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Thread: Beginner ! Where do you start?

  1. #1
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    Beginner ! Where do you start?

    I bought my first DSLR camera last year (Canon EOS550D) and have been very interested in improving my photography. But like everybody else - I suppose, I want to be an expert straight away, and have been confused by all the lessons one has to learn, and want to learn them all at once.

    I had the EFS 18-55mm lens and EFS 55-250mm 4-5.6 IS when I bought the camera, and am considering buying the EF 100-400mm IS USM for a good lens for taking birds in the garden. I use Adobe Photoshop CS as my editing suit.

    If there is a step-by-step guide to what order I should try to master before moving on to the next subject, then I would be very interested to know what it is, and where I could get it.

    I am sure this forum will be very useful to me in the future, and would be very willing to contribute as I progress.

  2. #2
    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner ! Where do you start?

    Gidday, Martin, nice to have you aboard.

    I can give you a ‘first lesson’ – and a most logical 'somewhere to begin' as your next step:

    Quote Originally Posted by Egroeg View Post
    considering buying the EF 100-400mm IS USM for a good lens for taking birds in the garden.
    Please describe in as much detail as possible (no need for technical terms just your own words) what exactly are the limitations and why you cannot take good photos of ‘birds in the garden’ with the EFS 55-250mm 4-5.6 IS?

    ***

    Quote Originally Posted by Egroeg View Post
    I am sure this forum will be very useful to me in the future.
    Indeed. Superlative to most others: by far.

    ***

    Quote Originally Posted by Egroeg View Post
    . . . and [I] would be very willing to contribute as I progress.
    Good! Looking forward to reading your considered reply.



    WW
    Last edited by William W; 19th June 2012 at 08:12 AM.

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    Re: Beginner ! Where do you start?

    Hi Martin, welcome to CIC.
    Pretty much everything you need to start with is in the photography tutorials, so have a read through them and post questions if your not sure about something.
    There is always someone willing to help.
    Cheers, Greg

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    Re: Beginner ! Where do you start?

    Hi Martin,

    I take a lot of photographs of birds in my garden and I have a 100 - 400 lens but I wouldn't use it for taking birds at short distances. I usually use a 70 - 200. So I agree with William. You should be able to take some great photos with 55mm - 250mm.

    A couple of birds at medium range with a 70 - 200.

    Beginner ! Where do you start?

    Beginner ! Where do you start?

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    Re: Beginner ! Where do you start?

    Quote Originally Posted by Egroeg View Post
    I had the EFS 18-55mm lens and EFS 55-250mm 4-5.6 IS when I bought the camera, and am considering buying the EF 100-400mm IS USM for a good lens for taking birds in the garden. I use Adobe Photoshop CS as my editing suit..
    I have doubts about the advisability of buying that third lens since though the numbers seem very different the practical difference is not that great between 250 and 400. A very competant bird photographer, amongst other things he does, uses a 100-300 lens which is even less different to what you already have but his 'secret' is to bring the birds to the camera by playing audio tapes of their calls. Others, including myself, organise a feeding table close to a house window. With the curtains drawn and a hole to suit the lens in a sheet of cardboard the birds are not afraid to come within 18" of the camera.
    This was taken with my old Canon D60 fitted with a 30-70 lens from a SLR at 43mm according to EXIF
    Beginner ! Where do you start?
    I'm not up on birds but I think it is a blackbird or something that size.

  6. #6
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner ! Where do you start?

    The replies above are, quite rightly, looking in some detail at the question of lens choice.

    But I note that the message also embraces a wider question in terms of:

    Quote Originally Posted by Egroeg View Post
    If there is a step-by-step guide to what order I should try to master before moving on to the next subject, then I would be very interested to know what it is, and where I could get it.
    Greg had addressed this by suggesting the tutorials here on CiC.

    I would endorse that comment.

    It's very easy to get totally overwhelmed by all this new information and succumb to a sense of 'There is just so much. I'll never understand or master it all'. You can, but it takes time. You can never be an expert in everything straight away and that adage about 'one thing at a time' applies very particularly to photography. Try taking it all on at once and you will get swamped and disillusioned.

