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Thread: Where to start? Completely new to photography...

  1. #1
    Mario Xavier's Avatar
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    Where to start? Completely new to photography...

    I'm 28 and I don't know a thing about photography. I've never owned a camera. I've never purchased or dropped off a disposable camera at Wal-mart or Walgreen's for that matter. The closest I've come to taking pictures is with my phone. Fast forward through a sudden interest, the research (there's got to be a million cameras out there), and shopping - I decided on a Sony a33 and it'll be here Wednesday. It seemed like it would be easy to start out with and grow into.

    Now I've spent an entire workday gobbling up the information in the very helpful tutorials on this site as well as lots of helpful posts. (Thank you!) My brain is swelling and I'll keep studying but when the camera finally gets here, I'd like to know how test myself. I'm sure I could take a million pictures but what would be good practice for someone this green? Also to note, I only ordered the stock lens, is that going to limit me?

  2. #2

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    Re: Where to start?

    I think at this point in your novella stage, very little is going to limit you. Shooting a good or even great photograph relies more on developing a practiced eye than a fancy camera or lens. Study light and shadow. One of the things I try to teach my students is to allow the eye to relax in the viewfinder. Once the image is composed, allow the eye to close briefly, then open in a manner that allows the eye to go beyond the focused image. This will allow one to see the tree growing out of someone's head, the piece of trash in the upper end of the frame, the harsh reflection or a detail in the foreground which has been missed. Then, and only then should ythere be continuation in the shutter release. Learn to see first, shoot second.

  3. #3
    PopsPhotos's Avatar
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    Re: Where to start?

    This is one of the toughest questions to answer.

    Lets talk about what you are trying to do with your camera. You are trying to capture images which will be pleasing and interesting to you and your audience. Now, you have to find out what interests you. There is an exercise which can help in this. Shoot, compose, shoot.

    As you are walking about with your camera, look for things you think might make a picture. The INSTANT you see something like that, raise the camera and take that shot. Then, move about, crouch down, stand on something, change the camera settings, angles, aperture, shutter and such until you see the picture. Shoot that. Later, you will sit down and compare what caught your eye and how well you succeeded in getting the picture.

    If you succeeded in getting that great shot, you learned something. If the shot didn't work, you actually learned something greater. (Keep in mind, that the "picture" shot might not be available at the instant you saw the potential. You might have to wait for traffic, for the sun to move or for the season to change.)

    All the information you are gaining here is in how to run your camera and computer programs. You will also get advice on how to compose and expose your shots. This is very important. You must have that knowledge to be able to get the photo when it is ready, when you want it. However, keep in mind that photography is a technical skill. Making a picture from that photograph is art. You are the artist and you get to say how you want that photograph to look when you present it as a picture.

    If you are not confused by my ramblings, you probably aren't paying attention.

    Pops

  4. #4
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    Re: Where to start?

    Ramblings....?
    hmm you say ramblings, I see & hear pearls of wisdom that I feel very fortunate that you have shared, on this and other occasions
    ...must be a language thing, we talk funny down here

  5. #5

    Re: Where to start?

    I think very few enthusiast photographers are formally taught (despite all the photography courses at colleges). Most people are self-taught. I certainly am, having started five years ago. The only course I have been on was a two-day lighting course last year.

    There are two strands to this - the source and availability of information, and how you use it.

    SOURCES

    1. This site (obviously)
    2. Other web resources
    3. Photography magazines
    4. Books
    5. Manuals for your gear
    6. Friends who are good photographers
    7. Camera clubs
    8. Formal courses

    USING IT

    • Reading - you need to read a lot of material and think about it.
    • Experimenting - A very good way to learn, but it is time-consuming. Have a semi-formal structure of testing out different idea and methods. Don't worry too much about poor results to start with, they will improve with time.
    • Thinking - Might seem obvious, but photography, like sport, is also a mental activity. When you see a bad shot (even on here) you can see that the photographer just hasn't thought about it. It's not the camera.

    I personally think it helps to be a bit of a control-freak. If you are keen on 'getting things right' you are half-way there. Combine that with some creative ability and imagination and you are probably all the way there. People put a lot of emphasis on the technical side, and it is important, but there are many other things that make a good photographer.

    You might find it useful to look at this thread. No need to score yourself! Test time! So, you reckon you are a good photographer?

  6. #6
    Mario Xavier's Avatar
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    Re: Where to start?

    Thank you all. I'm pretty excited, almost "giddy" even. What I'm gleaning from this is that I need to let the camera capture my creative thinking instead of assuming that following all the rules will make every shot a perfect one. Instead there's a mixture of both. If I can see the picture without the camera mentally, I can then use the camera and rules to capture it best.

