Hello everyone, I am new to this forum and the art having only worked with full auto digitals. But, I am ready to expand my knowledge of photography past point and shoot. So, I put some money together and picked up a Canon 350D, 430EX and 50mm f1.8. A friend of mine also helped me out with giving me his adobe photoshop 7, which he claims will be an invaluable tool for tweaking photogaphy. I want to learn small studio lighting as well, so I found a large backdrop stand and both white and black backdrops from a well reviewed company called Amovina(?). I wanted to pick up a small studio lighting set, but I decided to wait until I had a little better understanding of studio flash/lighting before getting into that purchase. This is where the TERROR began as Ive scanned through hundreds of posts and forums in the past couple of months I have only succeeded in further confusing myself. So many questions are answered without really answering clearly. And, even more are answered with so much jargon and so many steps left out that the beginner is left behind. There is such a vast divide in opinions on everything that the untrained pupil gets lost in the quagmire of endless debates. I have picked up a few books on the subject only to find that many photography books read like a droning mathematical textbook. I also found that all the photoshop tutorials I have run across center on graphics creation and not photography tweaking. This makes learning the photoshop curve even harder as it does not seem very intuitive. Where I was hoping to stay focused and confident about progressing into the art, I find myself becoming more and more disillusioned about what it takes to go to the next level. I know it takes time and patience to learn any new skill, but you also need to find the correct path best suited for YOU to progress in the best way possible. I thought photography was all about artistic creation, I seemed to have greatly underestimated the science involved. I suppose this is the root of my problem, I would not consider either math or science one of my strong suites. With all this weighing heavy on my mind I decided to take a different more direct approach. I have been looking through forums to find a photographer whose work speaks to me. This brings me to my joining and first post on this forum(Let me repeat that I am new here and I have not had the opportunity to review a lot of your galleries. So, I am not slighting anyone else I am only giving my heartfelt opinion). That being said, Digital Matt I am begging you for help. As I look through your work, I cant help but smile. I love what I see and I know that is the direction I want to go. I understand we are all individuals and will produce different results with even the same methods. However, I love what you see and cannot think of a better point of view to start from that that. Now, I suppose I should get to exactly WHAT Im asking here. Knowing that I am starting from a (mostly)clean slate, What books/dvds would you suggest I read/watch to give me a solid foundation for both photography basics(f-stops, correct exposure, shutter speeds) and small studio lighting? Also, what is the best method for a beginning photographer to learn the photoshop skills needed to tweak pictures in the manner you do? And, What flash lighting kit would you suggest for me? I want something to work with now, obviously cheaper is better for the beginning budget. But, I will do whatever I have to do to get what you think I need. As far as the results I am looking for(some day) on mattperko.com the colors and clarity in the pictures (of your wife) in book, breakout, lunch, makeup, pearls, flip, the woman and the sea and on and on all look so perfect. I dont know if you do this in camera or in photoshop, all I know is that Ive never had a photograph look like that. I dont know the correct terminology for the look of your pictures, I just know I LOVE the dark rich color and contrast of your everything you do. Well there is my plea to the forum and you in particular Matt. I can only hope you will shed some light on my problem. Also, anyone with a tip or two, a suggestion or a comment feel free to post whatever you like for my impending education here.