fensterbme PRO 8:38pm, 31 December 2006
Well the holiday season has come and gone, and evidentially more than just a couple of those folks who went to Best Buy, etc. to buy a really nifty digital camera went home with a Digital SLR and are now on Flickr asking basic questions. We have more than one current thread that is basically, so I gots a DSLR and have questions, etc. and this is happening across other groups as well.

So I decided to write up a little post hopefully giving these new folk a place to start finding information. This is basically things I'd recommend people who are new to Photography do to better understand what it is that they just bought. Hopefully this is helpful to some readers... It's not meant to be a complete reference, but more of a 'jumping off' point.

Welcome Noobs:
Welcome new users, Your going to have a wonderful and exciting time with your new camera, but a little reading and practice is going to go a long way... All of us who are answering your questions have been the newbie at one time, and we know where your coming from in most cases...

There are tons of resources on how to use your camera both from a technical and creative perspective. These range from web sites, magazines and books, web forums, as well as classes and going out with another photo buddy to have them show you the ropes. A few weeks of reading a book, watching a video, etc. can go a long way to answering your most basic questions and help you ask much more informed and specific questions.

Places to Start::

Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson (I think probably the best book that explains the basics that apply to all cameras/photography such as shutter speed, aperture, ISO and film speed, White Balance, etc.)
Learning to See Creatively by Bryan Peterson (This is the creative companion book that helps you frame up a good and interesting photo, the first book is more of a 'how' of photography, this is more of a 'why', and where to aim that lens. I'd recommend buying both books together as Amazon has a package price)
The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby (this guy writes very practice 'how to' stuff, if you have a specific problem or want to learn how to photograph something specifically this is a great guide. Very well written..).
Photography by Barbara London and John Upton This book is very complete and covers almost everything in depth, this is a book used by many, many college photography programs as a textbook, as such it's priced that way... ( I think I found mine new on Nerd Books cheaper than Amazon) Yes it's expensive it's totally worth it and is the best single in depth resource available.
Photoshop CS II for Digital Photographer's by Scott Kelby NOTE: They also have a version of this book for CS3 and CS4 (if you Do use Photoshop and a good chunk of us are, this is a wonderful resource and is again a very practical how to guide to fix a photo or do something. He doesn't spend time explaining to much of the 'why' and theory, just here's how it's done with step by step instructions and illustrations. This guy is basically the biggest ninja of Photoshop)

Blue Crane Digital has DVD's that are essentially your manual, along with the fundamentals of photography and basic creative techniques all done very well into a video form. They are available from many places including Adorama for $19.95. In my mind every camera should be sold with these videos. By watching them in one hour you will have probably 80-90% of your questions answered, you will also know how to work your camera much better.

Web Sites:
Google That's right kids, you know it well. Simply spending three minutes searching on the internet will likely yield most answers you have. There is a really good chance someone already asked the question you have and it was probably answered...
Wikipedia - Photography The page on Wikipedia about photography is a great resources, and at the bottom are links in the 'see also' second which link to just about every imaginable topic/area of photography.
Digital Photography Review is an excellent site for very in depth reviews on camera bodies and offers very detailed comparisons. Reading this site should just about eliminate the question "I'm thinking about buying X camera -OR - How does X camera compare to Y camera)" that so often come up.
Photozone another review site with a ton of information on lenses and how well they perform. If your thinking of getting a specific lens and want to ask questions about it, this site is a great first place to check... it will help you get a technical understanding of how the lens works. Phil Greenspun (a brilliant but kinda whacky guy who's site has gone down hill in the last year due to some silly behavior on his part) has a ton of Information on camera bodies, and lenses... His reviews are more subjective. I used to use this site all time time, now I rarely visit but it's still worth checking out if your new.
Fred Miranda this site has a ton of user submitted reviews (which I don't pay as much credit to as usually people either LOVE their lens or HATE it and have trouble being objective) out side of the reviews there are great forums and they have a great buy/sell area where you can be connected with other private party buyers/sellers (I've bought quite a bit this way).

Digital Photo Pro This for me is probably the best written photography magazine going. It covers the tech side of things but also the creative stuff. It's definitely focused for more than the beginner but they have much more meat in the articles. Often times some of the big name magazines have more or less press released from the manufacturers and the reviews would never say anything bad without being afraid of having some ad revenue pulled.
American Photo focused on commercial and editorial photography, it's fun to flip through and has some good in depth pieces... I read through it more just to see the photographs, and try to understand how they got a specific shot, etc.
Shutterbug if I'm flying somewhere and want to just thumb through gear reviews, etc. this is the magazine I grab... Pretty informative with more in depth reviews than some of the other 'popular' magazines.
Photo District News If you are wanting to go pro and want to understand the business, this is a great read... although if your a newbie this is likely not up your alley.

