Beginning Photographer..

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Hwilensky, Jun 18, 2012.

  1. Hwilensky macrumors member

    Mar 9, 2012
    Hey all -

    Hope all is well with everyone. I am a beginning photographer, and with the recent purchase of an iMac, I want to do more with my computer. I would really like to get more into photography and photo editing. I was wondering if you guys cold recommend some good sites for someone like myself or point me in the right direction to look at and learn more about photography, how to take some great shots. I guess what I am looking for is something along the lines of a basic photography 101. Thank you in advance and I look forward to being an active member of this forum.

  2. 100Teraflops macrumors 6502a


    Mar 1, 2011
    Elyria, Ohio
    Firstly, welcome! Secondly, if you like to read, I can recommend a few books by a photographer named Bryan Peterson. The first book is Understanding Exposure Third Edition and Understanding Shutter Speed. Also, check Adorama's website as Mark Wallace hosts Adorama TV, which is about recent camera releases, different camera techniques, and photo editing to name a few. B&H Photo as something similar, but I'm not familiar with it.

    Also, I bought a book called Light, Science, and Magic which I recently began reading. Reading the aforementioned material will provide you with a better understanding about your subject, framing, lighting, camera and perspective. Keep an eye on this forum and you will learn a ton! Trust me! There are several grizzled veterans who post in this forum a lot. Hope this helps!
  3. Pikemann Urge macrumors 6502

    Jan 3, 2007
    I'll start off with some general stuff.

    Firstly, there are two fundamental commandments of photography that are easy to apply and will make you a better photographer all round:

    1. Take lots of photographs.

    2. Look at lots of photographs.

    There are countless ways to find sources of excellent photography. Magazines like Vogue and National Geographic are just two. Go to op-shops (or thrift shops) and you'll see these and others everywhere. Old photography magazines are also worth picking up.

    For editing, you have three main choices for commerical applications: Aperture, Lightroom and DxO Optics Pro. The latter has arguably better correction tools than the other two (noise reduction, sharpening, optical corrections etc.) I am not a compositor and don't know much about image manipulation, but if you want to do that, you can buy either PhotoShop, Paint Shop Pro or Pixelmator.

    There are at least two free RAW converters that I know of. Nikon View and Raw Photo Processor.

    One of the best sites that I know of is It has several dozen forums including one for beginners.

    Some things are not worth skimping on. Some memory cards won't work with some cameras so do some checking (e.g. Kingston CF cards won't work in a Nikon D800). And where it counts, don't use cheap cards. For your own work or just messing around, it doesn't matter.

    Some cheap things are worth considering. Third-party flashguns (if you need or want one) are almost or equally as capable as official, name-branded ones, but much, much cheaper. I suggest getting some practice with indoor and outdoor fill flash. It helps to know what results to expect when you're using different settings. That way you don't have to experiment when you're on a job.

    There is no need to buy the best camera, but it is worth having a good one. If you ever do a job (like a wedding or whatever) consider renting a high-end camera. There's no point in buying a $3,000 DSLR unless you're doing consistent work.

    You can take the odd workshop for specific topics (advanced flash use, advanced lighting, how to work with models etc.). People find these useful. You can even do workshops with famous photographers from National Geographic and so on. One thing that you don't need to do is enrol in a photography school. To me that's vanity education and you can do more useful and substantial things if you want to pursue tertiary studies. The very last thing a photographer needs is a photography degree.

    You can of course ask questions here. I'm not always around but some folks are. You'll also have to get to grips with printers and so on. I suggest that you buy a monitor calibrating tool. They aren't that expensive.
  4. danahn17 macrumors 6502

    Dec 3, 2009
    If you can, I'd take classes at a local community college or where ever else you can attend classes.

    I've TAed photography classes and used A Short Course in Photography by Jim Stone and Barbara London. If you want to get even more serious into your craft, learning image editing would be a wise move. I'm most familiar with Photoshop (though you can use Aperture or Lightroom too). Scott Kelby's books are pretty good and are oriented at photography. Likewise, if you're looking for a class, make sure it's a Photoshop class that is geared towards photography, not graphic design.

