Where should a complete noob start?

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by inTempus, Dec 16, 2008.

  1. inTempus

    inTempus TPF Noob!

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    Hey all,

    I'm here to learn from you. I just recently (as of yesterday) jumped into photography. This is something I've always wanted to do but never made the proper investment in equipment. I always came home with pocket digital cameras thinking they would do everything I needed them to - and they often didn't.

    Now that I have a new born son, I've decided the time was ripe for me to take the plunge and actually get a high quality camera and learn something about how to use it.

    After reading everything I could find online, I decided the Canon 40D was the camera for me. So far, I couldn't be happier! I won't put the thing down. :)

    Now it's time to get down to business. I need to learn from the ground up about photography. I know little or nothing about the fundamentals of what makes a good photographer/photograph. I know little or nothing about the equipment other than how to do some very basic stuff.

    Where would you point a guy like me? Is there a good book or online resource that will get a complete newbie on the right course so that I at least understand the basic principals?

    Thanks a bunch!
     
  2. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Welcome to the forum and congrats on the son (mine is just 8 weeks old).

    Personally, I think that it really helps to have a good understanding of the technical side of photography. Learn about exposure; shutter speed, aperture & ISO...and how they interact to create the exposure. Learn about metering; how the camera does it and how you can use that to get what you want.

    Many people have recommended the book 'Understanding Exposure' by Brian Peterson...but there are plenty of good books available. I tend not to recommend the newer 'digital' books...because they concentrate too much on the digital side. The basics of exposure haven't changed in 100 years, so an older book should still offer plenty of good info.

    Of course, it certainly will help to learn about the digital aspects of you new camera. I'd suggest learning about (and using) RAW mode. Learn to use the histogram display. HERE is an article about histograms. There are also some other good articles on that site, so check it out.

    There are a ton of other things to learn about, but it will really help to learn the basics first.
     
  3. mrodgers

    mrodgers No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Shortcourses
    Digicamhelp
    Luminous Landscape
    Cambridge in Color

    Give those a go. The first 2 you can get a good overview of terms such as aperture and what the aperture or shutter speed does. They will touch a bit on composition and stuff like that. They are good links to start and the first 2 sites I found a year ago when I jumped into this.

    The second 2 links go a bit more indepth and have a bit more advanced information such as how to read a histogram or some post processing information that you use to "digitally develope" your images.

    There's potentially months worth of reading in those 4 links.

    Have fun.


    EDIT: Big Mike, go to sleep! Go out and get some air or something! Let someone else have a chance, LOL.


    Back to tharmsen, you just recieved a good resource right there in a response to your thread. Big Mike is always full of good advice and information. Keep an eye out on the forum for his name in other threads.

    Also pay attention to people's signatures. Quite a few members have tutorial links in their signatures. I've read quite a lot of them myself.
     
  4. pm63

    pm63 TPF Noob!

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    Big Mike gave some great advice.

    What I would advise is reading the Wikipedia articles (and other online resources) on shutter speed, aperture, ISO, SLRs in general, lenses, f-stops, DOF, histograms, bacon, and anything else you can think of that will be of relevance. Try to slowly learn how to apply these to you SLR to get the effects you want. Even if you're not shooting full manual, it's good to have a knowledge of how to achieve effects such as blurring the background, freezing motion, etc.

    Ask yourself what you most enjoy shooting (e.g. landscapes, portraits, wildlife), research photographers in that area and try to find your favourites. Learn about their techniques, what you like about their shots and strive to produce photographs as good as them. Read any articles on their areas of expertise they might have written.

    Perhaps most importantly, learn how to use YOUR current equipment, the ergonomics, inside out so you don't miss those magic moments when they happen (e.g. of your son), because you're fiddling around with the dials. Try to keep lusting after equipment to a minimum. Better to be a good photographer with reasonable gear than to be crap at it, despite having dropped thousands on new equipment.

    Above all, have fun and take pride in your art. Look forward to seeing your stuff.
     
