. In this lecture you'll learn to be aware of natural frames in the environment you're photographing in, and how to use them to enhance your photographs.

Play with colour.

The word 'photography' literally means 'to draw or paint with light', and like a drawing or a painting, how you wield your colours plays a big role. Outside of a studio, it's not always possible to choose the colours you're looking for, but in this lecture, I show you how a little knowledge of complimentary and analogous colours can have you lining up some absolutely stunning shots.

Use repetition.

Like a reflection, natural repetition is hard to resist in a photograph. In this lecture, you'll learn how identical objects can lend themselves to a stunning photograph, and how to apply some of the settings and composition tips you learned earlier on in the course to make sure they do.

The power of scale.

It's not always obvious to see how big or small an object is in a photograph, so in this lecture I demonstrate how to emphasize the size of a subject using known objects, both natural and man-made. It's all about harnessing scale.

Tell a story.

It's easy to fall into the habit of taking the same kinds of photographs, especially once you've become comfortable with a certain lens or camera setting. In this lecture, I emphasize the importance of varying your photographs so that you don't just end up with photos of things, but also capture the story of where you were, how you came to capture them, who was there to share them with you, and why you were there in the first place. Photography becomes incredibly rewarding when your photos can tell their own stories.

Create stars!

Create a star effect around light sources by using a very large f-stop.


Creativity comes naturally for some and takes a bit more effort for others. Thankfully, it doesn't take much to try a new angle, setting, or viewpoint, and in this final lecture on creativity I point out that even the smallest changes in how you look at the world can result in some beautiful creative photography.


Use your photos!

In this lecture, I stress the importance of doing something with your photographs - printing them for a frame or for your wall, putting together a photo book or just sharing them on social media – your photos should never be left unseen. Sharing and seeing them, as well as the response you get from them, can be a great motivator and a sure fire way to ensure your photography goes from strength to strength.

A summary of what you've learnt.

This lecture is an overview of everything we've covered in this Digital Photography Course for Beginners with DSLR cameras, from the equipment you use and the settings you choose to the way you look at colours, lines, and light when you pick up your camera to take a shot.

The way forward - how to keep improving your photography...
Download a set of course notes in PDF format.

You can download a set of notes in the Supplemental Resources that summarises this course.

Bonus Lecture.
You can view and review the lecture materials indefinitely, like an on-demand channel.
Definitely! If you have an internet connection, courses on Udemy are available on any device at any time. If you don't have an internet connection, some instructors also let their students download course lectures. That's up to the instructor though, so make sure you get on their good side!
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Working hours

Monday 9:30 am - 6.00 pm
Tuesday 9:30 am - 6.00 pm
Wednesday 9:30 am - 6.00 pm
Thursday 9:30 am - 6.00 pm
Friday 9:30 am - 5.00 pm
Saturday Closed
Sunday Closed