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 - Offical Group 56,552 photos, 3,509 members
- Flickr Big Cats 90,169 photos, 10,414 members
- TWIP Critique 35,059 photos, 6,664 members
- Exposure blending / Image stacking 1,373 photos, 127 members
- News 21 / The American Dream 1,088 photos, 380 members
- The Gallery Of Fine Photography [DISCONTINUED] 43,070 photos, 5,232 members
- U.S. National Parks 133,178 photos, 12,727 members
- yosemite 34,766 photos, 5,347 members
- Long Exposures 356,682 photos, 32,266 members
- The Shores of California 27,736 photos, 1,941 members
- Mendocino Coast 2,890 photos, 228 members
- Mendocino County, California 6,921 photos, 471 members
- LightSource 75,769 photos, 8,557 members
- One Strobe Pony 66,896 photos, 8,721 members
- The Moment It Clicks 14,806 photos, 1,511 members
- ImageMagick 210 photos, 45 members
- Favorites: 20 29,716 photos, 6,566 members
- Newton 1,597 photos, 296 members
- Tatiana, the Siberian Tiger 54 photos, 36 members
- Views: 2000 23,397 photos, 6,363 members
- Views: 1750 5,825 photos, 2,610 members
- Linux Flickrs 18,811 photos, 1,196 members
- Views: 1500 12,133 photos, 4,669 members
- Views: 1250 11,973 photos, 3,581 members
- Pictures You Can't Take Anymore 1,349 photos, 199 members
- World Trade Center 3,731 photos, 647 members
- september11 (please post only 1 photo) 242 photos, 278 members
- Views: 1000 53,724 photos, 11,905 members
- Beautiful Waterfalls From Around The World 17,492 photos, 2,652 members
- Views: 900 20,276 photos, 6,565 members
- 1,000 Invitational 5,001 photos, 1,889 members
- Sculptures, Statues, and Public Art 194,778 photos, 9,695 members
- Statues and Sculptures. 282,477 photos, 20,525 members
- Favorites: 15 25,217 photos, 5,929 members
- Favorites: <5 (and >0) 103,634 photos, 5,106 members
- Views: 800 25,761 photos, 7,365 members
- iPhone Camera Shots 471,668 photos, 16,731 members
- Golf - public group 33,298 photos, 3,453 members
- Waterfalls Around the World 73,075 photos, 10,965 members
- Waterfalls 122,621 photos, 16,236 members
- Canon EF 16-35/2.8L II USM 50,229 photos, 3,907 members
- Great Golf Pictures 2,194 photos, 557 members
- HALLOWEEN WORLDWIDE 32,613 photos, 6,325 members
- Pumpkin 6,099 photos, 1,262 members
- jack-o-lantern 3,566 photos, 1,023 members
- Strobist.com 587,537 photos, 117,302 members
- lone cypress 260 photos, 157 members
- Views: 700 33,275 photos, 7,953 members
- U.S. Presidents (no photos!) 3,877 photos, 543 members
- Canon EOS 40D Users 484,407 photos, 17,508 members
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- May 2005
- I am:
- Male and Taken