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 53,317 photos, 3,504 members
- Flickr Big Cats 78,926 photos, 9,923 members
- TWIP Critique 33,293 photos, 6,533 members
- Exposure blending / Image stacking 1,198 photos, 121 members
- News 21 / The American Dream 1,101 photos, 382 members
- The Gallery Of Fine Photography [No frames/signatures] 39,167 photos, 5,010 members
- U.S. National Parks 118,058 photos, 11,855 members
- yosemite 32,396 photos, 5,069 members
- Long Exposures 279,918 photos, 27,527 members
- The Shores of California 25,114 photos, 1,876 members
- Mendocino Coast 2,701 photos, 215 members
- Mendocino County, California 6,393 photos, 458 members
- LightSource 66,260 photos, 8,333 members
- One Strobe Pony 62,381 photos, 8,395 members
- The Moment It Clicks 14,470 photos, 1,493 members
- ImageMagick 172 photos, 45 members
- Favorites: 20 20,020 photos, 6,014 members
- Newton 1,443 photos, 291 members
- Tatiana, the Siberian Tiger 55 photos, 35 members
- Views: 2000 14,805 photos, 5,859 members
- Views: 1750 2,748 photos, 2,362 members
- Linux Flickrs 15,967 photos, 1,170 members
- Views: 1500 5,569 photos, 4,272 members
- Views: 1250 5,838 photos, 3,289 members
- Pictures You Can't Take Anymore 1,005 photos, 197 members
- World Trade Center 2,984 photos, 625 members
- september11 (please post only 1 photo) 251 photos, 281 members
- Views: 1000 25,251 photos, 11,030 members
- Beautiful Waterfalls From Around The World 13,110 photos, 2,105 members
- Views: 900 10,863 photos, 6,172 members
- 1,000 Invitational 5,080 photos, 1,910 members
- Sculptures, Statues, and Public Art 176,190 photos, 9,558 members
- Statues and Sculptures. 256,727 photos, 19,766 members
- Favorites: 15 18,412 photos, 5,503 members
- Favorites: <5 122,922 photos, 4,984 members
- Views: 800 14,577 photos, 6,974 members
- iPhone Camera Shots 398,029 photos, 14,779 members
- Golf - public group 31,535 photos, 3,302 members
- Waterfalls Around the World 69,001 photos, 10,749 members
- Waterfalls 112,291 photos, 15,482 members
- Canon EF 16-35/2.8L II USM 40,292 photos, 3,395 members
- Great Golf Pictures 2,180 photos, 553 members
- HALLOWEEN WORLDWIDE 29,666 photos, 6,055 members
- Pumpkin 5,513 photos, 1,194 members
- jack-o-lantern 3,471 photos, 1,003 members
- Strobist.com 571,985 photos, 113,720 members
- lone cypress 264 photos, 159 members
- Views: 700 19,313 photos, 7,522 members
- U.S. Presidents (no photos!) 3,756 photos, 526 members
- Canon EOS 40D Users 474,613 photos, 17,329 members
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- May 2005
- I am:
- Male and Taken