What does DSLR mean in photography?

I thought I would start my series of photography questions with a fundamental one – what does DSLR mean in photography?

DSLR translated into actual English is digital single lens reflex camera.

So, what does this mean?

I will explain this in this blog post, as well as digressing all over the place with related photography stuff!

Back in the day

Basically, in the days before digital photography cameras used film. Yes film. You used to buy a roll of film from a shop, with either 24 or 36 exposures, open the back of the camera, put the film in, pull a bit out and attach it to the spool then close the back and wind on. And getting the prints was even more long winded.

But we survived. Well we didn’t know any better!

A bit more about camera film – trust me this will all make sense

There were a number of different sizes of film, but the most common camera film was called 35mm film was 35mm.

SLR cameras, single lens reflex cameras, used 35mm film. A 35mm film negative (i.e. the actual bit of film on which the image was recorded) is 36mm x 24mm.

And this is the strangest of evolutions from film to digital SLRs

Why is a full frame camera sensor the size it is?

The size of a 35mm film negative is the same size as a sensor on a full frame camera.

If you ever wondered why a full frame sensor on a digital camera is the size it is now you know.

And the question I have always asked myself is this – why? Why would the sensor on a DSLR be the same as the film on an SLR?

Why not is the answer. Evolution of familiar sizes.

Anyway, back to the camera – why the mirror in an SLR?

A single lens reflex camera basically has a mirror which allows you to see through the lens. Press the shutter and the mirror flips up and the image is exposed on the film behind.

This is a picture of my Canon AL-1. This was a film SLR that was the first of its kind to have assisted focussing - when you got the manual focus correct a green light came on!!

Canon AL1 06092018.PNG

And with a DSLR exactly the same happens, except that rather than film there is a digital sensor.

That is SLR cameras in a nutshell.

Why does a camera need a mirror?

I believe that the fore-runner to SLR cameras were twin lens reflex cameras. Why two lenses? Simple. You looked through one, and the other took the picture.

The only problem with this was you were not looking at exactly what you were capturing. So, the SLR was a technical and optical improvement, with the clever use of mirrors and prisms allowing the user to see exactly what was going to be taken.

With one minor exception

Canon 6D 21052018.PNG

Taking my Canon 6D as an example, the actual view in the viewfinder is only 97%. I am not actually seeing all of the scene I am trying to photograph.


My Canon 5D gave me a 96% view, as did my Canon 60D.

The Canon 1DS gives 100%.

All is not quite as it seems, as is so often the case.

What other types of cameras are there apart from SLRs?

Back in the film day there were lots of other camera formats.

110 – lower standard cameras with a cartridge film. I used to have one of these. And compared to an iPhone they were quite rubbish.

APS cameras, where you could manually change the format of the image. These cameras came with a special film and the processed negatives and prints were provided in boxes – all rather interesting. I still have some from a long old time ago!

Twin lens reflex cameras

I never owned one of these, I am not that old.

There are also medium format, large format 10 x 8 format – lots of formats. Basically, 35mm was for SLRs until DSLRs.

And now what other formats are there?

Mirrorless cameras – more about these in a separate post

Medium format – very expensive

Micro four thirds – a format I know nothing about. Yes, I know - I will have to find out all about it and write about it here.

Were SLRs the best cameras in film days?

  • SLR cameras were viewed as being higher quality, professional/ semi-professional cameras.
  • SLR cameras typically had interchangeable lenses, which was not normally the case with other types of cameras.
  • SLR cameras had more control of image capture, with manual exposure possible setting the aperture, shutter speed and film speed.
  • SLR cameras bridged the gap from consumers to pros. There were more manufacturers of SLR cameras in film days, including
  • Canon
  • Nikon
  • Pentax
  • Olympus
  • Minolta
  • Fuji (my first ever SLR was a Fuji)

About manual mode

Now I have a thing about all those people who preach that to be a photographer you should shoot in manual mode. Nonsense. That is going to be the next question I ask.

What about mirrorless cameras then?

Mirrorless cameras don’t have a mirror. It really is that simple.