    I need to get comfortable finding and thinking my shots through and follow it up with a synergy between my mind, eyes, and camera. Once I do that, all the rules to getting a great image will be an enhancement to my developed creativity instead of an obstacle course.

    The rules are the box. The box is a prop, not my creative dwelling. Am I close?


    Edit: Can I see some of your works? any of you

  7. #7
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Where to start?

    Quote Originally Posted by snapdown View Post
    The rules are the box. The box is a prop, not my creative dwelling. Am I close?

    Edit: Can I see some of your works? any of you
    Yes and Yes.

    Most people have a link in their post signatures, usually to their online websites elsewhere.
    (I have two; PBase is more recent and mostly 12MP Nikon D5000 DSLR shooting, but my Picasa is to mostly my older 6MP bridge camera)

    Plus there are often links to Photo-a-Day (PAD) galleries, which might be here in people's albums.

    Another way to albums is via the Community > My Albums link top centre of most/every page, it opens a page with two panels, on the left Recently Updated (by anyone), on the right, your own (if you have any).

    Cheers,

  8. #8

    Re: Where to start?

    If I can see the picture without the camera mentally, I can then use the camera and rules to capture it best.
    Thats how I do it. Walking around waiting for a picture to happen bores the socks of me. Its like going shopping and not knowing what you want to buy, if you are extraordinarily lucky you may come back with a pair of serviceable thermal long johns, but its not really what you went in for. If you go to Anne Summers with a vision of lingerie in your head (and I often have visions of lingerie in my head), lingerie is what you get. You know what you went in for and now you are spoilt for choice.

    If you have the concept in your head you will find a way to make it happen. You learn the skills it takes to get that capture. The problem with taking the camera for a walk without an agenda is that you need all the skills at once (or you think you do). If you have a concept in your head you will enjoy finding the grail. Failing that I make it up..pan scourers, polystyrene heads, old packing anything that allows me to realise the concept. The learning comes as you move onto new challenges.

    Good luck with the lingerie shopping

  9. #9
    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Where to start?

    A good place to start is with your camera phone. What do you photograph with the phone and why? What is missing in those photos that you feel the need for another style camera? If you've ever shared your camera phone photographs with others what was the response? How did you process your camera phone photos, did you print them out, did you try to edit them, were you happy with the results? If you've asked yourself any of the above questions or received a response similar then you probably already know what you want to do with the camera. If none of these ideas have ever crossed your mind then think about them now, they are sure to spring forth the minute you take your first photo.

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    Re: Where to start?

    Xavier - welcome. I can't add to the suggestions made already but just wanted to make the point that you shouldn't get disillusioned or disappointed with your first attempts. You are on a big learning curve and it's very easy to become unhappy when you can't get the shots you want, or what you have tried doesn't work out.
    Just keep taking the shots and eventually it will come right. Digital photography doesn't cost anything further except the battery power (once you have the camera !) - unlike the days of film !

  11. #11
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    Re: Where to start?

    welcome Snapdown.
    such a simple question yet such a complex question. I'm sure everyone here has different background and is learning photography through different methods. I started in high school with my Dad's 70's Canon and lots B&W films. So I'm old school you could say. At first, it took me minutes to set up the camera before I pulled the trigger; something I probably should be doing now. If I remember correctly, the lesson plans of those days were:
    1) first 24 pictures - understand exposure - learn how to read the in camera light meter, learn how to use aperture and shutter speed (film supplied by my high school was always ISO 100).
    2) dark room work - develope the negatives. Then we would compare what we think we saw with what we have captured. (I guess this was a lesson in dynamic range and perspective.
    3) Then we learned about composition, and how to use the limitation of the camera to aid our composition.
    Other then that, I can't remember the assignments or the rest of the classes. But those classes sure had a real impact on me.
    One thing I would recommend is to use your zoom lens as a set of primes. Choose your lens setting then use your feet as zoom.
    Good luck, have fun, and can't wait to see more of your posts.

  12. #12

    Re: Where to start?

    ^^ these fellow members said everything you need to know. Just one word of advice. Don't go out and buy an expensive camera. I think a point and shoot will do just fine, to be honest. I have used one for three years and now I feel like I'm ready for a more advanced camera. If you're just learning, then I think you should take it slow. First, learn how to get good angles to get the perfect shot, THEN introduce yourself to the wonders of a DSLR. It's too much to have to worry about your focus, aperture, and shutter speed while learning how to take a good picture. Just an opinion. Hope I was helpful-ish. :\

  13. #13

    Re: Where to start?

