Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by AkiraLe, Mar 5, 2018.

  1. AkiraLe

    AkiraLe TPF Noob!

    Mar 5, 2018
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    I've loved photography since I was able to pick up a camera.. Unfortunately, I've been extremely limited financially and have recently been tied down by 2 babies. To save up would take me FOREVER - but I'm seeking desperate measures to get set up, lol.

    When you started out, how did you build yourself up? I'm losing motivation, as it feels pretty impossible at the moment :disturbed:

  2. TCampbell

    TCampbell Been spending a lot of time on here!

    Mar 31, 2012
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    Recognize what's important. First... do NOT get yourself into a financial bind by over-spending.

    What is it you love most about photos?

    For a parent, you might be especially interested in photos of your children as they grow from babies to adults ... and it's the memories you want. You're probably not going to scrutinize on what you could have done with the composition, the lighting, the depth of field (all wonderfully artful... but maybe not what you care about).

    Most people own a smartphone and the cameras on these smartphones are really getting quite good.

    So you might ask... "what can I do with the equipment I HAVE?"

    My husband took a lot of photos with his iPhone ... but wasn't so impressed with the quality UNTIL I showed him how to adjust photos... fix the white balance, tweak the exposure, make adjustments to highlights, shadows, contrast, etc. and his pictures have gone from something that frankly looked not-so-great... to images that look loads better. And all this by learning to use the free editing tools built into the phone and or his computer. (literally a $0 investment since he already owned the phone).

    But suppose you want more than snapshots to capture memories... you want images with an artistic element... beyond what a smartphone camera can handle.

    Recognize that there are THREE things that provide this capability.

    #1 Know-how. This is the photographer's brain.... as Ansel Adams is quoted as saying "The most important part of your camera is the 12 inches behind it." You could have tens of thousands of dollars worth of gear and it wont help if you don't take the time to learn how to use it.

    The analogies I'm fond of using.... is you can give me a ludicrously expensive concert grand piano and it's still going to sound like crap if I don't know how to play the piano. The better piano doesn't make me play better... practice and skill will make me play better. So it is with photography.

    There's a joke about a photographer and a chef and it goes something like this:

    A world-famous photographer is invited to dinner at the home of a world-famous chef. When the photographer arrives at the dinner party, the chef says "You take incredible photographs. You must have an amazing camera!"

    The photographer thanks the chef for the compliment but says nothing about the camera.

    Later, after dinner is over, the photographer says to the chef "This was an incredible dinner. You must have an amazing stove!"​

    It's not all about the equipment.

    BTW, the skill category includes learning about "composition". When you have two photographers who shot the same subject, same circumstances, and there's no obvious flubs ... the reason one tends to look better than the other is "composition". How we frame-up the shot and/or capturing the shot at the perfect moment will often make the difference. Some people say "they have the 'eye' for it". But I'm fairly confident that this is a learned skill... not something you are innately born with.

    #2 Lighting.

    It seems everyone is stuck on gear. "Back in my day", we shot with cameras that didn't have zoom lenses, everything was manual, and we were stuck with whatever film was loaded into the camera. (they were heavy and we had to carry them uphill through 6' of snow!) So when we suspected we didn't have enough light for the shot (because, quite frankly, we didn't have enough light for the shot) ... we did something completely amazing which modern photographers don't know about: We asked the subject to STEP OVER TO THE WINDOW!

    And as simple as that... viola! The light is thus improved!

    You can extend the idea... when I shot weddings, I'd often enter a room where the furniture and lighting just weren't going to be conducive to a good shot. So we put the cameras down and played furniture-mover for the next 60 seconds... and built ourselves a quick composition that made the room appear more intimate AND have better lighting. I re-arranged furniture a LOT.

    But what makes lighting "good" is having good shadow. If light comes from the off to one side of a subject, the three dimensional features of a person's face creates highlights on one side... shadows on the other. They "look" three-dimensional because in our flat photographers, your eyes are getting lots of visual cues from those highlights and shadows. If the light comes from the direction of the camera (straight on in front of the subject - not from the side) then you wont see any shadows (because all the shadows are hiding behind your subject). This creates "flat" looking images ... you don't get the 3D visual cues that light & shadow create.

    If the light is extremely intense then the shadows will seem very dark compared to the highlights. If the light comes from a pin-point source of light, then the transition from light to shadows will be well-defined lines. If the light comes from a broad source (diffuse light) then the transitions will be gradual.

    Usually we find gradual transitions (soft diffuse light that comes from a broad source) look better. And usually we find that it's not attractive if the light is intense and the shadows are dark (e.g. shooting in full sun). When I shoot a subject in full sun (something I try to avoid), I grab the flash (use flash outdoors) because the flash helps "fill in" those deep shadows. You still get shadows... but they are weak shadows instead of strong shadows because the flash filled them in a bit.