You don’t look through the viewfinder and the actual lens via a mirror – no - instead you look through an electronic viewfinder. And at some pint in the future DLSRs will be come obsolete, and I expect that we will all be calling our mirrorless cameras something different – cameras!

And there are other mirrorless format – micro four thirds?

I guess that after manual mode I need to jump straight into micro four thirds – to be completely honest all I know about this format is that the sensor is smaller than a crop sensor,

No let’s do this the other way – camera formats explained or something like that.

Hangovers from the film days in photography

Writing this brought back some thoughts I have had for some time that I will digress briefly not now.

I find it interesting that there are quite a few things which are hangovers from the days of film that we still have.

Sensor size

The same as 35mm film – why?


The new name for film speed (it was also called ASA back in the day) – why do we still have this now we are in the world of digital photography. Surely it is time to get rid of ISO? If we were to start again with ISO, Aperture and shutter speed surely there would be some other way of getting the exposure.


Yes, it seems bizarre with the things that we do with our phones that high end cameras still have actual mirrors that flip up. Think of the iPhone the capabilities built into what is a phone.

What about the future of DSLRs?

Basically, the future of DSLRs in my opinion is short. Canon yesterday announced its new mirrorless cameras, Nikon did the same last month. And apart from Canon and Nikon everyone else is producing “mirrorless” or “micro-four-thirds” cameras. Well virtually everyone.

Let’s think about phones for a minute

Do you know the aperture your phone uses when you take a photo? Off the top of my head I don’t know the aperture my iPhone 7 Plus uses.

Shouldn’t I know this?

I don’t really care to be honest – it does a pretty amazing job.

And ISO on my iPhone? No idea.

Sutter speed – nope – don’t know.

And the iPhone 7 Plus takes great photos.

Sure, this can be replicated on a DSLR using one of the Programme Modes.

But isn’t it about time we updated the way we take photos?

I think once DSLRs have died a death and mirrorless cameras rule the world there may be a reduction in the elements of the exposure triangle

The technology is so advanced these days that surely there is going to be more involvement of computing power in photography.


Well I started off explaining what SLR and DSLR stand for in photography. And I ended up writing about the death of SLRs and mirrorless cameras ruling the world. I see this happening. I see a future where the cameras we use are a different shape and form factor.

There are constraints of course – physics and optics – but technology is advancing so rapidly I see great changes.

The final word on SLRs/ DSLRs.

I will always have a soft spot for SLR and DSLR cameras. I started with a Fuji SLR - if only I could remember the exact model but to be fair it was about 37 years ago! I then moved into Canon SLRs, and Canon DSLRs.

What cameras do I use?

Whilst I love my Canon 6D I find myself using my iPhone more and more, especially for my travel photography work. Sure, when I am photographing a sunrise I will use my Canon 6D and tripod, and also for a commercial architectural shoot. But that is work. I rarely get my Canon DLSR out if I am not working, unless there is something that I think I can sell or use in a commercial way.

And that is where I am heading – I want to replace my DSLR with something smaller with the connectivity of my iPhone.

My iPhone has pretty much retired my Canon G11 and G13 – not that they were bad cameras – technology has overtaken what they can do and how they do it.

Summary 2

I started my photography life with SLRs and use DSLRs for my commercial work. But I expect within 2 years my Canon 6D will be sat in a cupboard somewhere.

Rick McEvoy ABIPP – Photographer, photoblogger, writer

11 reasons to get me to photograph your construction project

In this blog post I will describe why I am the ideal person to photograph your construction project.

I have over 30 years of experience working in the construction industry, a lifetime interest in photography and over 10 years working professionally as a photographer.

I add to this unique combination of skills a high quality, personal and professional service to give architects, contractors, developers and property owners and managers great imagery with my own style.

So, if you are looking for someone to photograph your recently completed construction project please read on and get in touch to see how I may help you.

1 – This is what I do. I photograph buildings and the surrounding environment.

I don’t do weddings, portraits, babies, families or fluffy pets. 99% of the things that I photograph are not moving,

I also photograph places, the buildings within them and their surrounding environments.

I don’t photograph anything else.

