Help make me a better photographer

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by swiftaw, May 24, 2007.

  1. swiftaw macrumors 603

    swiftaw

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2005
    Location:
    Omaha, NE, USA
    #1
    Okay everyone, this could take a while, hope you are sitting comfortably.

    So, I have decided that I should have more hobbies, or at least put more effort into the ones I already have. One of those happens to be photography. I like photographs, I like looking at photographs and I like taking photographs. The issue is, I don't think I'm very good at it. Ok, so I'm not awful, images are always in focus but when I look at what other people can do with the same equipment I feel like I should be able to do better. Thus I am asking the photographers of macrumors to aid me.

    (I know I could post on a photography forum, but I figured there are plenty of photographers here, and they are (mostly) friendly, plus I do have some computer questions too).

    So, what equipment do I have, well:
    Canon Digital Rebel XT (350D)
    Kit Lens (EF-S 18-55)
    Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III USM Telephoto Zoom Lens
    Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens

    So, firstly I have a couple of equipment questions

    1. Although I like all kinds of photography, my favorites are cityscapes and sporting events. Are there some lenses I should consider that would be a significant improvement over the ones I have, remembering that this is a hobby so I cannot afford 'pro' lenses.

    2. On the digital rebel (and probably most digital cameras) you get a choice of image size (usually something like small, medium, large). In terms of image quality should one always choose large assuming all other factors being equal and that storage space is not a factor (I have a 4Gb memory card)?

    3. Most of the time I set my camera to full automatic, I can probably get better shots if I use a different mode, perhaps something like Av. What modes should I consider investigating?

    4. Is there any other equipment, other than lenses, that you might recommend?

    Ok, so thats the equipment questions (al least for now). So on to the next stage - research:

    5. What reading materials would you suggest to help me improve. I have a healthy understanding of the physics of light and photography, I just need more practical guides to get more from my camera.

    And finally, storage and editing. This is the part where I am completely clueless. In the film days I would take photos, have the developed and that would be that, and that mentality has continued in my digital days, namely I take the photo, download it to my computer and that is that. However, I know that I can improve the quality of my images after the fact by using software. The question is, where to start. Even if I decide upon which software (no idea) how would I know what to do to an image to improve it, or is it a case of trial and error? Ok, so more focused questions:

    6. What software should I consider for editing/storing my images? I cannot afford Photoshop, so I was looking at Aperture, Adobe Lightroom, and Photoshop Elements, as the ones I could afford (are there others?). How do they stack up against each other? What are the strengths/weaknesses of each? (I know there have been plenty of threads about this but I thought I'd ask in the context of my situation) Edit: Forgot to mention, I do qualify for education discounts.

    7. How do you know what to do to an image to improve it? Are there tutorials that will guide me?


    Ok, I think I have rambled long enough. Thanks in advance for all the help. I'm sure there are more questions that I have temporarily forgotten, and I am sure I will have more questions as I progress.

    Also, just for interest, one of my end goals is that I would like to take some of my better images and mount them on the wall to brighten up my dreary apartment.
     
  2. Digital Skunk macrumors 604

    Digital Skunk

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2006
    Location:
    In my imagination
    #2
    Don't worry yourself so much... shot at the higest resolution possible... never shrink your images unless you have to. You never know when you will be asked to print a large image of your work.

    The best advice I have ever recieved in my career in photography was to just keep shooting. :D

    Shoot all the time everytime. When you don't have your camera with you make a mental note of everything that you would have shot if you had had your camera.... never stop shooting and trying new things. Seek your style of photography and try your very best not to mimic others.

    Okay I will answer some of the questions.

    Lightroom and Aperture will give you better photo archiving and basic editing but not the extensive stuff like PS. Learn as you go really or get a professional to show you their own technique or surf the web for adice. Lightroom is a light and easy to learn program, Aperture is very heavy; full featured program with a slight learning curve, learn them both, they have their pluses and minuses. Photo Mechanic is another option to look at as well, costs just as much does even less than Lightroom and Aperture but it is an industry standard and you can speed through images faster than any other program if photojournalism is your thing (like me).

    With your camera you want to have protection for it, and external flash, skip the telephotos the low end stuff sucks and will be a waste of money, go for the primes and wide angles, get involved with college or local papers that will be willing to loan you some tele glass for sports. Get a second body if you can because you don't want to be without a body EVER!

