"Photography For Dummies"

Ribbons

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I'm not saying I"m a dummy. If you've read my introduction post you may already understand. My head gets really muddled and my memory can be pretty bad. Details and numbers tend to blur in my head.

But I really like photography! And I want to be able to understand the aspects of it so that during my candid shots, I'll understand how to utilize the natural light much more.

Any tips or resources for someone like me? Something that sorta "dumbs down" the information I need to know for shooting properly. Not so much for composition, because I believe I've more or less got that down.

It's just the metering and the apertures and the shutters speeds and the mm's and the 1.8 something or others and the F-stops and how to get the depth of field that you want, how to get sharp photos, how to get decent photos in low light settings without sacrificing so much in ISO and noise.

I know a lot of that takes time, but in the years using my camera, I feel as if a lot of my good images are flukes, and that I use the light meter much more than my own knowledge of the f-stops and aperture sizes. And those are the only two I seem to honestly focus on. I believe there is a large range of settings I overlook like the white metering or the ISO's or whatever I may have left out.

Anything you can think of would be greatly appreciated. :)

-- Ribbons
 

TonyMontanaSlot

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I will recommend this video course all over again. It's not about the composition, but about shutter speed, aperture, ISO etc. Really great!
lynda.com - Foundations of Photography: Exposure

P.S. i don't work for them :D
 
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Ribbons

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I will recommend this video course all over again. It's not about the composition, but about shutter speed, aperture, ISO etc. Really great!
lynda.com - Foundations of Photography: Exposure

P.S. i don't work for them :D

Haha, thank you! I believe I saw this posted on a different topic and I did intend on checking it out. I wasn't sure if the resources already posted would be at my level of learning/understanding, so that's why I made my topic. :)
 

TonyMontanaSlot

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I will recommend this video course all over again. It's not about the composition, but about shutter speed, aperture, ISO etc. Really great!
lynda.com - Foundations of Photography: Exposure

P.S. i don't work for them :D


Haha, thank you! I believe I saw this posted on a different topic and I did intend on checking it out. I wasn't sure if the resources already posted would be at my level of learning/understanding, so that's why I made my topic. :)
You're welcome. I answered because I felt it would fit your specific case. Depth of field is also discussed there and is really easy to understand.
However, I'm sure there are many great resources to learn from. I'm a newbie just like you so I can't really give you a broad advice :lol:
 
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amolitor

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Since you mention it, there are several books with titles like "Photography for Dummies" in print. You could try your local library. The "dummies" series is a bit spotty, but the books are often surprisingly excellent and local libraries tend to have a lot of them on hand.
 

ShooterJ

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Don't forget that this forum is also a great center for learning regardless of skill level. Posting images and getting feedback from a variety of photographers is a really great way to fine tune your own skills.
 

amolitor

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I
It's just the metering and the apertures and the shutters speeds and the mm's and the 1.8 something or others and the F-stops and how to get the depth of field that you want, how to get sharp photos, how to get decent photos in low light settings without sacrificing so much in ISO and noise.

I know a lot of that takes time

In fact, it should not take very much time. This is all basically trivial stuff, BUT it is usually poorly explained, and one sometimes runs into a culture of "this stuff is super complicated" which creates a psychological barrier.

Keep looking for different references until you find one that makes it click for you. Once you do, you'll think "geez, that was easy" and wonder why you ever thought it was so hard.
 

bratkinson

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For those who have graduated from a simply point and shoot or cellphone camera to a DSLR, the OVERWHELMING number of camera settings, even the exposure triangle, is incredibly large to ‘digest’ all at once. It can be thought of going from 8[SUP]th[/SUP] grade math to 3[SUP]rd[/SUP] semester college calculus without the basics of high school algebra, trig, etc.

Many new to DSLR photography get lost in trying to remember a particular ‘group A of settings for bright sunny day. Group B of settings for cloudy bright day…’ and so on. Way too soon it comes down to a list of over 100 ‘groups’ of settings for 100 different lighting situations, etc, etc, etc. Too often, the end result is either the camera gets put in “A” all the time, or it gets put down completely, maybe even sold off in frustration.

Like many on this forum, I started in the days before digital photography was invented. With film, there are a number of ‘standard’ settings under ‘standard’ conditions to remember. But most of all, one carried a separate light meter that once the film speed (ASA then, ISO today) was set in the meter, it was simply a using the readings it produced to set your camera. Although there were two types of meters, they both produced the desired results.

With the evolution of digital photography, internal computer firmware in the camera itself has gotten smarter and smarter, and can automatically figure out the best settings to use…much of the time. Hey, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with shooting in “A” mode if it will produce the results one is looking for. I do it more often than I’ll admit to. But the rest of the time, it frequently comes down to a “challenge” of how to set the camera to get the results one wants to produce.