2 – To see my work check out my website – there is plenty on there.

Just click here.

And here are three of my favourite images of recently completed construction projects.

Construction photography in Hampshire by Rick McEvoy

Construction photography in Hampshire by Rick McEvoy

Photograph of a stunning private house in Poole, Dorset

Photograph of a stunning private house in Poole, Dorset

Winchester School of Art by architectural photographer Rick McEvoy

Winchester School of Art by architectural photographer Rick McEvoy

3 – I get construction, sites and the people on them – I am one of them after all!

I have worked on construction sites all my life, starting as a labourer and working up to being a senior project manager.

I have worked on new build and refurbishment construction projects in most sectors, including

  • Residential
  • Commercial
  • Industrial
  • Nuclear
  • Education
  • Higher education
  • Public sector
  • Private sector

As you can see I have extensive experience of the construction industry, so will be comfortable photographing any construction project

4 - I am a Chartered Builder – MCIOB

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I have been Chartered for well over 20 years now, and am a current member of the CIOB.

I passed my HNC in building studies a long time ago, and studied for my CIOB part 1 an 2 whilst working on site, initially as a labourer for a small contractor.

When I say I know construction people I mean at all levels, as I have been in most of them.

5 - I am an Associate in the British Institute of Professional Photography – ABIPP

This qualification is defined by the BIPP as

BIPP qualified logo ABIPP Black.jpg

“A high standard of craftsmanship and creative ability”

I achieved this qualification this year, having gained my Licentiateship 3 years ago.

My portfolio consisted entirely of architectural and construction images, which you can view on my portfolio page rickmcevoyphotography.com/portfolio.

The BIPP “is an internationally recognised qualifying organisation with over 100 years of experience in supporting and networking photographers.”

That’s not bad for someone who has been working in construction for over 30 years!

And to be fair my photography is the only artistic thing about me.

This is not just about the technical side of things – this is more about the creative side of photography – image capture and composition – craftsmanship and creative ability remember!

And with my lifetime of construction experience I really do know what I am looking for, those intricate details and important features.

And lets not forget the technical side of this – technically correct and accurate images, with everything level and vertical whilst still looking natural, and all the colours as they have been added.

I pride myself on producing creative, excellently composed and technically accurate images.

I actually went to art college when I left school, as I have always wanted to be a photographer. I lasted till the April of that year before I quit and started work on site- I was 18 and wanted beer money and a car!

That was back in 18985 – that shows just how long I have been interested in photography and how long I have been working in construction.

6 – I am a current CSCS card-holder.

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I have a Professionally Qualified Person CSCS card, which is valid until June 2022 – another time saver in getting me on your site and also further reassurance that I will be perfectly safe working on your site.

I can photograph any part of the site – just give me safe access and a safe place of work. I am fine with heights, confined spaces, excavations, anywhere really.

7 – I have my own PPE


I have my own PPE which is enough to get me onto 99% of construction sites. Of course there will be specific site requirements somewhere that I do not have all the gear for, like live railways, and off-shore installations, but for conventional constructions sites I turn up kitted up and ready to be induced.

Talking of which

8 – I have had more site inductions than I care to remember

And do you know what – every one is slightly different. They are never the same. But they are all familiar to me.

My familiarity with construction means that I can satisfy your site induction requirements as quickly as one of your preferred sub-contractors, saving you time and money and also giving you the reassurance that the photographer on your side is familiar with construction sites.

9 – I have done this before – I won't get in the way!

I know how things are on site, the time pressures that people are under, especially as you approach practical completion. I have been there many many times before, and I do get it.

The last thing people want is someone holding them up taking photos – this is where I m uniquely positioned with my experience. Yes I take all my photos on a tripod (where practicable) but I set up my gear before I go on site, find the location that I want to shoot, place my tripod, compose, take the shot and move on.

The composing is the bit that takes the time – that is the important bit after all.

The technical side of the image capture is dialled in before I get on site, so all I have to worry about is the composition and where I focus for the composition in question.

10 – My gear is lightweight, mobile and durbale

Me working in a live industrial environment!

Me working in a live industrial environment!

