So much to learn that I get lost sometimes

SquarePeg

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I'm at a point now where I know just a little bit about a lot of different pieces of photography but there is still so much to learn that I feel like I need to be more methodical with how I'm going about improving my knowledge and skills. I've been trying to post more photos and pay close attention to the feedback but I also need to read/research/experiment/practice/learn in a more organized way. I recently used lynda.com to learn about my Elements software and that was a decent experience. I've heard good things about kelbyone as well. I'm going to start another membership to one of those now that the weather here has turned and I'll be home enough to make it worthwhile again.

What I'm looking for is some advice on what order to tackle things in. I'm thinking the Exposure triangle is obviously first and while I understand it, I wouldn't say I've got it mastered... Other subjects that I want to work on: understanding DOF, Composition, getting good focus, portraits, flash, metering, white balance, b&w, using ND filters... I'm sure there are a ton of things that I'm not even aware that I need to learn. Is there an order that makes sense?
 
Understanding shutter speed and aperture is first. You need to know what/why/how about those two.
DoF is part of the understanding aperture.
Composition seems to be under-emphasized ... without that a technically perfect photo will still suck.
 
First off, I would put away the D60 and the D5100, and use the D7100 exclusively. Then, go here and update the camera to the very latest firmware, which has some important firmware fixes. Nikon | Download center | D7100 Firmware After you have that updated, then go and get the Distortion correction firmware updates from this page Nikon | Download center | D7100

One camera will be a big help. Just the one camera. The one with the best controls and the biggest, best, clearest viewfinder. The D7100.

What to learn? I dunno...I think the exposure triangle as an issue, as a concept, as a thing to worry and fuss over, is a bit overrated with modern Nikons, which in raw mode have terrific post-processing image recovery potential; expose to the right USED TO be a huge, huge deal, 10 years ago...with the newest sensors, not nearly so much. it's trivial to "lift" the shadows in software with a newer Nikon camera like a D7100. So, don't fixate on the exposure triangle. Fixate on your pictures!

You have a camera that can shoot AUTO ISO in MANUAL exposure mode; this is something Nikon does better than most any other camera. Set an appropriate Manual mode exposure as far as shutter speed, and f/stop, for the desired creative end, and then set the AUTO ISO custom setting up properly. Cap the maximum ISO at say, 3,200. Set the minimum shutter speed as appropriate: 2x the focal length for short lenses, 3x the focal length for anything over 135mm. Start shooting.

Or as an alternative, shoot for a month in Programmed Auto mode, which is by the way, shiftable with your right thumb and the rear control wheel!!! See what the camera thinks is the right exposure using Matrix metering and Programmed mode. Work on composing good photos, rather than on the mechanics and the smallest details. Make it like driving your car: focus on the traffic, don't fixate on the speedometer or the gas gauge or the radio...just drive the danged car. Stay out of accidents. Don't get caught speeding. Blend in well with traffic. Pay attention, be responsible.

SIlhouettes, backlighted subjects, side-lighted subjects, early and late-day angled lighting,shoot it ALL! For snowfields or foggy day lighting set the meter to + 1.5 EV, for black cats set the meter to Minus 1.7 EV, use the programmed Auto mode, shoot a photo or two or three and review it looking at the histogram and then dial in + or - Exposure Compensation as needed, since the D7100 makes this easy and logical. You have a d-slr: you can shoot an image and in 3 seconds review it and determine what the heck is right, or wrong, with what you shot. Use the power of the force, Luke.

SHOOT SOME TALLS!!!! On portraits, learn that if the subject is taller than it is wide, the natural framing is a TALL. Same with trees and telephone poles and waterfalls, those are talls most of the time. Not always...but a lot of the time.

LOOK through that good viewfinder, and scan the composition with your eye, moving the eye by mental command in a counter-clockwise circle, around the frame. Is everything that you want in the photo in the composition? Is there something you do NOT want in there? If so, re-frame, or move and re-frame.

Spend a bit of time taking photos that depend on split-second timing. Find a place where cars, or people, literally move past a gap or opening, and snap images as the people or cars are precisely in the middle of that gap. Row of parked cars and a sidewalk? Shoot pics of pedestrians as they are right smack dab in the middle of the gaps! ONE shot at a time, not motor driven sequences. TIMING. Work on timing,and learning the D7100's exact mirror up/shutter timing.

