Jul 1, 2013 at 5:23 pm #1304855
I'm a sub novice photographer. I own a Nikon D5000, a Canon P&S, and an iPhone 4s. I'd really like to learn how to get the most out of my existing equipment before I think about upgrading.
Where do I start? Is there a book I should read or another forum I should stalk which caters to beginners?Jul 1, 2013 at 5:30 pm #2001490
I don't know about your specific area, but where I live, there are community college classes for different kinds of photography. If not c.c., then sometimes a city has adult recreation classes that cover photography.
There are some books on outdoor photography, but many are very equipment-specific, and the books seem obsolete in a hurry. If nothing else, they tend to be a source of inspiration, and then the reader has to go put it into practice.
–B.G.–Jul 1, 2013 at 5:36 pm #2001495
You can also check out Meetup.com for photo groups geared toward beginners in your area.Jul 1, 2013 at 5:44 pm #2001499
Hi Ian, I've taught photography on a few occasions and when looking for books the vast majority are technical instruction books. There are so many I'd recommend just going to a local book store and browsing until you find one that is clear to you. There isn't much magic to the technical stuff. It's like driving and the more you practice the easier the tech will come to you.
The magic of making good images is about seeing them in the first place, the technical simply supports your vision. Kind of like writing. Unless you have a good story all the writing skills in the world don't matter.
To that end there is a book I have enjoyed very much: The Practice of Contemplative Photography by Andy Karr and Michael Wood.
I think it's well suited to the outdoors as it teaches you to 'see' first, which is one of the main reasons for going, and develop the technical skills in tandem with your vision. The book is divided into exercises that help you see light, texture, color, simplicity, etc. The technical stuff will come naturally as yo inquire the medium and make images.
Just my 2 cents.
RichardJul 1, 2013 at 5:45 pm #2001500
For each major camera brand, like Nikon or Canon, there is a user's forum on the internet. Sometimes that is more of a discussion group, and sometimes that is more of a photo-sharing group. Some are better than others.
No offense here, but if you are really a beginner, it would not hurt you to get into a photo-sharing group. You will see both good stuff and bad stuff, and if your eye can sort out the difference between the two, that is a start. Sometimes the intermediate users get into a discussion group. If you share some recent images, don't be afraid that they will tear you apart. At first, that happens.
Another approach is to shoot some stuff, and then print out the very best images with a good printer on good paper. Show those around to friends. After a while, you will learn which ones show good skills and which do not.
–B.G.–Jul 1, 2013 at 6:29 pm #2001513
Thanks Gents. That gives me something to work with.Jul 1, 2013 at 6:39 pm #2001517Jul 2, 2013 at 1:48 am #2001597
Try looking at the forums at dpreview.com, you'll probably find a subforum for each of your cameras and some for your beginning needs. Very high activity, so easy to get good answers. Highly Recommended forum, I've used it for years.
PeterJul 2, 2013 at 2:25 am #2001598
@jephotoLocale: New Zealand
http://www.naturescapes.net continues to have a very high std of photography posted by its members and the forums are a good source of advice.
Mountain Light: In Search of the Dynamic Landscape by G Rowell is as inspirational today as when it was first written, despite being years out of date in terms of equipment.Jul 2, 2013 at 7:54 am #2001643
@aroth87Locale: Missouri Ozarks
My best piece of advice is to not worry so much about the gear. The various forums can be a good place to learn but its easy to get sucked in to thinking you need the newest camera, lens, or gadget will make your pictures better.
When I got interested in photography I took the one photography course my college offered. It didn't focus on how to use all the modes and functions of the camera. Instead we studied a host of different photographers' work and worked on learning how to see. Sure, knowing how to control DOF with the aperture or freeze/blur motion with the shutter speed is an essential skill but after not much practice it will be easy. Having a vision or inspiration is much harder to come by. I find that checking out a new photography book or going to the museum help inspire me or at least give me a new idea to try out.
To figure out how to use the camera, Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson is very good. For more on how to make better photographs The Photographer's Eye by Michael Freeman is one I like, as well as The Art of Photography by Bruce Barnbaum and The Practice of Contemplative Photography that was mentioned above.
The big thing is to get out and start making pictures that YOU like. Getting on the internet and debating whether the extra 1/3 of a stop of the 85/1.4 is worth the $500 premium over the 85/1.8 is about as productive as arguing the merits of a 10d vs 15d shell on your quilt here. You're never going to get better if you don't practice and don't show your work to your friends and family. You'll know you're getting better when you have to turn down offers to take their wedding pictures :)
AdamJul 2, 2013 at 8:45 am #2001661
@cobbermanLocale: Northern Colorado
Tony Wong has a great essay posted on Hike It. Like It. The whole series is a good read, but I like Tony's comments on changing your position to get shots that aren't from eye level. Such as standing on a stump/rock or crouching down low. Often the images will be more dramatic than those taken from a standing position.Jul 2, 2013 at 9:08 am #2001668
Again gents, thanks for the wealth of information. The D5000 is certainly an entry level DSLR but I'm not going to consider upgrading until I've improved my technique. I really appreciate all of the advice and I'll start reading through some of these forums and order the suggested reading material.
Happy trails folks!Jul 2, 2013 at 4:00 pm #2001807
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Ditch the iPhone.
Carry the P&S with you in your pocket or in a pouch on your shoulder strap, where you can get it out in seconds with one hand. Practice that.
The problem with a DSLR is the time it takes to get it out and take a photo. One tends to miss far too many shots. It is not a good learning camera.
Realise that taking a photo costs nothing these days. So take many, many, many. When you take one photo, take a second in the opposite mode (landscape vs portrait). Then another zoomed a bit. Then move along a short way and take another. LOOK at what you are photographing.