    In terms of gear, since you're starting out, I wouldn't go too crazy until you're absolutely sure you want to get more serious into photography... photography is a very expensive hobby. In terms of cameras though, you can't really go wrong with Nikon or Canon.

    And lastly, have fun :)
  5. avro707, Jun 18, 2012
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2012

    avro707 macrumors 6502a

    Dec 13, 2010
    Lots of reading and learning, and plenty of practice.

    And certainly learn your equipment well

    Scott Kelby's Photoshop books are absolutely the best. I have a couple of those myself. Although I don't refer to them much at all these days, they were invaluable in the early days.

    See if you can become an assistant to good pro-photographer, you'll learn huge amounts of stuff very quickly that way.

    A good mid-range camera and a good external flash will do you really well if you are going to be doing photography needing a flash. Particularly get equipment that won't limit you the moment you want to do anything more than basic photos. You might also use speedlights (aka flashes) off-camera. Can the camera control it/them remotely?

    It's like work, you continue learning as you go, all the time.

    I won't offer much more advice than that as I'm far from the world's most complete photographer. ;)
  6. Hwilensky thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 9, 2012
    Thanks for all the info so far, please keep it coming. More book suggestions and web sites would be great, I love to read, I just need to be pointed in the right direction. As far as equipment suggestions, I already own a Canon Rebel Xsi, which was purchased for me 2 years ago, maybe 3. I also have a EFs 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS lens. So as far a camera and lens. I think I am ok, but I could be wrong. Any ideas on what I should add to my bag? Besides tips and best practices when taking a pictures, I would like to know where I can get information on things like my lens. What do all those numbers and letters mean? Once again, thanks for all the information, and please keep it coming.

  7. Phrasikleia macrumors 601


    Feb 24, 2008
    Over there------->
    I second the recommendation of the book Understanding Exposure by Brian Peterson. It's very well written and well illustrated. Practice the lessons of that book and then post your best shots to this forum for C&C (comments and critiques), preferably one at a time so you get more in-depth discussion of each photo. You will learn a lot by getting feedback from other photographers.

    As for adding lenses to your bag, you have a couple of important lacunae to fill, regardless of what you end up shooting most often. You will ultimately want a lens that is wider than 55mm and one that is "faster" than f/4-5.6. You could accomplish both with one rather expensive lens (such as Canon's 17-55mm f/2.8 IS) or else get something like the "Nifty Fifty" (50mm f/1.8 II) and a slower wide-angle lens. Having a lens with a wide maximum aperture (such as f/1.8) will enable you to learn more about the variables of aperture and shutter speed and will enable you to achieve effects that are not possible at smaller apertures (higher f-numbers = smaller apertures). If you had just one lens to learn with, a Nifty Fifty would be a good option, but a slow tele-zoom, which is all that you currently have, is rather limiting.
  8. Hwilensky thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 9, 2012

    I don't know if this helps,I am an avid hiker, and love to go camping. I would probable taking nature pictures. Flowers,insects, trees and the like. I also have a young daughter, so I would probably be taking pictures of her doing various activities as she gets older. Also I visit lots of zoo's, museums and botanical gardens. Would the "nifty fifty" be good for that?

  9. driftless macrumors 65816


    Sep 2, 2011
    Another Bryan Peterson book recommendation: Understanding Photography Field Guide. I think that this might be a good book to start with as it is a primer that covers all of the basics.
  10. jabbott macrumors 6502

    Nov 23, 2009
    I take a lot of pictures while hiking and find myself consistently using a wide angle lens such as the Canon 10-22mm. It's very fun to use and is well-suited for capturing nature landscapes. It's tricky to use for flower photography though unless you have the camera right near the flowers. It's also not very good for photographing people because it distorts facial features pretty easily. Because of these drawbacks it is best used along with another longer lens to maximize your options. Another recommendation is to bring a lightweight tripod so that you can stabilize your camera while hiking. This helps a lot in darker lighting, or for getting longer exposures, and in general can help produce nice sharp photographs. I included an example below which used the 10-22mm lens with an 8X neutral density filter and a tripod to get a 1/4 second exposure of a waterfall... this required shooting in manual mode to adjust the aperture and shutter speed to blur the water movement. Like others have said, the most important thing is to take a lot of photographs and learn what you like or don't like. Best of luck and enjoy your new hobby!