I currently use a full frame Canon DSLR and Canon L series lenses. When I am taking photos on site everything is in my backpack so I have hands free in case I need to climb up a scaffold or down into an excavation. I can get gear in and out of my bag without having to put my bag on the floor – this has evolved over endless shoots to the set up I have now which has all my essential safely stored in my back pack.

My bad is waterproof and all my gear is weather sealed. And if my tripod gets muddy shooting outside I can quickly clean it down before going into the shiny new interior without getting mud all over the brand new flooring!

11 – this is what I love doing – photographing buildings.

Yes I genuinely enjoy photographing buildings – so much so that I do this when I am on holiday.

That is the 11 reasons why I am the ideal person to photograph your construction project.

Not convinced? Or just enjoying reading my words you want to read more?

Buildings I have photographed

I have a large collection of photos of buildings from abroad – here are three photos taken on my travels which show the other side of my work.

Interior photo of Bordeaux Cathdral by Architectural Photographe
 Wine rack on wall in restaurant, Lucca, Italy
Modern Greek Architecture, Rhodes by Rick McEvoy Travel Photogra

I don’t only photograph construction projects – I have photographed buildings in all stages of their lifecycles, from

  • Locational photography for visualisations for concept design, consultations and planning applications.
  • Buildings undergoing refurbishment.
  • Existing properties being marketed – both public and private properties, commercial and residential.

I also photograph buildings of interest that I am just passing, like this interesting church which I drove past on the way back from a recent industrial building shoot.

Church, Portland, Dorset by Rick McEvoy Architectural Photographer

Church, Portland, Dorset by Rick McEvoy Architectural Photographer

OK - that was 11 reasons why you should choose me to photograph your completed construction site. And now a bit more info which I hope you find helpful.

How many images will I get?

That will of course be subject to agreement and confirmed in my final quotation, but I will not bombard you with lots of images. I select the image set and edit the images myself.

It is my job to make sure that I not only take but also select the images that satisfy your brief.

And as I edit the images myself I am in complete control of the editing process.

How much will it cost me?

I price each commercial photography job individually, as every client is unique and has unique requirements.

My price is based on the three elements of commercial photography work

The shoot itself

This is the time taken to get to and from the site, and the time spent on site taking photos. This can vary enormously, depending on the size of the building and the number and range of photos required.

Editing the images

I edit the images myself. If you want images that are to the standard you can see on my website then you have to appreciate that this takes time. Every image is individually edited.

The images on my portfolio page are commercial images that I have produced for architects – there has been no additional editing done for inclusion in my portfolio.

Licensing and commercial matters

Variables here are type, time period, location and area of use – this is of course very job specific.

I am not the cheapest photographer, and if all you are after is the cheapest photographer then I am not for you. The images you can see on my website are all taken and processed by me.

Do you want to know more about me?

If you do then there are hundreds of blog posts all about me and my world of photography. The more recent content is better than the older stuff, but the thing that I hope comes across in all of my blog posts is my personality. I was once told that I write the way I talk – my blog is me, my thoughts and personality in writing out there on the internet for all to see.


What else do I do?

Apart from photographing buildings I am a travel photographer, and am working on some new websites which will be unleashed on the internet shortly.

I am also a writer on one of the biggest photography websites on the internet, Improve Photography – check out this article which will be useful to help you prepare your building to be photographed.

19 things for a client to do before you photograph their house

I have also written a range of architectural photography articles which I will list and link so you can get straight to them if this of interest to you.

Want to be an architectural photographer? Read my guide here

10 Tips on getting work as an architectural photographer

10 tips for planning an architectural photography shoot

What gear do I use for my architectural photography? Find out here

How I take my architectural photography images – a detailed explanation

How I process my architectural photography images

What do I do next?

Please get in touch with me – I respond to everyone who gets in touch with me. You can do this by phone, email or by using my contact page. I would rather you phoned – it is much better talking and getting to know properly people I will be working with.

And with that I will thank you for reading this post, and I look forward very much to hearing from you and helping you to get some great photos of your building.

Rick McEvoy MCIOB, ABIPP – Photographer, photoblogger, writer