Perhaps I’m a ‘lazy’ photographer, but I tend to let the camera tell me ‘what it wants to do’ and then do it MY way. By that, I mean that I’ll take a test shot – either in “A” mode or whatever other settings I last used on the camera (remember, I said I was lazy) - then look at the results on the screen. If everything came out too dark, I know I have to either open up the aperture, speed up the ISO, or slow down the shutter speed, or a combination of two or all three. There may be additional test shots to better ‘fine tune’ my settings to get what I want. For what I shoot mostly, I frequently have the luxury of having time to take several test shots, look at the results, and adjust as needed. But it all comes down to the exposure triangle…aperture, shutter speed, and ISO speed. I think of it as trying to fill up a swimming pool. Aperture is ‘hose size’, shutter speed is ‘how long is the water turned on’, and ISO speed, ‘how deep is the pool?”.

This doesn’t mean that I shoot everything in ‘full manual’ mode. Hardly. I was at an outdoor car show just a week ago and I was shooting strictly on ‘Av’ mode. I set the aperture to control depth of field (I think of DOF as a layer of one or more sheets of plywood perpendicular to the ground…how ‘thick’ of a layer of plywood (how many sheets) do I want to have in focus?) and shot from there. Why? Because the lighting on each car was slightly different – some were under trees, etc – and, I shot some cars from all 4 sides…DEFINITELY different lighting situations and I definitely wanted to maintain the DOF to get the entire car, or at least, most of the car, in focus. I had also ‘locked down’ the ISO to produce most of my shutter speeds at 1/100[SUP]th[/SUP] and faster to prevent my own hand shake beyond what the IS on my lens could handle from blurring the picture. And as it was all parked cars, ‘single shot AF’ as well. Bottom line, it wasn’t a matter of this setting, nope, that setting, then back to another setting, all day long. I remembered to speed up the ISO when we went indoors to see the cars there, but that’s all I changed the entire day.

Once the exposure triangle is understood, it then becomes a matter of deciding what do you want to do with the next picture? Narrow DOF? – think wide open (or nearly so) aperture. 20 foot DOF from 30 or so feet away? Think f8 or f16, or thereabouts. Racecar at speed? Think 1/500[SUP]th[/SUP] shutter speed. Keeping up with a toddler 2-3 weeks after they learned to run? 1/250[SUP]th[/SUP] shutter speed! - THEY MOVE FAST and their speed is ‘amplified’ as they are close to the camera! “Posed” adults? 1/125[SUP]th[/SUP], but I could go slower with consequences I may or may not find acceptable.

It isn’t a matter of 20 or 30 ‘subject’ ideas and settings, it’s a matter of understanding the ‘nature’ of the subject (people, mountains, cars), their distance from you (your toddler, mountains, airplanes), and the overall lighting (sunny, not-so-sunny, shadows, indoors, nighttime). Somebody standing 30 feet from you in front of a mountain scene should have you thinking of DOF-person (or group) or ‘everything in the frame’? Basically, do I want MORE or LESS DOF? Then decide on a shutter speed to prevent their motion and yours from causing a blur, and let the ISO choose itself as long as it won’t go past the ‘too noisy’ limits of your camera.

Again, if you have the time, take a couple of test shots with your camera, and look at the results on the screen. It took a long time for me to start looking at the histogram for the picture as well, but once I did, I was able to quickly recognize under/over exposure and could make immediate corrections. Without the histogram, (or is it called histograph?), it would be impossible to tell that I was ‘blowing out’ the bright areas as it all looks white on a 2.5”x2.5” LCD.

Bottom line, take one step at a time. One of the biggest mistakes people make is they get a new camera and try to ‘jump in’ at full manual shooting. Without an understanding of what the various indicators in the viewfinder mean, (especially the red squares), getting a good exposure, in focus and well lit, is near impossible. As you get more and more familiar with the exposure triangle and the effects of each setting, continue to experiment. Move the camera to “P” mode or even Av or Tv and see what effects each setting change produces. So called ‘second nature’ doesn’t come overnight. Learning to drive and ‘automatically’ handle situations like seeing brake lights 3 cars in front of the guy in front of you wasn’t learned the day you got your drivers license. Fortunately, the cameras these days are ‘smart enough’ to do a lot of work for us and fill in the gaps (so to speak) in our knowledge. There’s still a handful of options on my current camera I’ve never even tried to adjust because I don’t understand what they do, even after reading the manual several times. I’m getting satisfactory results with what I DO know so I may someday experiment with them.

