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Thread: Questions from a Beginner

  1. #1

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    Questions from a Beginner

    Okay, so I'm at the very beginning stages of learning photography and I recognize that I have a whole lot to learn. I have a little compact digital camera that doesn't let me have much manual control of anything. I want to save up and buy a nice camera but I want to make sure I am serious enough about this to invest the money a nice camera requires. I am getting frustrated because a lot of times I can see in my mind what I want a picture to be but I can't take the picture with my camera and the pictures I do take I'm not satisfied with at all (which is probably good cause the pics aren't that great).

    I know some of, okay probably a lot of it is simply that I need to learn better basic photography skills, but I was also wondering if anyone had any suggestions for getting the most out of my little camera.

    I was also wondering if there was any subject matter a little point and shoot camera would be more adaptable to. I've already gathered that anything with much movement or action is not really going to work because of my lack of control of shutter speed.

    I was also wondering, what do I need to start with learning? I can't really do much as far as aperture and shutter speed control so learning that stuff isn't really helping right now. I'm only getting frustrated knowing there's a lot I could do but can't. What other things should I focus on learning that I can really practice with the little point and shoot camera that I have?

  2. #2
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Questions from a Beginner

    Hi Mir,

    Unfortunately, you haven't said which P&S camera you have - so we cannot see how big the problem is by referring to a review site or the manufacturers specs.

    Regardless of that, I can say that if you try flowers in close up mode, but keep the background distant, will work well.

    Beyond that, trying to get around auto and scene modes without having a thorough knowledge of focal lengths, shutter speeds, iso and aperture is very difficult, because you won't know how to 'trick' the auto into giving you what the subject really needs.

    When I was in exactly your situation, back in 2007, I moved to a bridge camera costing about 150/$200 to get a good range of focal lengths, close up, RAW capture capability and of course, full control with manual (M) and semi-auto modes (A, S, P) too. There are also decent P&S sized cameras available that will do everything but the extreme telephoto too, although they may cost a bit more (I now shoot with a Canon S100 when I need to)

    Jumping straight to a DSLR system will entail a lot more dollars than that. I ended up spending about 10x what the bridge camera cost when I eventually decided I wanted to 'go the whole way', but I learnt a lot with the bridge camera and it lasted about 18 months while I 'learnt my craft'.

    Welcome to the CiC forums from ...

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    Re: Questions from a Beginner

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for pointing out I didn't post my camera info. I have a Samsung ST65. It has a bunch of different modes like Macro and Portrait that I'm trying to figure out. It also lets me adjust the white balance and the ISO and has some funky camera effects that I can apply. I'm still trying to figure a lot of it out.

    Also, thanks for the idea about getting a bridge camera. That's perfect! It's exactly what I need to do.

    Also, I will try more flower pics. I tried a few last week and they weren't great but I think it's because I wasn't patient enough to really focus on what I was doing. The camera performed really well though. Maybe I'll schedule a trip to a nearby garden soon

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    Re: Questions from a Beginner

    Quote Originally Posted by Miruke View Post
    I was also wondering if there was any subject matter a little point and shoot camera would be more adaptable to.
    Candids. Candid portraits are those wherein the subject has little or no awareness of the photograph being taken. This does not mean you are to be sneaking about taking pictures of strangers. Go out with people you know, or at least won't mind being photographed, and just wait for the shot to present itself.

  5. #5
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    Re: Questions from a Beginner

    Compact cameras got me through many a vacation, they are very good for most daylight scene. But issues arose when I tried using the camera for very active sporting events (slow and shutter lag), while shooting from a moving vehicle (vibrations affecting sharpness), and low-light photography 9noise). The scene modes work well but sometimes you have to tweek them a bit, usually limited to exposure compensation, but if you know what settings will give you specific aperture and ISO you have a fighting chance.

    The problem with most compacts are the limited aperture ranges and lack of control for setting shutter speeds. They work fine in well lit museums but forget about any stage lit scene unless you are close to the action.

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    Re: Questions from a Beginner