When you get home, study each photo as though someone else took it. What are the good ones? Fwiiw, I would expect to take 20 average photos or more for every good photo. Oh well, and probably one or two duds as well!
Really good photography has very little to do with the technical merits of the camera. Some of the world's finest photos were taken with a Box Brownie. What you need is an 'eye' for a photo, and training your eye takes time – and lots of practice.
CheersJul 2, 2013 at 4:09 pm #2001810
Thanks Roger. The one benefit I have with the iPhone is time lapse photography. I may be able to do that with my other cameras but if so, I haven't figured out how yet.
I can identify with the 20/1 ratio. I think part of the problem is that I'm not taking enough pictures and from enough angles.Jul 2, 2013 at 4:40 pm #2001826
I once had a teacher who always wanted to see my bad pictures, all the outtakes, We'd spend most of our time on those… at first it was kind of embarrassing, I was a bit of a smart-assed teenager so it was also a reality check. But in the end, and to this day, I learn more from honestly looking at my bad pictures and assessing what I wanted to get versus what I actually got.
I find that most of my bad images are the result of my vision not matching reality. Either because what I wanted wasn't there (time of day, lighting, etc) or, I hadn't clarified what I wanted to portray (ie not the water but how the ripples distort the reflection in the water).
These kinds of assessments are invaluable.
Esoterically speaking to make a good image you have to see reality for what it is and not what you want it to be.Jul 2, 2013 at 5:10 pm #2001842
delJul 2, 2013 at 5:19 pm #2001845
Yes, I read books by Galen Rowell and John Shaw during my formative years.
Yes, if you really understand photography, you can get good results regardless of whether you are digital or film. However, digital photography minimized so much of the continuous cost of photography (compared to film and processing) that you can shoot a lot more and eventually get good results just by trial and error. You really want to have that internal feeling for exposure and composition. Preconception of the image before you ever snap the button becomes important.
–B.G.–Jul 2, 2013 at 6:56 pm #2001873
Ian, I'll disagree wholeheartedly with Roger. I believe a SLR is the best and fastest way to learn photography. A good pistol bag makes fast enough drawing of your "weapon", and they're faster to turn on, and with a manual zoom, and an optical viewfinder, composition lock is beyond compare to a P&S in speed.Jul 2, 2013 at 11:45 pm #2001950
I'm glad that you disagreed first, Peter.
Perhaps Roger got bogged down with a poor example of DSLR.
I'll pick my DSLR anytime before my P&S.
–B.G.–Jul 2, 2013 at 11:53 pm #2001952
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
It is like anything we do in life — practice.
Next is to study pictures you like.
Disclaimer: I rarely take a quality picture.Jul 3, 2013 at 3:36 am #2001967
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Hi Peter and Bob
Just my opinion, fwiiw.
Perhaps I could add that my idea of a P&S is something like a Canon G15. Definitely not a phone camera! It has been argued that such a camera (the G15) is a lot more than a cheap P&S, and I have to agree. Apart from the sensor size, it has most of the features of any DSLR – or more. On the other hand, I can carry it on my shoulder strap and get it out with one hand. So I take a lot more photos with it than with my old SLR.
In practice, I think I take two classes of photos: the carefully set up ones where I use the G15 as a small DSLR, and the on-the-fly ones where more than a few seconds delay would simply lose the photo. Which class gives better results? Hum … :-)
Other advantages of the P&S approach over the $$$DSLR: much lighter weight, showerproof, faster shooting in bad weather, …
One other thought, in relation to the sensor size. Since going digital I have never bothered with a print. But I stick an awful lot on the web.
CheersJul 3, 2013 at 3:47 am #2001969
The G15 seems good for what it is. However, I have never seen a contrast-detection type autofocus that can hold a candle to a modern phase-detection autofocus like you find on a good DSLR these days. That is in terms of speed and accuracy.
–B.G.–Jul 3, 2013 at 5:01 am #2001974
The G-series are definitely one of the best compacts when it comes to manual control, and yes, if the size makes the difference in bringing your camera or not, then a DSLR loses. But only on that criteria ;-)
Today, a beginner DSLR can be super cheap. There has never been a better time to buy a DSLR. Better yet, get a used one. Very easy to get a bargain, because everybody wants a mirrorless now.
It's probably best to mix and match. Bring the DSLR when creative motivation is high, bring P&S for the rest.
I would practice getting everything right when handling the DSLR.
Give yourself some challenges. Look at other peoples work, and when you see a picture that you wouldn't be able to shoot in auto mode, try and figure out how to shoot that same type of picture in manual mode. A hint…a lot of difficult shots require a tripod… I would actually go so far to say, that a tripod is essential for learning photography.
When using the P&S, i'd focus only on composition. Composition is everything!(auto-mode is good enough for 90 percent of all shots IMO (simplified). Practice moving your body to get the best shot, instead of using the zoom – and get down and dirty!
@Bob: If fallen in love with DSLR once, everything else is a compromise.Jul 3, 2013 at 5:10 am #2001976
I forgot to mention:
What makes even the cheapest DSLR better than the most expensive compact when it comes down to learning photography, is the optical viewfinder. What you see is what you get. Nothing to distract you when all you see is the world through the lens (remember to close the other eye ;-))Jul 3, 2013 at 5:57 am #2001988
My two favorite truisms about cameras:
"The best camera in the world is the one that's with you."
Check out http://thebestcamera.com/
"Winter explains that it wasn’t the Hipstamatic-induced visual distortions that he was after in his decision to use the iPhone, it was actually the camera’s informality and lack of presence. … The informality gave Winter a level of access and improvisation impossible with a larger, bulkier camera."
"It's just a f***ing box." Check out http://www.openculture.com/2012/08/camera_obscura.html
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