Shoot plenty of images. Don't be restrictive. Walk around, find a subject, and then shoot 20 pictures of it. Twenty frames. Minimum. Then, you're allowed to move on. Many beginners do not shoot enough, do not explore a subject anywhere near enough, and come back with junk. Lots of junk, in 2's and 3's. Shoot 20. 30,40. Learn that at times, a complex subject might need to be "worked". This is not a waste--this is learning by exploring, by experimenting, and by trying more than one, single approach.

Learn what your software can do for you. Learn the curves tool first of all. It might be the most powerful of all the editing tools.

One of the real keys to being able to shoot photos well is simply practicing how to do it well.
 
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First off, I would put away the D60 and the D5100, and use the D7100 exclusively. Then, go here and update the camera to the very latest firmware, which has some important firmware fixes. Nikon | Download center | D7100 Firmware After you have that updated, then go and get the Distortion correction firmware updates from this page Nikon | Download center | D7100

One camera will be a big help. Just the one camera. The one with the best controls and the biggest, best, clearest viewfinder. The D7100.

What to learn? I dunno...I think the exposure triangle as an issue, as a concept, as a thing to worry and fuss over, is a bit overrated with modern Nikons, which in raw mode have terrific post-processing image recovery potential; expose to the right USED TO be a huge, huge deal, 10 years ago...with the newest sensors, not nearly so much. it's trivial to "lift" the shadows in software with a newer Nikon camera like a D7100. So, don't fixate on the exposure triangle. Fixate on your pictures!

You have a camera that can shoot AUTO ISO in MANUAL exposure mode; this is something Nikon does better than most any other camera. Set an appropriate Manual mode exposure as far as shutter speed, and f/stop, for the desired creative end, and then set the AUTO ISO custom setting up properly. Cap the maximum ISO at say, 3,200. Set the minimum shutter speed as appropriate: 2x the focal length for short lenses, 3x the focal length for anything over 135mm. Start shooting.

Or as an alternative, shoot for a month in Programmed Auto mode, which is by the way, shiftable with your right thumb and the rear control wheel!!! See what the camera thinks is the right exposure using Matrix metering and Programmed mode. Work on composing good photos, rather than on the mechanics and the smallest details. Make it like driving your car: focus on the traffic, don't fixate on the speedometer or the gas gauge or the radio...just drive the danged car. Stay out of accidents. Don't get caught speeding. Blend in well with traffic. Pay attention, be responsible.

SIlhouettes, backlighted subjects, side-lighted subjects, early and late-day angled lighting,shoot it ALL! For snowfields or foggy day lighting set the meter to + 1.5 EV, for black cats set the meter to Minus 1.7 EV, use the programmed Auto mode, shoot a photo or two or three and review it looking at the histogram and then dial in + or - Exposure Compensation as needed, since the D7100 makes this easy and logical. You have a d-slr: you can shoot an image and in 3 seconds review it and determine what the heck is right, or wrong, with what you shot. Use the power of the force, Luke.

SHOOT SOME TALLS!!!! On portraits, learn that if the subject is taller than it is wide, the natural framing is a TALL. Same with trees and telephone poles and waterfalls, those are talls most of the time. Not always...but a lot of the time.

LOOK through that good viewfinder, and scan the composition with your eye, moving the eye by mental command in a counter-clockwise circle, around the frame. Is everything that you want in the photo in the composition? Is there something you do NOT want in there? If so, re-frame, or move and re-frame.

Spend a bit of time taking photos that depend on split-second timing. Find a place where cars, or people, literally move past a gap or opening, and snap images as the people or cars are precisely in the middle of that gap. Row of parked cars and a sidewalk? Shoot pics of pedestrians as they are right smack dab in the middle of the gaps! ONE shot at a time, not motor driven sequences. TIMING. Work on timing,and learning the D7100's exact mirror up/shutter timing.

Shoot plenty of images. Don't be restrictive. Walk around, find a subject, and then shoot 20 pictures of it. Twenty frames. Minimum. Then, you're allowed to move on. Many beginners do not shoot enough, do not explore a subject anywhere near enough, and come back with junk. Lots of junk, in 2's and 3's. Shoot 20. 30,40. Learn that at times, a complex subject might need to be "worked". This is not a waste--this is learning by exploring, by experimenting, and by trying more than one, single approach.

Learn what your software can do for you. Learn the curves tool first of all. It might be the most powerful of all the editing tools.

One of the real keys to being able to shoot photos well is simply practicing how to do it well.

Thanks Derrel for the suggestions on specific things I can do to improve. I will be using the 7100 exclusively and I have already updated the firmware but I was not aware of the distortion correction update.