    Get a lot of storage space, it's cheap so go big... 500GB + you can pick up a Terabyte for under $600 grab get one drive, two if you can and backup your stuff constantly.

    Get more memory cards as well and don't limit yourself to your favorite types of photography. The industry is changing and plenty of old guys will tell you how to shoot and operate like they did back in the day. Learn video editing, web design and graphic design so you can actually succeed in the field of media. Washington Times, New York Times/Post are all having their reporters and photogs carry mass media equipment for podcasts, photo slideshows and High Def video streams. Master photography but get a good grasp on what the industry will be asking of you in the future if you plan on being a photographer (especially a photojournalist) in the near future.

    Hope this helps

    AND JUST KEEP SHOOTING!
     
  3. swiftaw thread starter macrumors 603

    swiftaw

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2005
    Location:
    Omaha, NE, USA
    #3
    Thanks for the encouragement. That's certainly the advantage of digital vs film, you can see the results right away, and you can take as many shots as you want in order to get a good result, without wasting anything.
     
  4. Digital Skunk macrumors 604

    Digital Skunk

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2006
    Location:
    In my imagination
    #4
    Anything except time... but rightly said.
     
  5. myjellyass macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 1, 2007
    Location:
    Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
    #6
    I just read over this thread because it's something I would be interested in in the future so was wondering if you could post that pm publicly? Obviously, i don't know what you were saying or if its appropriate for the public forum, but if it is then could you share the love please? Thanks
     
  6. nutmac macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2004
    #7
    I have more or less similar set of equipment: XTi, EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM, and EF 50mm f/1.4 USM.

    1. Your lenses are fine.

    2. Use the RAW format. RAW will give you extra degree of post processing capability over JPEG (particularly in terms of fixing white balance and exposure).

    3. Automatic is for random tourist to take snapshot of you and your significant other. At the very least, use the program mode. Under challenging light (e.g., night outdoor photography), manual is the only way to go (manual focus, aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation). If you want to freeze motion (e.g., waterfall), use the shutter speed priority. If you want to blur background or need deep depth of field, aperture priority. Under good light, my camera is normally set to aperture priority. Under poor light, it is usually set to manual or shutter speed priority. When my wife is using it, it is normally set to program. :)

    4. What you have should be more than good enough to get started.

    5. "Understanding Exposure" is the bible of photography. Not huge in contents but it is arguably the best source of information for understanding important techniques.

    6. Both Aperture and Lightroom have free trial downloads, so try both. In my opinion, Aperture is better at organizing photos and Lightroom is better at post processing images. Aperture costs $149 and and Lightroom costs $99 after student discount.

    7. Spend time to play with the software and read its documentation. Both Aperture and Lightroom offer non-destructive editing, so don't be afraid and experiment.
     
  7. jlcharles macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2006
    Location:
    Wenonah, NJ
    #8
    I'd like to suggest renting lenses to see what works for you. If you don't have a local place to rent from, you can try http://www.rentglass.com but they seem to be out of stock an awful lot. Any of the Ansel Adams books are amazing. He talks in film, but the techniques are essentially the same.

    Also, if you havent already, check out http://strobist.blogspot.com but be forewarned that your wallet will hate you.
     
  8. M@lew macrumors 68000

    M@lew

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2006
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    #10
    A good tip is to stop shooting Full Auto. AT LEAST go to P as you'll learn how to control the basic settings and override the advanced one's if you want, whilst keeping the simplicity of auto.
     
  9. Evangelion macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2005
    #11
    Well, I got the idea that your questions are quite closely related to equipment, lenses and file-formats. I think those kinds of things are relatively minor thing when determining if someone is a good photographer or not. You could be a great photographer with a point 'n shoot, and you could be a crappy photographer even though you have camera and lenses that cost several thousands of dollars, and your hi-end computer is equipped with the latest software money can buy.

    Instead of worrying about your equipment, focus on other things. But as few rules of thumb: Shoot at highest quality possible. Don't use full auto.
     
  10. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #12
    The question to ask yourself is "Are there pictures I'm not getting that I could be with a {wider, longer, faster} lens?" Then look at lenses in that category and see if you can afford one. I just got a Sigma 10-20 that I'm hoping to use for cityscapes and landscapes along with a copy of Bibble to correct any resulting distortion at 10mm, but that's because I wanted something wider than my 20-35mm zoom.

