I didn't know very much about photography when I purchased my first DSLR. Not a lot has changed -- I still feel like I'm just starting out and have so much left to learn. Unless photography is your day job, learning more is a slow process, too often limited by small and infrequent doses. But I have learned a few things since my first camera, and I'm often asked by friends and relatives just starting out with their first DSLRs what they can do to accelerate their learning curve. Here are some of the things that I've learned that would have saved time, trouble and money if I had figured them out earlier:
1) Practice selecting the best auto focus point quickly. Using the center AF point to focus on the subject, then moving the camera to recompose the shot, can result in soft or even blurry images. And Auto AF can often be unpredictable, so unless you know why you want Auto AF (e.g., sports/action combined with AI Servo focus mode), it's best to select the appropriate individual focus point.
2) Learn how and when to use the AI Servo focus mode (or Nikon equivalent). This makes otherwise impossible fast moving subject shots possible.
3) Shooting in RAW offers much greater exposure flexibility and it doesn't bake-in important image characteristics such as white balance and tone curves. Shooting in jpg means you must virtually nail each shot -- it's much more difficult. Every time you save a jpg between edits it loses image quality. There are only 8 bits of color depth in a jpg to play with, so sometimes your ability to make even minor adjustments, such as highlight recovery and bringing out shadow details, can be very limited. RAW offers much greater post-processing flexibility. But only shoot in RAW for end-use conversion by software offering comprehensive RAW processing capabilities and that doesn't immediately process and duplicate every photo without offering user-tunable conversion settings. Aperture, Lightroom, and some others are good, but I wouldn't recommend shooting in RAW for use with iPhoto or any software that is limited in RAW processing functionality unless the primary purpose of doing so is for archiving the highest quality original (much like a film negative) for future processing with better RAW conversion software.
4) Try not to count on the under-powered, built-in, pop-up flash (if your camera has one). When additional lighting is required, external flash is really the way to start. Make sure the flash you select has the ability to dial down the power manually. This is important if you're interested in much better lighting and control, and want to try...
5) ...off camera (off-shoe) lighting. Learn how to light with strobist's lighting 101. Most of my off-shoe photos are available only to my friends and family flickr contacts.
6) Check out PocketWizards (PWs) or some other wireless remote strobe (flash) triggering system. Most people swear by their PWs, but I found that out after already having purchased Canon's infrared-based wireless system. I may upgrade to PWs at some point. Update: I have a set of PWs now, but I still use Canon's ST-E2 for the occasional situations where TTL is desired indoors or at night (since I don't trust the infrared wireless systems in direct sunlight).
7) If you ever shoot in low light / high ISO, check out Noise Ninja.
8) I started out buying telephotos, but now find myself using my 16-35mm on a 1.6x cropped sensor more often than all other lenses these days. It should have been my first lens -- that or the 10-22mm. I very rarely use anything greater than 105mm -- just at the zoo once or twice a year, large shows (SeaWorld), etc. This depends, of course, on what you're shooting.
9) Good glass (lenses) can often cost more than the camera...but it can be well worth it. Had I realized this from the start I would have avoided buying a lens or two that I no longer use.
10) Bring a tripod. It makes a bigger difference in sharpness, even with fast shutter speeds, than I used to think. If it's early or late in the day, really bring the tripod. When the subject isn't moving, use the tripod. I'm still learning this one!
My Travel collection contains images captured in the following countries: *
* Well, almost. This was my "visited countries map" before I turned it into a "My Travel collection contains images captured in the following countries" map. I figured that I always had my camera with me while traveling, and always uploaded at least a few pictures from each trip to flickr. However, I recently realized that I have no pictures from my brief visit to Mexico. That's a good excuse to go back, right?
- Canon PowerShot S95 55,845 photos, 3,515 members
- Flickr Big Cats 86,804 photos, 10,274 members
- TWIP Critique 34,458 photos, 6,615 members
- Exposure blending / Image stacking 1,332 photos, 125 members
- News 21 / The American Dream 1,098 photos, 382 members
- The Gallery Of Fine Photography [DISCONTINUED] 43,854 photos, 5,342 members
- U.S. National Parks 129,151 photos, 12,530 members
- yosemite 34,200 photos, 5,285 members
- Long Exposures 331,092 photos, 30,728 members
- The Shores of California 26,807 photos, 1,923 members
- Mendocino Coast 2,838 photos, 225 members
- Mendocino County, California 6,866 photos, 470 members
- LightSource 73,606 photos, 8,493 members
- One Strobe Pony 65,312 photos, 8,618 members
- The Moment It Clicks 14,624 photos, 1,505 members
- ImageMagick 194 photos, 46 members
- Favorites: 20 25,303 photos, 6,330 members
- Newton 1,581 photos, 295 members
- Tatiana, the Siberian Tiger 54 photos, 36 members
- Views: 2000 19,690 photos, 6,169 members
- Views: 1750 4,454 photos, 2,504 members
- Linux Flickrs 17,855 photos, 1,191 members
- Views: 1500 9,238 photos, 4,511 members
- Views: 1250 9,214 photos, 3,475 members
- Pictures You Can't Take Anymore 1,318 photos, 200 members
- World Trade Center 3,593 photos, 644 members
- september11 (please post only 1 photo) 243 photos, 280 members
- Views: 1000 40,295 photos, 11,570 members
- Beautiful Waterfalls From Around The World 16,323 photos, 2,476 members
- Views: 900 15,845 photos, 6,431 members
- 1,000 Invitational 5,003 photos, 1,893 members
- Sculptures, Statues, and Public Art 188,493 photos, 9,668 members
- Statues and Sculptures. 274,133 photos, 20,306 members
- Favorites: 15 22,091 photos, 5,736 members
- Favorites: <5 (and >0) 121,545 photos, 5,065 members
- Views: 800 20,437 photos, 7,224 members
- iPhone Camera Shots 449,175 photos, 16,171 members
- Golf - public group 32,754 photos, 3,413 members
- Waterfalls Around the World 71,986 photos, 10,893 members
- Waterfalls 119,937 photos, 16,015 members
- Canon EF 16-35/2.8L II USM 47,500 photos, 3,768 members
- Great Golf Pictures 2,170 photos, 556 members
- HALLOWEEN WORLDWIDE 32,444 photos, 6,343 members
- Pumpkin 5,938 photos, 1,263 members
- jack-o-lantern 3,564 photos, 1,021 members
- Strobist.com 582,778 photos, 116,206 members
- lone cypress 262 photos, 159 members
- Views: 700 26,597 photos, 7,800 members
- U.S. Presidents (no photos!) 3,855 photos, 540 members
- Canon EOS 40D Users 481,155 photos, 17,461 members
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- May 2005
- I am:
- Male and Taken