I haven't used P mode much, really only once before when I was out shooting at sunrise and the photographer I was with suggested it due to the changing light. It was years ago and I didn't really understand it at the time. I'll have to try it again next time. I like your timing practice idea - I could actually do that from my front porch since we live on a pretty busy road. I'll do my best to try some Talls too but I'm not sure my camera works when I tilt it on it's side, lol.

I see what you mean about shooting more. I've been "driving the car" so to speak for a few years now but I do need to practice more. It's hard to find the time with a family and a full time job so I really need to have a plan on what I'm going to work on each time. Thanks again for the input.
 
You mentioned composition. If you're weak at composition, then I'd place that above everything else for now.

I usually stress that aspect of the art to any beginners that ask how to get started. Learning composition will take some time, but it pays off in the long run.

I recommend that you start reading some books about composition.
 
You mentioned composition. If you're weak at composition, then I'd place that above everything else for now.

I usually stress that aspect of the art to any beginners that ask how to get started. Learning composition will take some time, but it pays off in the long run.

I recommend that you start reading some books about composition.

Thanks for your response. Any specific books that you would recommend? I found Bryan Peterson's Understanding Exposure very helpful in that regard but when I picked up his Understanding Composition it just didn't click for me the same way.
 
Derrel is spot on. Take it in chunks as far as setting mode. I spent a month each in P, A, and currently in S. I have mixed in a few scene modes along the way. When I bought my travel camera, I bought one similar to my DSLR as far as controls and settings, Nikon D3300 & Nikon P7100. He is so right about timing, taking 20+ pics of a subject. I have not posted any pics in a while but I can see improvement. I have found light is real important and lately, taking a lot of pictures inside at night. I am getting better, sharper images with soft glow on faces now. I posted some samples, and people chimed in and gave direction. I did not understand all of what was said but practised and eventually understood. I am a very busy person and drive a lot, covering 3 states. When I see a spot, I use my voice recorder on phone and note the spot. I have 3 pages of notes to visit in my spare time. Little bit at a time.

Sent from my XT1254 using Tapatalk
 
There is so much to learn.
When I was learning I would start some "project"
with that project I would learn how to do various things.
Such as doing some waterfalls.
You learn DOF, you use ND filter and longer exposures, etc.
You slowly improve your abilities as you go out and redo shots.

I found myself going out shooting, then reviewing the images, then going out reshooting the same shots just improving on all the techniques involved.

Some things such as DOF kinda makes sense. But it needs practice to become much more adept at it. Now I look at a scene and have a good idea what aperture I want to use without using a DOF app on my phone. And you can always take more than one image of something in various setups .. ie, such as f/2.8, then f/5.6 then f/8 if you want to. With digital there is no limit on what to do .. then you can compare them all after the fact or even on the LCD.

Learning takes time and takes plenty of practice. Start out with some project then sit down and see how you can improve it by various methods then redo.
 
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Thanks for your response. Any specific books that you would recommend? I found Bryan Peterson's Understanding Exposure very helpful in that regard but when I picked up his Understanding Composition it just didn't click for me the same way.
I sympathize. I often read a book that someone has recommended, only to be disappointed in it. I bought "The Photographer's Eye", but was generally disappointed with it, due in part to the poor proofreading (or lack thereof) and partly due to not gaining a sense of how a photographer is supposed to actually put a composition together.

My own education was primarily a five year professional degree program for which I studied art and composition quite a bit. I often will see a scene that almost makes a good composition, but for some awkward part that I wish was something different. I think I can recognize a good composition when I see one, but making one is harder.

If I were to try to find some books now, I think it would be like a crap-shoot where I simply luck into a good book. I had some on my Amazon wish list for a while, I'll look to see if they're still there.

Meanwhile; I found these:

3 Books That Will Improve Your Photography Composition

The Best Art Books - Composition and Design
 
Yes, absolutely, follow the second link Designer posted. You're better off reading books on composition by painters. Many photographers who write on the subject just don't know as much and tend to reduce it to a set of rules.
 
Thanks for your response. Any specific books that you would recommend? I found Bryan Peterson's Understanding Exposure very helpful in that regard but when I picked up his Understanding Composition it just didn't click for me the same way.
I sympathize. I often read a book that someone has recommended, only to be disappointed in it. I bought "The Photographer's Eye", but was generally disappointed with it, due in part to the poor proofreading (or lack thereof) and partly due to not gaining a sense of how a photographer is supposed to actually put a composition together.