    Quote Originally Posted by Raycer View Post
    welcome Snapdown.
    such a simple question yet such a complex question. I'm sure everyone here has different background and is learning photography through different methods. I started in high school with my Dad's 70's Canon and lots B&W films. So I'm old school you could say. At first, it took me minutes to set up the camera before I pulled the trigger; something I probably should be doing now. If I remember correctly, the lesson plans of those days were:
    1) first 24 pictures - understand exposure - learn how to read the in camera light meter, learn how to use aperture and shutter speed (film supplied by my high school was always ISO 100).
    2) dark room work - develope the negatives. Then we would compare what we think we saw with what we have captured. (I guess this was a lesson in dynamic range and perspective.
    3) Then we learned about composition, and how to use the limitation of the camera to aid our composition.
    Other then that, I can't remember the assignments or the rest of the classes. But those classes sure had a real impact on me.
    One thing I would recommend is to use your zoom lens as a set of primes. Choose your lens setting then use your feet as zoom.
    Good luck, have fun, and can't wait to see more of your posts.
    I'm currently in my freshman year of high school and I'm taking a course in photography. We're currently using manual film cameras;B&W of course. We are going through the sam eprocesses. Even though my teacher is completely new to photography, I can tell I've learned TONS. The class is really helpful. Just felt like sharing! [:

  14. #14
    Peter Ryan's Avatar
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    Re: Where to start?

    Hi Xavier and welcome to CiC.

    There is so much to read but the following is a flow chart of sorts that I use when teaching an introduction to photography that might help you.
    1. The shutter represents time in photography and can be use to freeze action or blur it to create motion. This is the easiest bit to learn first.
    2. The aperture represents the quantity of light allowed to pass through the lens and can be used to create a sharp image front to back (a wide depth of field (DOF)) or a shallow DOF to highlight your subject and blur the background.
    3. The ISO setting represents the quality of the image and is used in combination with shutter and aperture and is very useful if you cannot get a fast enough shutter to hand hold the camera without causing camera shake.
    4. Focus is very, very important so read your manual on the focus options but I usually recommend my students use single area (or single servo) option for best control.
    5. Exposure is a very important discussion and you need to understand: -
    a. Your camera’s light meter gives you an average reading for mid tones.
    b. How to adjust for brighter or darker scenes than mid tone using Exposure Compensation.
    c. How to read your histogram. This will tell you just about all you need to know about how you exposed a scene – not the screen on the back of your camera.
    6. Learn to see light by looking at the strength and length of shadows. You will then learn to use light for particular shots i.e. taking shots in a forest should be on a bright overcast day so you get even light.
    7. Composition gives us the building blocks to creating memorable images. There is much to read on this subject and will be a learning curve for the rest of your life.
    I am sure others will add to this and may suggest a different order of things but I find that many books, including your camera’s manual, will tell you what each is but not necessarily how they all link together.

    I would recommend you do a short course to get a handle on the structure of the things I mentioned above but this will at least give you a structure to work by.

    Good luck and please post any questions you have plus let’s see you images as this is the best way to learn.

  15. #15
    Mario Xavier's Avatar
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    Re: Where to start?

    Quote Originally Posted by UtopianStardust View Post
    ^^ these fellow members said everything you need to know. Just one word of advice. Don't go out and buy an expensive camera. I think a point and shoot will do just fine, to be honest. I have used one for three years and now I feel like I'm ready for a more advanced camera. If you're just learning, then I think you should take it slow. First, learn how to get good angles to get the perfect shot, THEN introduce yourself to the wonders of a DSLR. It's too much to have to worry about your focus, aperture, and shutter speed while learning how to take a good picture. Just an opinion. Hope I was helpful-ish. :\
    I'm already commited as my new camera arrived today! LoL - I completely jumped over all the other options and went directly into the entry level DSLR/T. I was extremely hesitant to do so but I already have one extremely expensive hobby and I wanted to do to the best thing for my pockets. A $200 camera, then a $475 camera, then a $700 camera, then a $1200+ camera (+lenses) was a pretty intimidating concept of development though I'm sure it could be necessary. I hope it helps that I'm leaving the camera in AUTO everything and just using it as if it's a point and shoot... a really amazing point and shoot... until I start to develop a "mind's eye to camera synergy" thing.

    That being said, I've gone through the site gallery and working my way through user galleries to put the advice together with the images. It's helped.