Yes, while learning to use your camera and get the results you seek will take time…and failures along the way. Perhaps the best inspiration I can think of at the moment is Thomas Edison. After trying over 1000 experiments to create a long-lasting light bulb, all in failure, he was asked if he was going to give up. His response was (and I paraphrase): ‘I now know 1000 ways NOT to make a light bulb!’ I know countless ways NOT to make a good photograph!
 

DarkShadow

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Take note's - Notebook and a pen so you don't have to remember until it sinks in the memory like your phone number. It helps a lot for quick references guide what settings where best for the subject and the type of setting.
 

Derrel

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Mad props to bratkinson for the detailed post!
 

cynicaster

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Many new to DSLR photography get lost in trying to remember a particular ‘group A of settings for bright sunny day. Group B of settings for cloudy bright day…’ and so on.

This is what I was going to say.

It's always better to understand the underlying concepts in general terms, then leverage that understanding to tackle different photographic/creative challenges on a case by case basis, rather than trying to maintain a mental cheat sheet of "if this, then that" logic. If you want to do the latter, you're better off using the camera's built-in scene modes, because "if this, then that" is essentially what those modes are based on.

Forget the notion of reading one book or reference and suddenly being able to put everything into practice, regardless of how well written the instructions are. If you really want to get somewhere, you have to accept that things can only sink in so fast, so give it time.
 
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Wow! Thanks for all your wonderful responses guys. It's really appreciated it. I've been nervous about posting on a Photography forum because I can tend to feel really insecure about my intelligence and skills, but you guys make me feel right at home. Especially bratkinson!!! Thank you so much for your post, it is really insightful and I'll probably read it more than once. It makes me feel that it's possible that I may already have an idea of what I'm doing, but writing out your thought process of your shots helped me put things into perspective. I'm still going to look at a lot of the resources that others have posted here and keep learning, but I think with your post I have an idea of how to consider a scene in terms of what I may want to produce from it. I really enjoy candid shots, so it may take a bit to get into that vibe but I'm going to try. :)

Don't forget that this forum is also a great center for learning regardless of skill level. Posting images and getting feedback from a variety of photographers is a really great way to fine tune your own skills.
I'd really like to give that a try. I have an older camera, and if I don't write down the settings I used for the shot then I'd forget them instantly. Do you know of a way where after taking the picture, and between on the camera/putting them on the computer/posting them where I could find that information? Might it be imbedded in the image file?

Take note's - Notebook and a pen so you don't have to remember until it sinks in the memory like your phone number. It helps a lot for quick references guide what settings where best for the subject and the type of setting.
That's actually something I'll start doing. When I get a new camera bag I'll keep a small notepad in it. I mostly take candid shots during family events, so the only person who loses out on a missed shot would be myself. Until I feel comfortable with my own skills, then I'll try this method until my mind seems to click in. :)

Forget the notion of reading one book or reference and suddenly being able to put everything into practice, regardless of how well written the instructions are. If you really want to get somewhere, you have to accept that things can only sink in so fast, so give it time.

I can agree to this. Although I have had my camera for several years now. I believe I purchased it back in 2006? It's mostly a hobby and I can honestly say in the past two-three years I've slowly stopped using it. I've had a lot of practice, and a lot of time. I get the gist of it, turn the shutter speed to here, fix the aperture this way, then my picture will turn out with a proper exposure. It's mostly felt like a, "OK I'll throw it to this setting and give it a try." I can run around modifying only those two settings all day, and sometimes I can end up with really, really nice images, while other times not so much.

In terms of time, I need to train myself in a way where I have more control over my images and the light I'd have to utilize. There's a lot that I don't actually put into consideration when I'm taking the picture. Like, if the speed is this low, will it blur? If I open the aperture more, will it help that? If I do that, will it affect my DOF to a point that I may not want? How can I play with ISO and match them in the, "triangle" that bratkinson suggested without sacrificing my image quality? Lower light, indoors, and night photography has been harder for me. I'm not fond of using a tripod because of the candid shots I like to take. I want to purchase a very nice flash I could put onto my camera at some point, but then I'd have to learn settings based around that too.

And everything that you, the others I've quoted, and the others I haven't mentioned have been really helpful to put into perspective. I'm ok with taking more time to fully explore the settings in a way that I'm going to understand them. My images most likely aren't going to be for any sort of professional business of sorts, it's just something I thoroughly enjoy and I'm going to be patient with it. My post isn't about how I want to KNOW-ALL-THE-THINGS-RIGHT-AWAY. It's more so a, "OK. I've been doing this for a while and STILL don't know what I'm doing, maybe I should find another way to wrap my head around it."

And I will, someday. :)
 

ShooterJ

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What kind of camera are you using? If it's a DSLR, even an older one, the information can usually be found in the file... and that's true with a lot of point and shoot cameras as well.
 

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