  5. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    My advice copy paste from another thread:

    Its not usual when starting out for one to find that everything they photograph suffers from some problems - especaily if they have little or no background in photography (say a guiding parent who shared the hobby or a few school lessons).
    Its not really because the kit can't do it but more because the user tends to make the same mistakes over and over again and (because they are new) they cannot clearly say what the mistakes always are nor how to correct them.
    Best thing is to shoot and then post the best online (say the best 5 at most - usually best to keep a thread to a single theme like all landscape or all portrates to aid commenting). Also post the kit you used, shutter speed, aperture, ISO (these 3 you can get from the properies of the photo file - just got to the properties and the details tab and scroll down); as well as what shooting mode you used (auto, manual, shutter priority etc) and also a brife note on the shooting conditions (eg it was really bright not a cloud in the sky - or a really dark room).

    With that info people can start to give advise as to where there are problems in the photo and also in the methodology of how you shot the scene.
     
  6. xamblin

    xamblin TPF Noob!

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    I've told this to other people but I like using stuffed animals as subjects to practice things like positioning, depth of field, strobes, etc.
     
  7. inTempus

    inTempus TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the links and comments everyone! Keep them coming.

    I really like this suggestion as I have quite a few stuffed animals sitting around.

    Here's my first most pressing issue. Shooting indoors. It seems most of the cool pics I see the opportunity to take are while we're sitting in the living room in the evenings (during the work week). The lighting is pretty soft and my flash tends to wash images out. I like the heavier/softer color images, at least for now.

    Here's a sample picture.

    [​IMG]

    Lens: EF28-135mm
    Av: F4.0
    ISO: 500

    It seems that I have two problems, 1) focus seems to always be a little off either manual or auto and 2) I have to fight blurring.

    What could I have done better with this picture?
     
  8. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I'm guessing you don't have a hot shoe flash...and only the built-in flash?
    Lesson #1...the built-in flash sucks. ;)
    The problem is that it's too close to the camera, so the light is 'flat' on the subject. You can use FEC to adjust the power of the flash, to keep it from looking too 'washed out'...but it's the flatness that is the real problem.

    For indoor (dark) photography, getting a hot shoe flash that can tilt & swivel, will greatly improve your flash photography. Being able to bounce the flash off of a wall or ceiling, will make a big difference. I would suggest the 430EX.

    Of course, you don't have to use flash. But this creates other problems. The soft focus and blur that you are seeing, are because the shutter speed is too slow. The shutter speed controls how motion is recorded...and any movement by the subject or the camera can create blur if the shutter speed isn't fast enough. The rule of thumb for shooting hand held, is that you want a shutter speed (reciprocal) as big as your focal length. So if you are shooting at 135mm...you will want a shutter speed of at least 1/135...and faster is better. And of course, the faster the subject is moving, the faster the shutter speed you need.

    So how do you get a faster shutter speed? You can't just set it to be faster because it's part of the exposure equation....and if you don't have much light, you will be in trouble. This is why it's harder in your home at night. Outside during the day, you probably wouldn't have this problem.

    The first thing is that you will want to use the largest aperture (smallest F number). This lets in the most light and thus gives you the fastest shutter speed. I would suggest using Av mode and setting the smallest number. (F3.5 - 5.6 depending on the zoom). Then check what shutter speeds you are getting. If they are too low, then turn up the ISO. In dark settings, you may have to turn up the ISO to 1600 or even 3200....this will add noise (digital grain) but that is the trade off for faster shutter speeds. The 40D is pretty good at high ISO, so you are in luck.

    A better option would be to use a lens that has a larger maximum aperture. An example would be something like the EF 50mm F1.8. It has a maximum aperture of F1.8, which is more than three stops better than F5.6. So if you could only get a shutter speed of 1/15 at F5.6...you would get a shutter speed of 1/125 or faster with F1.8....and that could make all the difference between a blurry photo and a sharp one.
     

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