    And, I would argue, there is no 'magic order' in which to take the various 'bits'. Go through the list of tutorials, as Greg suggests, and pick out the 3 or 4 that you want to concentrate in first. The start on them one-by-one. Don't jump between them ... yet. That can come later. Just stick with one until you feel you understand what's being said. If you're not clear about what's being said, fire up a question here on the forum.

    And ........ keep enjoying it, even when you feel frustrated and wish you'd never taken up this stupid hobby and wasted all that money on stupid equipment that's far too complicated to operate!

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    Re: Beginner ! Where do you start?

    Suggetion:

    Video tutorials for basics on youtube; Search "Digital Photography 1 on 1:episode1". There are plenty of episodes and the Host is Mark Wallace.

    Recomended book : Understanding exposure by Bryan Peterson and Understanding light by Tony Northrups

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    Re: Beginner ! Where do you start?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cheryl Davidson View Post
    Hi Martin,

    I take a lot of photographs of birds in my garden and I have a 100 - 400 lens but I wouldn't use it for taking birds at short distances. I usually use a 70 - 200. So I agree with William. You should be able to take some great photos with 55mm - 250mm.

    A couple of birds at medium range with a 70 - 200.

    Beginner ! Where do you start?

    Beginner ! Where do you start?
    Wow, some amazing "garden birds" you guys have in Oz!! I'm in awe!

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    Re: Beginner ! Where do you start?

    It seems that the standard advice on getting into photography is to learn this or that aspect of the camera's settings. I think that is a mistake. Start by puttng the camera in Program mode and think as little as posssible about the stupid settings. Your first job is to figure out what you want to shoot and how to frame it with the proper focus. The camera can do pretty much everything else for you when you are starting out.

    A dear friend of mine is an artist who took up photography about a decade ago. He often sells his photos and paintings through a local gallery. He and I went shooting a couple of months ago, and he confided that he was starting to explore Aperture mode, because he was not always happy with the depth of field on his shots -- he had been shooting in Program mode for years! I should add that his shots are massively better than mine, and I can talk for hours on the trade-offs of settings and what should be used when.

    The point is that the real challenge of photography is VISION. Concentrate on trying to take interesting photos. When you find that your ability to identify the shot outstrips your ability to capture the shot, then you can move up the technique ladder a rung. But the world is filled with fools like me who know how to control their camera, but can't compose a shot to save their soul.

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    Re: Beginner ! Where do you start?

    Quote Originally Posted by tclune View Post
    It seems that the standard advice on getting into photography is to learn this or that aspect of the camera's settings. I think that is a mistake. Start by puttng the camera in Program mode and think as little as posssible about the stupid settings. Your first job is to figure out what you want to shoot and how to frame it with the proper focus. The camera can do pretty much everything else for you when you are starting out.

    A dear friend of mine is an artist who took up photography about a decade ago. He often sells his photos and paintings through a local gallery. He and I went shooting a couple of months ago, and he confided that he was starting to explore Aperture mode, because he was not always happy with the depth of field on his shots -- he had been shooting in Program mode for years! I should add that his shots are massively better than mine, and I can talk for hours on the trade-offs of settings and what should be used when.

    The point is that the real challenge of photography is VISION. Concentrate on trying to take interesting photos. When you find that your ability to identify the shot outstrips your ability to capture the shot, then you can move up the technique ladder a rung. But the world is filled with fools like me who know how to control their camera, but can't compose a shot to save their soul.
    My wife was a similar photographer and recently completed a 12 week intro to digital photography course at the local community college. It totally beat anything that she ever picked up from on-line tutorials, books, magazines, etc. If something like this is available in your area, I would highly recommend looking at this path.

    Ultimately, the formal approach does two things for you:

    1. It forces a learning discipline; i.e. you have weekly assignments, so you have to go out and work on them; and

    2. There is professional feedback / critique of your work (and of other's work). This feedback is a really important part of the learning process that you don't get when you do the reading and watch the online materials. These are a great way of supplementing and adding to your knowledge.