    For starters I would select 'macro' mode and gradually move the camera in on something to find out how close the camera will take a sharp picture at. Do this at both ends of the zoom and likely there will be a considerable difference. Second experiment ... organise yourself a magnifying glass that you can hold or cellotape to the front of the lens and see how close you can go when using the telephoto setting of the lens. You will find that whereas normally the camera will focus anywhere between infinioty and a close distance when using the magnifying glass with the zoom at telephoto you will have a restricted range of distances the camera will focus at [ in my case this is between 20 and 13 inches but there are a number of variables which will alter this for you ] The theory behind this technique is that the telephoto lens cannot focus as close as the WA but the magnifying lens overcomes this to a degree and we are using the telephoto to achieve the tight framing on the subject.
    My wife and I used this technique to photograph caterillars she was raising. So close-up nature photography is also in the capabilities of your camera which could open up exciting possibilities for you to explore.
    Questions from a Beginner
    Here you have the results, full frames not cropped, taken with the Canon P&S with its x2 zoom and the Nikon 'bridge' camera which has a very good and peculiar to Nikon focusing system. The Nikon was working at about x4 zoom. In fact the s20 had neither of the options suggested in the lower photo [ a proper photographic CU lens and a magnifying glass ] but a close-up lens made from a 'hobby glasses' lens though for the price I pay for these hobby glasses you will find on Amazon sets of CU lens which while inferior by photographic standards will give good results for you at this stage of your learning. Just measure the diameter of your camera lens barrel and get a set of CU lenses whose outside diameter is the same ... makes it easier to cellotape in place WARNING .. it looks as if the lens retreats into the camera so beware of gumming up the works with cellotape getting into the camera etc. In similar situations I simply hold the lens in front of the camera, easy enouigh when the camera just needs the other hand to press the trigger.

    So from caterpillars to mountains the world is your oyster as the saying goes
    Last edited by jcuknz; 24th February 2013 at 08:22 PM.

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    Re: Questions from a Beginner

    Mir: "any suggestions for getting the most out of my little camera" you are not going to like the answer, practice, practice, practice and then more practice, I am also going to put this out to you it is not the camera that is holding you back, but you that are holding back what the camera can do. You start by learning the camera manual, practice, learn how to compose, practice, learn exactly what the camera will and will not do and that is again done by practice. If after all that, and you still want to upgrade, then you will not be starting at the bottom as you will already know about f-stops, depth of field, shutter speed, ISO, etc..
    One of the members of our club we kid about being Mr. Point and Shoot, well he turns in some of the most stunning images from that little point and shoot. You can can not blow them up into large prints, but on screen or as small prints not many can beat him. The thing is he knows what the camera can do and then pushes it to the max of what is can do. How did he learn all that, practice, practice and more practice. It is not the camera but the shoote, every member on this forum has been that shooter at one time or another.

    Cheers:

    Allan

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    Re: Questions from a Beginner

    Hi Mir,

    I think you have a very capable cam. ( btw, I'm a P&S user too.)

    Samsung's ST65 is a compact digital camera that offers a 14 Megapixel 1/2.3" image sensor, a 27mm Wide 5X Zoom Lens and 720p movie recording. with Samsung's standard functions smart auto, smart filters and smart button. it shoots as high as ISO 3200.
    .
    Please read and use your user's manual everytime you use your ST65. Try out all its modes ( landscape, night, macro, etc.) so you'll get to know how pictures look like using each of them under varying light situations.

    People often think that to take great pictures it has to be highly technical and complicated. In my opinion, it's the opposite! The simpler it is, the better. Less worrying about the camera, means you can concentrate on getting the absolute best from your subject.
    fr: Annabel Williams [ http://www.annabelwilliams.com/blog_...stions_mayjune ]

    May I suggest, just enjoy your camera and photographs.
    Get it printed or posted on the web. Share it with family and friends.

    As time goes by, really get to know the basics/advice/tips posted here by our CiC experts. Constantly review your pictures and find out why you like/dislike some of your pictures. Was it the subject matter, location, people, environment, weather, colors, etc. Or were the "dislikes" due to technicalities causing underexposure, out of focus ( although I'm sure your ST65 won't ), strange colors or whatever.

    I guess one member here said on his signature ( fr Mr. Besson) something like ya gotta take 10,000 shots before you start getting good pictures.

    Meanwhile, have fun..................

    Last edited by nimitzbenedicto; 24th February 2013 at 10:58 PM.

  9. #9

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    Re: Questions from a Beginner

    A couple of other tips ... you know to take 'half trigger' while the camera setss itself up before completeing full pressure to take the photo? If you can anticipate what will happen then take HT and hold it after focusing at the spot where the action will happen until it does. This means you can take the photo as quickly as any camera if it is ready to go and avoids the blurred results from you relaxing after you press the trigger but the camera has yet to take the photo.
    Your camera will take good photos whatever the light levels are, forget about 3200 ISO and lock it to its lowest setting, but support the camera ... no hand holding in low light There may be a snag that subjects moving will be blurred from the long exposure the camera gives in these situations ... but with luck that can be a bonus if the rest of the shot is sharp. When I use my P&S and bridge cameras I almost always work at 100 ISO.
    Third tip use the 10 second delay release if you have it ... place camera on firm support and press trigger ... then leave camera untouched during count down and exposure .... I do this normally when using a firm support becuase holding the camera can introduce camera shake.