  11. Designer Dale macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

    Mar 25, 2009
    Folding space
    I like to shoot the same type of subject matter you mentioned earlier. I started with a "super zoom" like you have now and it worked OK to get me started. Mine was the Tamron 28-300 which I have sold for a 50 mm f/1.4.

    I find that a wide angle is best for landscapes. I have a bit of an odd bird for that, the Tokina 12-24 f/4. Wildlife calls for a big telephoto and I use a Sigma 120-400 for my birding shots. Macro is a different animal and requires the best glass on the market to render all the detail found in nature. The best lens I own is my only L lens, the Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro.

    I'd stick with your current lens for a while, but you do need a tripod.

  12. ejb190 macrumors 65816


    Sometimes I am surprised by what comes off my camera. I work hard for a shot only to be disappointed when I look at the final. And what I thought would be a throwaway shot turns into a highlight despite myself. When I shoot, I am often reminded of one of my favorite quotes:

    There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.
    - Ansel Adams
  13. mikepro macrumors 6502

    Sep 3, 2010
    Get a Lens Pen! About $10 and a great way to brush dust off and clean smudges from your lenses.
  14. whodareswins macrumors regular

    Jul 12, 2011
    Read up on how to use the basic controls like shutter speed, ISO, aperture etc and what they do, as that is very important.

    Look through photographs of things you'd like to photograph on places like here, flickr, etc and take notice of ones that are great, understand why they are great and then go out and practice. It's the best way. Good luck :).
  15. Droid13, Jun 19, 2012
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2012

    Droid13 macrumors regular

    Jul 22, 2009
    United Kingdom
    Some Basics

    I remember when I started out with this wonderful hobby, my camera (a cheap film SLR) came with a very simple instruction manual that served as the basis for my learning or experimenting.

    On a camera there are 3 basic tools that you are have access to: ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture. Getting the correct exposure for what you want to achieve is about balancing these 3 things.

    1) ISO

    In basic terms, this is the sensitivity of the camera to light. The higher the number, the more sensitive the camera. A high ISO allows you to use a faster shutter speed or a narrower aperture, but comes at the cost of increased spurious signalling and "noise" in your pictures (all those red/purple blotches you get on dark indoor photographs).

    A low ISO produces cleaner images, but as the camera is now less sensitive to light you may need to let more light in by widening you aperture or slowing your shutter speed.

    2) Shutter Speed

    This is measured in fractions of a second - shutter speed 30 means an exposure duration of 1/30th of a second and 4000 means 1/4000th of a second. A faster shutter speed allows you to freeze rapidly moving objects, but because it lets less light into the camera this may force you to increase your ISO or widen your aperture.

    3) Aperture

    You may notice that lenses list various numbers in their names, an example would be the zoom lens "AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II". The f/3.5-5.6 is the range of maximum apertures available with this particular zoom lens at the wide (18mm) end and the long (200mm) end respectively.

    The smaller the number the bigger the hole that lets light in through the front of the lens - this allows you to use a lower ISO or a higher shutter speed.

    Another consequence of aperture settings is the depth of field - this is the range of distances throughout which things are in focus. For example, on a 50mm f/1.8 lens set at f/1.8 and focussed on a subject that is 2m away, the depth of field is 5cm in front of the focus point to 5 cm behind it. At f/8 for the same lens at the same distance it increases to 22cm in front of the focus point and 29cm behind it.

    A narrower aperture allows less light in, but increases the depth of field so more things are in focus at once - good for landscapes or compensating for an inaccurate autofocus system.

