3 Steps To Learning The Basics Of Photography With A Virtual DSLR

Saikat Basu 03-01-2014

When you are eyeing the latest DSLR camera on the shop window, a virtual camera application isn’t going to draw your attention. But if that dream camera is still some dollars away, the Outside of Auto from Canon could be the thing to give you a gentler introduction to the basics of photography 7 Key Photography Tips for Absolute Beginners These photography tips will help you take better photos, whether you're a beginner or have some practice already. Read More . The best way to learn photography is by taking thousands of pictures, but learning a bit of theory does bolster the practice. Rather than learning from books, tutorials, or YouTube videos, this web application from Canon Canada is the most fun yet.


Canon Outside of Auto is specific to the Japanese camera manufacturer. The skill of manually perfecting exposure is generic to all. Understand the exposure triangle and you are semi-primed for bigger things in photography. This camera simulator wants you to give the auto mode in your camera a rest – instead see how simple adjustments to shutter speed, aperture, and ISO can create beautiful photo effects.

Virtual DSLR Simulator

The First Step to Understanding – Learn

The camera simulator starts with the section that introduces you to the fundamentals of aperture, shutter, ISO, and exposure. As you can see in the screenshot below, the terms are explained very simply and superbly illustrated with big visuals. You can use the visuals (with the settings shown with icons) as memory aids for remembering what is what. For instance, it takes a while for a beginner to grasp the f-stop number stepping. Early understanding of how aperture affects depth of field gives you the confidence to take crystal clear landscape shots and also subject-focused portraits.

 Virtual DSLR Simulator

Photography 101 is a simple guide that gives you the basic steps to follow for a shot. It may seem very simplistic, but it again stresses the importance on determining exposure by balancing the requirements of the photo. The usefulness of ambient light is also briefly explained. If you feel like going back to the basics at any time, hit the Glossary tab on the right which then takes over the browser screen with the definitions of the basic photography terms.


Tips and Tricks for getting the pictures you want is a short but useful collection of eleven photography nuggets that every photography beginner should drum into his or her head. For instance:

Virtual DSLR Simulator

This is a mantra worth repeating for your initial photographs till you get the hang of it.

Putting the Learning into Practice with Play

This is the virtual camera simulator on Outside of Auto. Apply all that learning from the previous section and put them into use without actually going outside in the sun with an actual camera. The virtual camera has three creative shooting modes – Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, and Manual.


Virtual DSLR Simulator

You can use the sliders to change Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO. Check the Exposure Meter before you snap the model airplane. You can take as many shots as you want while experimenting with the graduated slider settings. There’s another little visual guide on the right which shows the effect of the sliders on Depth of Field, Motion, and Noise for respective changes in Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO. If you are confused about the right results, click the Examples tab on the left to see some sample shots.

The simulator gives you instant feedback on your shots and you can use it to fine tune your photos.

Virtual DSLR Simulator


I guess it would have been more of a challenge if the ambient lighting was also customizable. It isn’t…but for some photography challenges, you can head to the next section.

The Challenge

Virtual DSLR Simulator

The Challenge section is your test arena where you can put whatever you learnt in the last two sections against the clock.  Six different scenarios are given and you have to meet challenges like “get a good exposure” or a challenge like the one in the screenshot. You can see how the target picture looks and even take the help of hints, but the clock ticks away in the background. The challenge is clearly designed to test your confidence level around the camera settings and how quickly you put them into practice. After you have taken a challenge, the hints are also useful to understand when and where to use the different creative shooting modes.

A Good Place to Begin

I hope old hands don’t scoff at this virtual camera. In the end, it is a learning tool and I think really useful for someone on the verge of buying a camera, or even someone learning the ropes on their own. The number of photo scenes is limited (to one), but the challenges really put you through the basics. Outside of Auto is meant to be simple; anything otherwise could easily overwhelm the photography beginner.


You can add Outside of Auto to the list of three online camera simulators 3 Online Camera Simulators For Photography Beginners Learning the basics of photography makes sense because it helps not only in photography but also in understanding the type of camera one eventually buys. Read More we covered earlier. If you favor Nikon, look through the Lens Simulator as well. Finally, you shouldn’t miss our free Photography Guide A Beginner's Guide To Digital Photography Digital photography is a great hobby, but it can be intimidating, too. This beginner's guide will tell you everything you need to know to get started! Read More if you are just starting out.

What do you think about Outside of Auto? Did you like clicking around with it? Share this nice learning tool with anyone who is interested in photography.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Related topics: Digital Camera, DSLR, Photography.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Nirmal
    January 28, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    Wow. I didn't know these kinda simulators were available until I read this post.
    I have a great interest in photography but I don't have a DSLR. But this simulator has helped me a lot in understanding the basic concepts and I can play with them to get my perfect shot and improve my knowledge.

    Thank you.

    • Saikat B
      January 29, 2014 at 5:50 am

      Well, I did a lot of "practice" and reading myself before I plonked down some serious cash for a camera. It is an expensive hobby, and my thinking is that one has to be really committed to make the best of it. Else, a good camera is nothing but a pricey gizmo gathering dust. These tools help to not only show you the basics but also motivate you towards that first step.

    • Nirmal
      January 29, 2014 at 1:35 pm

      Absolutely...and I am motivated..
      Thanks a lot!!!

  2. David O.
    January 9, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    Thanks for the article. Looks like a good way to get a better understanding of some basic principles. I like to option to play with various settings online because eventually the auto shoot option on my camera just gets boring.