    #3 The lens choice.

    It's not that the lens alone is magical... it's that if you have the right lens, you can use exposure settings that look much better.

    The "kit" lens that comes with most DSLRs usually isn't capable of creating a beautifully creaming out-of-focus background in contrast to your nicely in-focus subject.

    But it turns out there are lenses that can do this and they are "relatively" inexpensive. For example, most camera makers offer a 50mm f/1.8 lens that is probably one of the least-expensive lenses in their lineup.

    Knowing how to use the lens, place the subject close, place the background far away (lots and lots of separation between subject and background) and a low focal ratio, and viola! You have a nicely soft out-of-focus background in contrast to a nice sharp subject and it didn't require a lens costing thousands of dollars.

    But the key them in all of these three points is "know how". The equipment isn't where the magic happens. It's a skill you learn over time ... and practice to get good at it.

    Notice that what I did NOT include in that list is the camera. Turns out that part isn't particularly important. If you want those artsy backgrounds then you want a camera that lets you swap lenses. But it doesn't matter if the camera is "this years" model or if it's 10 years old. Sure... this years model can burst off shots a lot faster and it has more auto-focus points to track action than the camera from 10 years back. This years model can take photos in lower light using higher ISO settings and have less "noise" in the image... but "noise" is only there because there wasn't really enough light for the shot. If you move to better lighting... the 10 year old camera wont have noise either.

    Sure, there are things that modern high-end cameras do better than older and more basic cameras. Watch the press-photographers at the olympics and they're shooting with top-end gear ... and there are reasons for that. But until we end up as press photographers trying to shoot these sorts of events, we can decrease the emphasis on gear.

    Do you already own a camera? If so, what do you have?

    Let's start with that.
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  3. Cortian

    Cortian No longer a newbie, moving up!

    Jan 1, 2018
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    S.E. Michigan, USA
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    It might help if you could determine a reasonable budget for this discretionary expenditure and share with us what that is.
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  4. ac12

    ac12 No longer a newbie, moving up!

    Dec 5, 2017
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    Let me tell you about a friend of mine, who was a pro photographer.

    He daughter had been taking GREAT photos with her Instamatic. (The fancy box camera of the 1970s).
    For his daughters 18th birthday, he gave her a Hasselblad. This is like the Rolls Royce of cameras.
    After a few month, his daughter gave him the Hasselbad, and ask for her Instamatic back.
    The complexity of the Hasselblad got in the way of her taking pictures so much that she could not take good pictures.
    IOW, the tool became a distraction to the task, rather than an aid.

    So as Tim said, the most important thing is your head and eye.
    The camera is just a tool. And the most basic of cameras is capable of taking GREAT photos.
    You just have to learn how to use the tool, to its potential.

    Said another way, if I cannot compose a scene, a $30,000 camera won't do it for me.
    Someone with a $30 P&S who CAN compose, will get the better shot.

    So don't think that you NEED to get an expensive camera.
    A used older dslr, or point and shoot, or your phone camera will work.

    Just as an example of what you can find at reasonable prices are these 2:
    Craig's List is another source of used cameras.
    The good thing about Craig's List is that it is local. You can go and actually look at the camera and handle it, which you can't do with eBay.

    I have a nice Canon point and shoot, that I got at a garage sale for $10.

    My sister in law's phone camera takes better photos than my $200 P&S.
    Phone cameras have gotten a LOT better, and in many cases compare favorably or can outdo some of the P&S cameras.

    So don't think you have to spend $$$$ on a camera, look around.
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  5. Winona

    Winona TPF Noob!

    Mar 1, 2018
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    I had a many year delay in my photography skills. Thought about doing it for college, but chickened out. Got busy with college, work, and kids. I always have read at night for an hour, but fiction. I just turned 50! And my kids are teenagers! WTH? So I use my hour at night to read and play with the camera. The camera was a Xmas present several years ago and I am just learning it. Start with a camera you can afford, read, and use your babies as subject material. I have thousands of photos of mine, but wished I had used my DSLR. However, the point and shoot take great photos as well. Good luck!
  6. beagle100

    beagle100 No longer a newbie, moving up!

    Mar 31, 2015
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    yes, don't get in a financial bind with camera gear, Canon DSLR's cameras and lens are reasonable ... as well as mirrorless cameras
    determine a reasonable budget and hang in there
  7. SoulfulRecover

    SoulfulRecover Been spending a lot of time on here!

    Jun 8, 2010
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    You don't need gear, you need desire and vision. I know quite a few very well known photographers who do amazing work and only have a little bit of gear and they produce incredible work.

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