DSLR cameras have become the go-to filmmaking tool for independent filmmakers. They have risen in popularity since Canon began offering a quality High Definition video shooting mode on their line of DSLR cameras. Now, you’ll find a video mode on almost every brand of DSLR on the market, but how do you know you’re getting the most out of your camera? Are you wondering how to pick a DSLR? Here are our best film school tips with 5 steps to mastering your DSLR camera.


Your budget and shooting needs will help determine the specifications of your DSLR camera. Most entry level DSLR cameras start around $400 for the body and only a couple hundred more for some lenses. Don’t be afraid to start small and grow into a better camera once you’ve learned what features are important to you. Some specifications you should consider are the sensor size, low-light capabilities, slow motion feature, dynamic range, chroma sampling, video codec, the frame rate, and, of course, video resolution. Mastering your DSLR camera for filmmaking will take some time, but it is well worth it in the end.


Although most DSLR camera brands have the same or similar features, here are two notable things to consider before you purchase. First, make sure the menu system is easy to use and understand. Easy menu navigation will help to expedite your shoot and ensure you’re using all the necessary features of your camera. Second, brand popularity does make a difference. The more popular a brand is, the more reviews, information, and tutorials you’ll find online. This is very helpful when needing assistance, mastering your  DSLR camera, or selling it when the time comes.


Once you’ve decided on a DSLR camera, shoot some test footage so you know what you’re capable of doing on a real filmmaking shoot. You’ll want to find out how well it performs in low-light as well as outside in the daylight. Test various fast and slow movements to determine the picture quality performance. Apply color correction filters to test the dynamic range of your colors. Finally, test various settings involving the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.


Every camera brand has one or two standard lenses that are offered with the package. They are good lenses to begin learning on, but if you’re ready to upgrade, considering having a base package that includes a wide angle lens, a 50mm lens, and a zoom lens. The prime wide angle lens will help with establishing shots and since the lens is usually shorter, it will make hand held camera movements easier as well. The prime 50mm lens is a good portrait lens to have when shooting beauty shots of individuals. Finally, the zoom lens will come in handy for everything in between. It will be useful when shooting on the fly or making quick adjustments to your shot.


Once you grow out of your DSLR camera, you’ll know what features and specifications to look for when purchasing your next camera. Then, start the process all over again. Each time you do this, you’ll become a better filmmaker and a master at your craft.

DSLR cameras are extremely popular among low budget independent filmmakers, but there are obviously more camera choices available. Whichever camera you decided upon, make sure to do your research, watch some reviews, and don’t be afraid to make some mistakes! Mastering your DSLR is as easy as following these steps!


Check out the Graduate Spotlights of F.I.R.S.T. Institute to find out how other film students landed their first film industry careers. Then, launch your own career in the Film and Video industry by enrolling at F.I.R.S.T. Institute’s Film School, one of the best film schools in Florida. Learn hands on, in real world settings, with small class sizes. Faculty at F.I.R.S.T. Institute are working film industry professionals who have a passion for mentoring the next generation of video production professionals. Contact us today for more information on how you can launch a career in the film industry and even take a video tour of the campus. Exciting film industry careers are just months away!