    • I took Pops idea and kept the camera around my neck all day, snapping a shot of anything that caught my eye and studying the shots until I felt a little more satisfied each time.
    • I think of Chris C's words and I try to see beyond the image - "the tree growing from the head". I haven't quite figured out how to capture it yet, but I find myself pacing around an object, relaxed, looking but not forcing myself to come up with something.
    • I take carregwen's advice and combine it with Pop's and I take a few photos just snapping away and then I think the 3rd of 4th one through and I experiment with the the next few afterwards. Some of that has given me some interesting ideas that take me in Chris C's direction but I'm not yet able to see or capture them just yet. And I balance myself creative blockage out with Wirefly's approach by staging a little something in my own ridiculously amateur way but when I'm done my brain is ticking away without ceasing about all the things I've done so far: applying all of this knowledge with my poor attempts at it.
    • Between last night throughout today I've changed things in favor of my cell phone camera's simplicity as Shadowman suggested. My first few experiments were using it to take semi-thoughtful shots of my new toy.
    • And mk00 is right, the learning curve is steep but thanks to you all I have some form of traction that doesn't make me feel discouraged to try over and over.

    I really appreciate you all. And I mean if if you can't tell =) as you've made my excitment into enthusiasm because I don't feel daunted by what lies ahead. Your advice and tidbits are not falling on def ears at all. I'm taking all of it in in addition to remembering, reading, and/or researching the technical things as I come across problems where a shot I liked could have been improved by tweaking "this or that".
    Last edited by Mario Xavier; 9th December 2010 at 04:14 AM.

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    Mario Xavier's Avatar
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    Re: Where to start?

    Thanks Peter, I'll surely give this a try as well. All the stuff I have running around my head, along with my experiments, will definitely need some structure after I get acclimated to even owning a camera. People were teasing me today that the first camera I've ever owned is to complex for me. I laughed because the device is a computer and I'm a geek. The complicated part (to me) is putting it with the art so the structure is definitely going to be necessary..

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    Peter Ryan's Avatar
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    Re: Where to start?

    Quote Originally Posted by snapdown View Post
    Thanks Peter, I'll surely give this a try as well. All the stuff I have running around my head, along with my experiments, will definitely need some structure after I get acclimated to even owning a camera. People were teasing me today that the first camera I've ever owned is to complex for me. I laughed because the device is a computer and I'm a geek. The complicated part (to me) is putting it with the art so the structure is definitely going to be necessary..
    Hi Xavier,

    After going through all the options, bells and whistles (which everyone does) it will come down to using say Aperture Priority as your primary mode with one command dial to choose the aperture size you want and two buttons being the Exposure Compensation to adjust for correct exposure and ISO setting to reduce camera shake (assuming you haven't got a tripod yet).

    It can be as complex or as simple as you want. I like simple controls on the camera so I can concentrate on the scene -light and composition.

  18. #18
    Mario Xavier's Avatar
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    Re: Where to start?

    Here's an example of a time when I had a fleeting creative thought about something but I couldn't find it in the lens. It was the car running over the neck of the horse. I thought "chaos" but I couldn't figure out what to do about it so I just snapped it and kept moving. I keep wondering what what I could have saw or created if anything.

    Where to start? Completely new to photography... - I tried to shrink it. I know it's weak but some partially articulated thoughts/ideas would be appreciated. IF this pic were interesting, what would you have done?

  19. #19
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Where to start?

    Quote Originally Posted by snapdown View Post
    Where to start? Completely new to photography...
    Xavier

    Two thoughts for you to consider:

    1. In terms of the technical aspects - This is where learning about exposure and that balance between, particularly, shutter speed and aperture (but ISO also comes into it of course). I think it's under-exposed; i.e. it's too dark. Once you get started up the learning curve and start reading about and learn to use histograms, then the solutions to this sort of problem will become very obvious to you, But, as you've already acknowledged above, don't rush the learning process. Knowing that there is a solution to the problem is the first step. You can learn that solution as part of your journey of discovery.
    2. In terms of the artistic - In a scene like this, when 'chaos' is the vision you have, then go all the way. We, by default, tend to hold our camera horizontally (landscape) or vertically (portrait) because that's what's perceived as 'normal'. But with something like this you could shoot at angles. That really craetes a sense of imbalance in our (the viewers) heads and adds to the 'chaos' message.
    Last edited by Donald; 9th December 2010 at 02:38 PM.

  20. #20
    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Where to start?

    Quote Originally Posted by UtopianStardust View Post
    I'm currently in my freshman year of high school and I'm taking a course in photography. We're currently using manual film cameras;B&W of course. We are going through the sam eprocesses. Even though my teacher is completely new to photography, I can tell I've learned TONS. The class is really helpful. Just felt like sharing! [:
    What makes you think the teacher is new to photography and what are you actually learning? Are you developing your own film?

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