    A wider aperture lets more light in, but decreases the depth of field so less is in focus at once - good for isolating your subject and blurring the background, as with a portrait.

    4) Have fun

    That's basic exposure settings sorted out, the next things that makes an image are composition, photo editing and advanced/controlled lighting and exposure - and this is where a lot of practice and a lot of reading come in handy. Once you have your camera and a basic lens kit all sorted out, get out there and photograph as much as you can while reading as much as you can. In time you will pick up more advanced exposure control and techniques, improve your composition and develop editing skills.

    You will also spend a lot of money.

    I hope you find my post of some use to you.

    Best regards,
  16. joemod macrumors regular

    Jun 8, 2010
    Athens, Greece
    Oh yeah! Quite addicting hobby :)
    Great post.
  17. Kimbie macrumors regular


    Jan 6, 2010
    A follow on from memory cards. I was told and still follow this advice rather than have one 16Gb card have 2 x 8Gb or 4 x 4Gb cards.

    The reason for this is if you have a 16Gb card and it goes faulty you have lost all your photos potentially, where as if that 16Gb of imags is spread over 4 cards or 2 cards you are reducing the amount of images you might lose.

    The other tip I was given was to do with panoramic photos, turn off auto focus, take your middle shot first on auto, then make a note of the settings then put your camera into manual and setup with the settings you made a note of, this will ensure that the other photos in your panorama will have the same ISO, light, focus etc.

    Also founds this image on a website that I printed off and keep with me, helps me to remeber what the manual settings do.


  18. mustang_dvs, Jun 20, 2012
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2012

    mustang_dvs macrumors 6502a


    Feb 9, 2003
    Durham, NC
    Software: Aperture and Lightroom are primarily media management suites with RAW conversion and editing capabilities built-in. (Others that fall into this category are DxO Optics Pro, Capture One, Corel AfterShot Pro, ACDSee Pro.)

    For heavy-lifting, Photoshop CS5/5.5/6 is a necessity (some use Photoshop + Bridge as their media management and editing suite; there are some alternative editors, including some open-source options, but Photoshop is the industry standard and feature leader).

    What you end-up using should be based primarily on what feels most comfortable -- personally, I like Aperture's 'feel' better than Lightroom, but the Apple RAW converter isn't as robust as Adobe Camera RAW or Canon's converter.

    Hardware: Camera bodies are disposable; lenses are an investment. Quality glass should take priority. If you like Canon's system, step-up to standard EF mount lenses, as they will offer more long-term flexibility, since they're compatible with every EOS body produced since 1987. Zooms are flexible, but they usually mean a sacrifice in f/stop.

    Primes (fixed-length lenses) should be your initial focus -- the 50mm f/1.4 USM is a fantastic lens (better than the much cheaper f/1.8 and almost as good as the hyper-expensive f/1.2L). You also can't go wrong with the 35mm f/2 or the 85mm f/1.8 (though that may be a little long on an APS-C crop body). Canon's new 40mm f/2.8 pancake is a nice walking around lens, for $200 MSRP -- I've been impressed with what I've seen, so far, of user samples. And the 100mm f/2.8 macro is a very nice telephoto lens. (As is the 135 f/2 soft focus.) If you need a wide lens, EF-S may be your only option, for now, as even a 16-35mm f/2.8L isn't that wide on the Rebel's 1.6x crop sensor. (If you end up buying a 70-200L, spend the extra money for the 2.8 -- even if that means sacrificing the IS option.)

    You may also want to look for a used EOS 20D or 30D as a second body -- the dual control wheels are so much nicer than the cross-pad on the Rebel. (KEH, Adorama and B&H's used departments are fantastic.)

    Books: I'm old-school (which feels odd to say, given that I'm 33). I like Michael Langford's 35MM Handbook and Hedgecoe's Photographer's Handbook. Sure, both predate affordable DSLRs, but the techniques (film development aside) are the same -- light goes in one end; you look through the other. Plus, the books are uber-cheap, these days. (And it may inspire you to drop a few bucks on a 35mm EOS body - I still shoot an EOS 3 from time to time.)