    Once you have this basic understanding, get out there and shoot often and work on your technique and learn how to critique your own work. Photography is not like riding a bike and you can't assume that once you know how to use your camera you will be able to produce great shots every time; it's much more like playing a musical instrument. If you stop practicing you will get rusty and the quality of your work will not be where you want it to be.

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    Re: Beginner ! Where do you start?

    Hi Martin,

    I think that the best way to start depends on you. Different people learn different ways. However, for what it is worth, here is my suggestion:

    --Don't buy more stuff unless you find you really need it. People waste a lot of money because they think that the key is more or better stuff. The key is learning. Equipment comes a distant second.
    --You have two different basic strategies suggested so far: shoot a lot in program mode, and study how it all works. I would lean toward the latter. You will need to practice a lot, and shooting in program mode will help you practice some of the essentials, in particular, composition. However, there is no substitute for learning how to control what the camera does. You need to learn about exposure, depth of field, and freezing motion. Learning the "triangle" of ISO, shutter speed, and aperture is the key to that.
    --The "basics" tutorials here are a good place to start. However, as you learn something new--for example, the relationship between aperture and depth of field--go practice it right away.


    The key to it all is practice, practice, practice, but there is no substitute for study (sounds old-fashioned, I know). Looking at other people's work is also very helpful, as a way to help you think about things like composition.

    Dam

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    Re: Beginner ! Where do you start?

    Hi, Martin -

    I'd STRONGLY suggest that you work your way through the manual that came with the camera just to find what all the buttons, menu items, etc. are. The manual won't tell you what to do in general, but you'll pick up the abbreviations and acronyms for the pieces and parts. The advantage of doing this first is that I find something discussed in another environment I at least have a clue what I need to do to be able to replicate the results shown in a photo in the alternative venue.

    And, BTW, you might want to download the manual from your camera manufacturer's website. The great advantage is that you can print the file on 8.5x11 paper and have room on the page to write down your notes legibly rather than cramming your notes in to the 3/4 in margins of the printed and bound manual from the manufacturer.

    And, if keeping it all together is important (rather than having a box of loose paper), you can get Kinkos (now FedExOffice) or some other copy shop to put it in a plastic comb binder which means that you can lay it flat or gently wrap the left pages around to the back of the right pages. I did my printing double-sided to as to save paper. I also make pretty front and back covers and put a protector sheet over both before binding so when I lay it down on a pizza box, I can wipe of the cheese and sauce!

    v

  13. #13
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    Re: Beginner ! Where do you start?

    Quote Originally Posted by drjuice View Post
    I'd STRONGLY suggest that you work your way through the manual that came with the camera just to find what all the buttons, menu items, etc. are. The manual won't tell you what to do in general, but you'll pick up the abbreviations and acronyms for the pieces and parts. The advantage of doing this first is that I find something discussed in another environment I at least have a clue what I need to do to be able to replicate the results shown in a photo in the alternative venue.
    I couldn't agree with "V's" suggestion more, Martin. "Ana," a fellow member of this forum, also suggested reading the manual after my first post on the forum. I recently finished reading my manual for my Canon T3, and I can say that it has helped "tremendously."

    While I am somewhat familiar with photography jargon and settings, getting to know all of the minute details of the camera's capabilities, settings, etc., in addition to reading the tutorials on CiC will greatly broaden your knowledge. Cumbersome as it might be, it's well worth the effort.

    Best regards,

    Jeff

  14. #14
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    Re: Beginner ! Where do you start?

    I agree in part with Tom's feeling that you don't need to immediately learn all the aspects of the camera's settings and learning how to take interesting images by developing your 'vision' will produce more satisfying results. The difficulty is that neither of these is all that intuitive or easy to learn.

    To me it makes more sense to first and foremost, read the manual so that you understand the basics of what the controls do. Perfecting their use will take time to develop so don't be overly concerned that it doesn't all make sense right away.

    Second, go out and take pictures, post, ask questions about ONE shooting aspect of what you want to improve, get feedback, go back and reshoot/repost/ask questions/get feedback until that ONE aspect is clearly understood.