    Forget JPEG if you want the best quality, shoot in raw format, and expose as far to the right as you can without overexposing anything you need detail in. That gives you the most tonal graduations available. Shooting in JPEG limits you to 8-bits of tonal range, which won't give you the ultimate in image quality. Learn to use your histogram to validate exposure.


    Start with manual. Learn what the effects of shutter speed and aperture are on your pictures, then use an auto mode for convenience when you can, but only after you understand which mode is appropriate for what subjects.

    A sturdy tripod, remote release and a good tripod head are the best thing almost any photographer can do for image quality, followed *very* closely by fill flash.

    As others have said, the Ansel Adams series are good. There are also a lot of photography Web sites that give out good advice. The best resource I've come across recently for exposure and compensation is the full (I think it's 6 disc) set of Ron Reznick's Sure Shot System. I think it's about $60 for the set, but it looked very good to me.

    Sign up for a photography class somewhere and then get the student discount for Photoshop. It's worth it, as are the Scott Kelby books like "Photoshop for Digital Photographers."
     
  11. swiftaw thread starter macrumors 603

    swiftaw

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2005
    Location:
    Omaha, NE, USA
    #13
    Thanks for all the advice so far, keep it coming :)

    So, to summarize a little, I should try the following things:

    1. Use Manual mode
    2. Shoot RAW
    3. Get a tripod

    Of course, there are many other things that have been suggested. My major problem is that I am limited in terms of how much money I have available for equipment, certainly most of the high priced stuff is way out of range.

    Also, still have to decide on the software issue. I plan on trying out Aperture and Lightroom using their 30 day trials. I just don't think my budget will stretch to the full version of Photoshop.
     
  12. seenew macrumors 68000

    seenew

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2005
    Location:
    Brooklyn
    #14
    I would suggest working in the extremes, that's what we did in my intro class.
    Shoot until you get an acceptable image in:
    -fast shutter speed
    -slow shutter speed
    -deep depth of field
    -shallow depth of field
    -outside, daylight
    -outside, night
    -inside, daylight
    -inside, night

    exploit what each situation has to offer, and work from there. You'll get ideas for shots, too.
     
  13. nutmac macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2004
    #15
    You don't have to get the tripod right away, although it would open up a slew of night time photography opportunities. Ditto for Photoshop.

    Don't try to overload yourself by trying to get every gears and learn every techniques in one shot. Get a nice book and go through each feature and technique one-by-one. In time, you will have better ideas on what kind of a photography you enjoy and to figure out what additional lenses, flash, tripod, filters, etc. that you want.
     
  14. jordygreen macrumors 6502

    jordygreen

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2006
    Location:
    London, UK
    #16
    Honestly i had the same question as you i have the same camera also i watched this video on youtube its split into 16 parts and tells you alot about the different modes on the 350D you will learn alot from it.

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=7WoMNpvVuVA
     
  15. M@lew macrumors 68000

    M@lew

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2006
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    #17
    Wow that video is extremely helpful. :)
     
  16. jordygreen macrumors 6502

    jordygreen

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2006
    Location:
    London, UK
    #18
    ye it explains alot of information on it and easy to understand terms aswell.
     
  17. -hh macrumors 68020

    -hh

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2001
    Location:
    NJ Highlands, Earth
    #19
    For books,

    Its probably a bit out of your gendre of interest, but I've really liked John Shaw's books.

    Consider:

    "John Shaw's Landscape Photography"

    Its getting a bit dated on its digital-oriented stuff, but I think that John's in the process of retiring (he's stopped publishing "The Natural Image" newsletter) and this step is IMO really more about the ascpect of seeing the composition and really understanding how the equipment works ... make sure to read the section on what 18% gray really means ... twice!


    -hh
     
  18. epicwelshman macrumors 6502a

    epicwelshman

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2006
    Location:
    Nassau, Bahamas
    #20
    Yeah, I don't think you need a tripod right away. As much as I'd love a big sturdy Manfrotto tripod and head, I have a cheap basic tripod, and it works fine for those few night shots and large landscapes... the majority of my shots are handheld.

    And really, like other have said, it's the photographer who makes the difference, and the eye you have. I began my photography with a 1.3 megapixel point and shoot, posting my images on LiveJournal. Then I got a nicer point and shoot, and now finally a dSLR. I think I took some fantastic photos without the dSLR, and really, maybe it helped me to grow as a photographer because I was forced to let my eye overcome technical limitations. Again, I'm just reiterating what other have said, but worry more about learning the basics of photography than about file formats and tripods and lenses.
     

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