My own education was primarily a five year professional degree program for which I studied art and composition quite a bit. I often will see a scene that almost makes a good composition, but for some awkward part that I wish was something different. I think I can recognize a good composition when I see one, but making one is harder.

If I were to try to find some books now, I think it would be like a crap-shoot where I simply luck into a good book. I had some on my Amazon wish list for a while, I'll look to see if they're still there.

Meanwhile; I found these:

3 Books That Will Improve Your Photography Composition

The Best Art Books - Composition and Design

Yes, absolutely, follow the second link Designer posted. You're better off reading books on composition by painters. Many photographers who write on the subject just don't know as much and tend to reduce it to a set of rules.

Thanks I'll take a look at those.
 
Are you in some sort of hurry? I see so many these days trying to force-feed themselves knowledge when there is really no reason to. Photography is supposed to be fun, so enjoy it. The knowledge comes with experience, and experience comes through use. The more you just get out and shoot something, anything!, the more you'll learn and the more you'll enjoy it. Take your time, let it come as it will.

That said, the so-called exposure triangle is, in my opinion, without question the first thing that one needs to learn. Learning composition is great but unless you have a decently exposed image what is the point?

The exposure triangle is also one of the easiest things to understand and at the same time the thing that confuses so many at first. At some point, once it "Clicks" in your mind, you'll wonder why it took so long to understand something so simple.
 
Are you in some sort of hurry? I see so many these days trying to force-feed themselves knowledge when there is really no reason to. Photography is supposed to be fun, so enjoy it. The knowledge comes with experience, and experience comes through use. The more you just get out and shoot something, anything!, the more you'll learn and the more you'll enjoy it. Take your time, let it come as it will.

That said, the so-called exposure triangle is, in my opinion, without question the first thing that one needs to learn. Learning composition is great but unless you have a decently exposed image what is the point?

The exposure triangle is also one of the easiest things to understand and at the same time the thing that confuses so many at first. At some point, once it "Clicks" in your mind, you'll wonder why it took so long to understand something so simple.

I was going to respond automatically that no, I'm not in a hurry but then after thinking about it, yes, maybe I kind of am... I love photography but I don't think anyone enjoys being disappointed in their results. When I have a vision of how I want a photo to look and I find I missed the focus or the exposure or DOF is all wrong, it's frustrating, not fun. I don't think photography is like golf and sex where you can still enjoy it even if you're not good at it, lol.

Thanks for your input about exposure. While I understand the concept of the 3 elements interacting, I do need to take my understanding of it to a deeper level.
 
Are you in some sort of hurry? I see so many these days trying to force-feed themselves knowledge when there is really no reason to. Photography is supposed to be fun, so enjoy it. The knowledge comes with experience, and experience comes through use. The more you just get out and shoot something, anything!, the more you'll learn and the more you'll enjoy it. Take your time, let it come as it will.

That said, the so-called exposure triangle is, in my opinion, without question the first thing that one needs to learn. Learning composition is great but unless you have a decently exposed image what is the point?

The exposure triangle is also one of the easiest things to understand and at the same time the thing that confuses so many at first. At some point, once it "Clicks" in your mind, you'll wonder why it took so long to understand something so simple.



Unfortunately, yes, most people are in a hurry today. The availability of information has made many students feel they need to know something at a rate which coincides with when the idea popped into their head they should know it already. So off they go ...



I will return once again to my typical advice regarding learning any subject, follow a plan. From start to finish, follow a plan.



It is generally accepted today that we all have a unique, personal method for taking in and assimilating data. How you learn is probably not exactly how I learn. Education systems which are strictly "by the book" are old fashioned if you are after the greatest number of students arriving at the end of the course with a full understanding of the materials being taught.

There are, therefore, multiple methods aimed at improving the student's retention rate. Before you go off on your own, you might want to actually spend some time getting an idea of how you actually learn. If you've been studying and not achieving a comprehensive grasp of the subject, the reason is typically one of two issues. And they are related.



The first issue is being self taught. When you don't know the subject, you also don't know what you should be learning. Or when you should learn it.

When you don't know what you should be learning when, you tend to have very little focus on the process of learning. Which means you also don't know what not to learn when you don't yet need to learn it.

With such an approach you tend to bounce from subject to subject and lesson to lesson with no real plan in mind. You learn at random and that is how the material becomes arranged in your memory. If you are old enough to remember when libraries used a card catalog system for finding materials, it would be similar to taking a drawer of file cards and dumping them on the floor so they scatter in all directions. Now you want to find one particular piece of information.