    Classes: Your local community college may offer continuing education classes on digital photography and editing (and some universities will let you take a stand-alone class, if there's room, after the full-time students have enrolled).

    Take the camera off of the green-box and P modes. That said, there's nothing inherently macho about full-manual mode, especially when working outdoors. As I prefer super-shallow DoF, I generally use the aperture priority 'cheat mode,' when working with natural light.

    Carry a camera with you all the time.

    Don't be afraid to experiment, especially if it helps you to discover what you like.

    Most of all, make photographs, lots and lots of photographs.
  19. Hwilensky thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 9, 2012
    Hey all -

    I just got done working a 24 hour shift and I wanted to thank everyone so far for all their responses. I will try and respond after a little cat nap. But for those that recommended the books, I have already placed an order for some of them through Amazon. Once again thanks for all the great and thought full posts. I look forward to my journey with you guys.

  20. Hwilensky thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 9, 2012
    I just got my copy of the book, and I have to say it is amazing. This is exactly what I was looking for, what I have read so far, the first 25 pages, have been amazing. I have learned so much, so far. Thanks for the recommendation.

  21. Hwilensky thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 9, 2012
  22. diamond3 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 6, 2005
    Your first shot is out of focus. As far as the composition, is this more of a candid shot or a pose? I guess this goes for both shots, what's the background? If these were purposely taken for staged portraits, it looks like you went out in the middle of the day in the sunlight so you get harsh highlights. You did a good job of keeping the face in exposure but you can see a few hot spots that there isn't much you can do. With your 50mm at f1.8, you really won't see any of your background so don't be afraid to find some shade and adjust your camera accordingly.

    If you are positioning her, one thing to look at is the chin line. Notice how there isn't a clear cut edge to separate her face from her body. Here is an excellent tutorial I'd highly recommend if you are going to take a lot of headshots. I think it provides a lot of good tips for positioning the head

    The second shot is in focus, but I feel like the shoulder (knee maybe?) is too distracting. You filled the frame well, but if thats her shoulder and she's turning to look over it i think you'd have been better off stepping back. This would have allowed you to show the body turned and her looking back instead of just an unnatural position of her head turned into her shoulder.

    Just some CC for you. I'm not by any means a professional of that sort, but enjoy learning about photography. Check out AdoramaTV on youtube and I also enjoy froknowsphoto on there as well. He posts a lot of youtube videos of a variety of things and makes it entertaining to watch. He'll critique user submitted photos, edit in lightroom, give reviews, and take you along for photo shoots. As with any photographer, they each have their own style, but I still feel you can learn a lot from both youtube channels.
  23. Hwilensky thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 9, 2012
    Thanks for the CC, I thought the same on the first shot. We were on a boat for both shots, the second one she was looking over her shoulder while I took the shot, more of candid shot I guess because I was shooting other things and I told her to look at me and I snapped away, it was the best out of all the shots. But I will look at both sites and watch the tutorials. Again, thank you so much for the feedback.

  24. r.harris1 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 20, 2012
    Denver, Colorado, USA
    Lots of great advice here! Definitely learn the fundamentals and learn photoshop, if for no other reason than almost everyone uses it. I rarely have to do much in it, but when i do, its good to have. That said, RAW processing is where the magic will begin and there are many processors out there - Thom Hogan has a great short article on this but lots of other stuff too. He's a Nikon shooter in general (me too) but lots of great info regardless of the particular manufacturer. Once you get the fundamentals down, definitely don't limit yourself to just one software tool - and remember they are just tools to help you with your vision.

    And to echo others - have fun!!!
  25. bgro, Jun 24, 2012
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2012

    bgro macrumors 65816

    Jul 6, 2010
    South Florida
    Just got my first DSLR on Saturday and basically knew nothing. Picked this book up based on this thread and can't believe how much I've learned in 2 days. Highly recommended for a beginner.

    Book is Understabding Exposure by Bryan Peterson

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