    You say you are dissatisfied with your results .. the trick is to work out why they didn't work and possibly could have worked if you had an editing programme .... Paint.Net is a free download and can do quite a lot to tidy things up after the trigger is pressed. Camera and Editor are equally important tools to be learnt and mastered [ if possible ]
    Last edited by jcuknz; 24th February 2013 at 08:44 PM.

  10. #10

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    Re: Questions from a Beginner

    Thank you guys so much for your comments, your encouragement and your honesty!

    I am reading and re-reading my cameras manual today. I also am setting aside two days a week to just practice photography. I am currently in a position in life where I can do that and I want to take full advantage of it

    What you all said was really encouraging. The amount of practice I put into photography is something I can control and I want to put as much practice and effort into learning as possible.

    I'm also going to try using the magnifying glass for macro shots. That sounds really fun

    As far as photo editing programs go, I am currently trying to learn GIMP. Honestly, it's a bit overwhelming, because there is just SO much of it to learn. But it's really exciting. I bought a book on GIMP and am trying to work my way through it.

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    Re: Questions from a Beginner

    When I shot film I used a range of cameras from 828 upwards and meeting up with the Canon s20 with its silly optical viewfinder, so neathandral [or something] I was struck when I came to photographing the caterpillars how similar it was to shooting with a large format studio camera and how easy it was to see if I had focus or not. I have never used a black cloth over my head with digital like LF film camera operators do, but it does seem a sensible option. The difference between film's ground glass screen and the digital's LCD is that usually the LCD self adjusts to give a good bright picture whereas the ground glass scrren was often dark and gloomy so needed the black cloth etc.
    An interesting thought ... the P&S is a more sophisticated animal than the film LF cameras I used to use
    Another thought .... arranging things for projection with a image size of 1024x768 pixels, as my photo club requires, is a great leveller and it comes down to the photographer rather than the gear being important. Not that I am going to forego my M4/3 camera having realised that home truth
    Please pardon this ramble

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Questions from a Beginner

    A couple of thoughts for you:

    1. I quite agree with the comments that have you practicing a lot. Taking photographs is something that you need to practice constantly. It's a bit like playing a musical instrument, if you stop practicing, you will be surprised how quickly you get rusty. The other part of practicing is to spend some time evaluating your work. You have to figure out why a particular image works (and perhaps more importantly, doesn't work) and concentrate on improving your composition. How you frame your shots it totally independent of the type of camera you use.

    2. You will know it is time to upgrade to a more sophisticated camera when you reach a point where your camera, rather than your skills, are limiting what you achieve photographically. This can be a bit tricky because even entry level DSLRs and mirrorless cameras have rich feature sets. The quality of your images could even go down.

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    Re: Questions from a Beginner

    I use a bridge camera, canon sx50, and I just want to reinforce the comments so far. I am relatively new to the forum but learn so much through seeing others photos and the critiques. There are some clear limitations to my camera but i have also learned that regardless of the camera there will be limitation imposed by the equipment. The first step is developing an eye for composition and clarity of what you are trying to express through your photo. some is technical skill and some is artistic interpretation. I am new to post processing and that has been fun to slowly apply. Looking forward to seeing some of your photos.

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    Re: Questions from a Beginner

    Practice, getting to know your camera, and reading books or taking a course on composition are important. But, composition means knowing about the effects of aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and white balance on your images. If you do concentrate on macro you will probably get discouraged with out of focus images, so use a tripod, or at least have your camera on a surface that is stable.
    I have a point-and-shoot camera that is smaller than the palm of my hand, costs around $200 and runs on 2 AA batteries. It is a CanonPower shot A540. Most importantly you can control aperture, shutter speed and ISO. There are other canon powershots that do the same and are less expensive. These are great cameras and good ones to learn with. I bought the small model to carry when backpacking. However, these cameras have no advantage over your camera unless you want to commit to learning about the settings and not just use Auto. Sometimes even Auto knows best! When people mention "exposure" they are referring to the relationships between aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Each image you want to shoot has several "correct exposures" each will give you a slightly different look. Examples can be found in photography books.

    Dave Humphries mentions the Canon s100 cameras in the first answer of this thread. Those are the models I am referring to here.

    I just remembered video lesson I was watching by a professional with a pro model SLR, various lenses, rails and other gear. Part way through, he pulls out a pocket camera and took some marvelous macros with it saying it was often his go to camera for that purpose! I think it might have been Moose Peterson. Look at his webpage to see how he slightly changes things to change the composition or look of the same leaf.

    http://www.moosepeterson.com/blog/20...ven-for-macro/
    Last edited by rambler4466; 27th February 2013 at 11:59 AM.

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