As you begin searching through the random collection of informational cards on the floor, you find this card that sounds interesting so you go investigate that. Then you come back and look for another subject which you found of interest by searching for the first item you located. Now you've forgotten exactly what you were looking for at first so you tend to go on a random search of whatever card has turned upright and the title begins with the letter "M". Eventually, you get tired of this all and you go turn another card file over and begin the process once more.

Particularly dangerous in this method is the fact each author brings to the subject their own way of presenting information. This leads to even more jumbled ideas on the part of the student since not everyone may agree on any one topic and no one will simply repeat the same data in the same manner. In the end, take a test on what you should have retained from all your work and you will not score well in all likelyhood because in your mind you are looking not at a nice neatly organized package of data but at a random collection of file cards scattered all over the floor.

Just as with the memorization techniques of associating a serial number of a dollar bill with something else which you will use to recall that specific number, your memory works best when you can have a nice orderly organization of this becomes that and that leads you to association/recall of this which gets you to the end result you desire..



To be most efficient at learning you must first build the foundation for learning. Building a foundation for any structure means you first must have a plan to follow and you must begin with the most basic issues of squaring your foundation. You must have an idea of what you are building and just how to best go about layering one level after another. So you must have an overview and a plan.



You then follow the plan level by level. You cannot build the seventh floor before you build the second floor. You cannot put up walls until you know where the doors and windows and hallways will be placed. You cannot build a sufficiently strong bearing wall until you know what the load will be on that wall.

All of this simply means you take a lesson plan from the beginning and you follow the plan as it is laid out for you by the instructor. You don't skip the last chapter to learn geometry before you have completely addressed addition.


If the instructor is good at what they do, they know this is how to create a lesson plan with a structure. If the instructor is not very good, you don't need to be learning from that person to begin with. They will only confuse you because they do not have a complete grasp of the material to begin with.

So rather than ask, "What should I learn next?", simply follow the lesson plan as it is laid out. Even if you think you know the material, follow the lesson plan because you might not know the material as well as you think you do.




Next, take into account how you learn. Do some research into how individuals learn or simply accept the general guidelines established by a majority of educators.

For the most part, we all learn by way of three techniques; visual, tactile or auditory input. We all have a dominant input method and we are all a mix of the other two.

If you are a visually oriented person the issues of composition and color and lines and so forth tend to be in your mind when you see a possible photographic subject. You will struggle most with the tactile operation of the camera. A tactile personality type will struggle with the composition while grasping the technical. An auditory type will prefer taking in data by way of voice lessons vs written material. Each of us will favor one type of learning while doing best with a mixture of the other two.

Discover your type and find a plan which suits that type. Again a visual type will probably benefit from a photography lesson plan which addresses composition by way of how to achieve what you see in your mind by way of the technical aspects of the camera. This means composition will occur at a certain location within the overall plan. A tactile type will learn best from a plan which takes the settings and technical issues of the camera and makes them into a plan for achieving proper composition. Again, one will proceed the other since you will need to understand this before you move on to that.

Once you have found a plan which best suits your learning type, follow the plan from start to finish. There is, IMO, no better method for learning and retaining data than that.

Stop skipping around. Stop learning piecemeal. Stop taking in data in a manner in which you do not work well.

As I have said, there are multiple ways in which to teach a subject. There is, though, only one way for any one person to best learn a subject.
 
Are you in some sort of hurry?

I was going to respond automatically that no, I'm not in a hurry but then after thinking about it, yes, maybe I kind of am...
Aren't we all? Most of us tend to want the "shorthand" version of how things work, and the sooner the better.

I wrote that learning composition will take some time, and it will, but there might be ways to hurry the process. While you're reading a book about composition, start looking at known successful works of art. Look to analyze the image, not just to give it a quick once-over. Look for balance, line, form, color, etc. and all the rest. Not every composition contains every element, and some elements are very subtle, so you have to look studiously.

Borrow some art books, either drawing, painting, or photography. Start looking at 2-dimensional art with the eye of a critic.

Composition (visual arts) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

There's quite a lot in this reference, so don't think you have to do it all in one sitting:

Glossary of Art Terms

Here's a good one:

Understanding Formal Analysis

Oh, I'm glad to have found this one:

Art of Composition in Photography- Tips and Examples - 121Clicks.com
 
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