    Third, most likely, you will want to improve the composition while you are perfecting that one aspect of shooting. Developing a 'vision' for a great composition will also take time but if you concentrate on ONE composition aspect at a time you can actually improve on both a shooting and a composition technique at the same time.

    If you are starting to learn photography from scratch I would suggest learning the exposure triangle - how the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed combine to get the proper exposure and the trade-offs of each.

    For composition, pick a subject, shoot, post and get feedback. From there pick a composition aspect you want to work with such as getting the horizon level, rule of thirds, how to get a clearly defined subject, etc.

    The thing to focus on is ONE aspect of the camera's controls and ONE aspect of composition and move on to another aspect once you are comfortable that you have a grasp on the concept at hand.

    Everyone learns a different way and at different speeds but this approach will help you master the aspects of photography without being overwhelmed and will provide a firm foundation for growth regardless of the order in which you learn.

    We're here to help you so don't hesitate to post your images and questions but do try to master the area of interest at hand before you move on to new material. Hope this helps!
    Last edited by FrankMi; 20th June 2012 at 01:59 AM.

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    Re: Beginner ! Where do you start?

    Hi WW,

    I have been trying to download two photo's today, but ran out of time. Thanks for your advice. Will get back to you if I may, when I have figured out how to download the photo's, so you can see exactly what it is I am trying to achieve,

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    Re: Beginner ! Where do you start?

    Digital photographic course sounds a good way to start, as it forces you to concentrate on one thing at a time, and monitors your progress. Great idea. I will have to investigate that one. I have used one of these courses when I learnt how to use Photostory, and found it brilliant. Thanks for the advice.

  17. #17
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    Re: Beginner ! Where do you start?

    Those of you who recommend I work through the manual - I have done that, and think I now understand the operation of the camera. But putting it all together is something else! This is the stage I am at at the moment, and find I am using the manual as a reference book. I know I am trying to run before I can walk. So what I need is someone/thing to get me to concentrate on one aspect at a time, then go on from there.
    Thanks all of you for your comments though. It is great to have a sounding board to discuss all these different ideas.

  18. #18
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    Re: Beginner ! Where do you start?

    The comments from Frank Miller go someway towards taking me through the process step by step, which is what I need. I have been using the camera in Manual Mode, and understand the trade-offs between ISO/Exposure and Speed. Perhaps I should concentrate more on the Composition, and do what has been already suggested, which is to bring the bird to me, and not the other way round. Never though of that!
    Thank you all so much. I now have enough information to take my next step. Photo's to follow!!!

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    Re: Beginner ! Where do you start?

    Quote Originally Posted by Egroeg View Post
    I have been trying to download two photo's today, but ran out of time. Thanks for your advice. Will get back to you if I may, when I have figured out how to download the photo's, so you can see exactly what it is I am trying to achieve,
    Thank you.
    No problem.

    WW

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    Re: Beginner ! Where do you start?

    Quote Originally Posted by tclune View Post
    It seems that the standard advice on getting into photography is to learn this or that aspect of the camera's settings. I think that is a mistake. Start by puttng the camera in Program mode and think as little as posssible about the stupid settings. Your first job is to figure out what you want to shoot and how to frame it with the proper focus. The camera can do pretty much everything else for you when you are starting out.

    A dear friend of mine is an artist who took up photography about a decade ago. He often sells his photos and paintings through a local gallery. He and I went shooting a couple of months ago, and he confided that he was starting to explore Aperture mode, because he was not always happy with the depth of field on his shots -- he had been shooting in Program mode for years! I should add that his shots are massively better than mine, and I can talk for hours on the trade-offs of settings and what should be used when.

    The point is that the real challenge of photography is VISION. Concentrate on trying to take interesting photos. When you find that your ability to identify the shot outstrips your ability to capture the shot, then you can move up the technique ladder a rung. But the world is filled with fools like me who know how to control their camera, but can't compose a shot to save their soul.
    This has been the best post I have EVER read.

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