A digital camera may sound complicated but they are actually very simple mechanical devices which are comprised of a few parts. For a standard DSLRs, there is the camera body with a lens that attaches to it. Your camera body contains all the parts needed to capture and process a photograph right inside; the lens is a simple canister with the optional glass which you use to focus your photograph onto the sensor in the back of the camera body.
These two simple components, the body of the camera and the lens, work together like this:
Light comes through the opening in your lens and glass. When you are looking through the viewfinder you are seeing a reflection from a mirror and prism inside the camera body. The mirror reflects that light up through a prism (similar to a periscope) at a 45 degree angle and through the viewfinder to your eye, so you can see the scene that you’re about to capture and record on to the camera sensor.
When you press down on the shutter release button to take your shot, the mirror will flip up out of the way and the lens adjusts to the chosen aperture. The shutter flaps in the back of the camera body then opens allowing the light to shine through to the camera’s sensor in the very back of the camera body which creates your photograph.
At the same time the camera is saving the photo to your SD Card. Once the shot is complete the mirror returns back to the original position and it’s ready to shoot again. This can all happen in less than a millisecond depending on what you have your setting on…the longer the exposure time the longer the shutter stays open to record the image.
Mirrorless cameras work a little differently, obvious from the name, they do not have a moving mirror system.
Instead, what you see when looking through the viewfinder is a live feed of exactly what the image sensor is processing. This allows you to see things like DOF (Depth Of Field), exposure, White Balance and more, before you even take the shot. When you press the shutter release button of a Mirrorless camera, the lens adjusts to the chosen aperture, the shutter opens and the photograph is saved to your memory card.
Now that you have a better understanding of how your camera captures an image for you. There are three major concepts that you’ll need to develop or build upon; technical skills, artistic skills, and personality. In the next article we’ll start developing your technical skills as a photographer.
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