Take A Class
Most local photo retailers offer photography classes (especially after the holidays), and if you live in a city you can most likely find classes offered at area community centers or local colleges in their continuing education classes (classes for people who want to take 1 class, not get a degree, etc.). Often times these classes will range in price and time commitments, but I think for most people are WELL worth the investment.

My wife just completed an eight week class (2 hours per class, 11 sessions) for $89 and found it very helpful. While the whole class wasn't stellar it was good overall and taught her enough to pickup our camera know how to use it and understand the relationship shutter speed, aperture, ISO, etc. all play with one another. It's really opened up a whole new world for her...

Find Someone Else to Shoot With
Getting out and shooting is what it's all about... There are most likley photography groups in your city (ask your local camera shop where to find them), most of which are filled with people who want to explain and show you how to use your camera. Not only will it allow you to understand photography more, it will probably even make you some new friends.

Flickr Meet-Ups:
In some metropolitan areas there are even Flickr Meet-Up's, where you can go out and and meet up with other folks on Flickr to shoot around, and add a off-line social aspect to Flickr. I started a Flickr Meet Columbus group for those in the Central Ohio area. We have over a 100 members, and have attendance at our meet-ups of between 10-25 people on average (we meet more or less once a month). If there isn't a group in your area, start one...

In Closing:
The Flickr groups are a great way to learn a bunch (even if you just read a lot and post very little) of stuff and interact with other people who are into photography. But a little time and effort will give you a much better understanding of photography, and allow you to ask better, more specific and informed questions.

...if you're still reading this, hats off to you.
MrDAT 10 years ago
I was at a large chain camera store today and some guy came in a bought a D50 and was asking about the 18-55. I told the guy working the counter (whom didn't really care about working today) to show that guy a 50mm 1.8D for $119. But my cries fell on deafen ears.

So anyone looking for a great lens: Please *try* the 50mm 1.8 for the Depth of Field Effects and one of the sharpest lenses for the money! (just look past the fact it's not a zoom)
jonmv9 10 years ago
I got my D50 a few months ago, think I have learnt a fair bit so far, but those books you mentioned look good! Never too late to learn anything eh?

I also second what MrDAT said; the 50mm is excellent for the money, plus it teaches you about composition by the fact that you have to move around.
thank you for a great post, fensterbme. I wish I had read it when I bought my first dslr some years ago.

MrDAT, different people have needs for different lenses. I shoot mostly outdoors photos, and the 50mm f/1.4 that I bought with my Canon is seldom used (only during Flickr meetups, it seems). I typically use my 16-35 f/2.8 or my new Peleng 8mm ultrawide fish-eye.

My boyfriend, on the other hand, prefers to shoot portraits, so he uses his 70-200 f/2.8 as well as his 50mm f/1.4 as well as other lenses.

Making a blanket statement about one lens being better than all others is imprudent, in my opinion.
JB01929291047 10 years ago
I believe this is relevant, it is the most important thing I would suggest to anyone with who has a DSLR...

After a you become comfortable with the auto settings, don't be afraid to put it in manual. You will learn a lot by setting the aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc yourself.
klj_francis PRO Posted 10 years ago. Edited by klj_francis (member) 10 years ago
@fensterbme Thanks for the post.
Along the same lines National Geographic Traveler has published an
article about photography web sites.
You may view it here.
Steve.Korn 10 years ago
Wow, Brian! Nice work and thanks for taking the time and making the effort to put this together. Not only a great introduction of useful information for DSLR newbies, but a great example for them of the sharing nature of Flickr.
kendrickhang 10 years ago
Good article fensterbme -- makes me want to take the time to write a few articles of my own (covering different topics) for new camera owners. I'll definitely be pointing beginners here for a list of resources to get started :)

Just wanted to mention for the beginners (and more seasoned folks) who live in or near Washington, DC, There is an informal flickr meetup via the Washington DC/Metro Area pool -- just have to check the messages every so often to find out when the monthly meetups are planned.

There's also the group I co-organize, Washington Photography Meetup and our sister group in MD, The Montgomery County Photography Meetup. We in DC usually have a monthly meeting to share photos, get feedback, talk about whatever topics, then have a monthly outing to go take pictures somewhere around town or check out a photography exhibit at one of the many museums and galleries to get some ideas. The full listing of all cities is on -- it's free to sign up and join as a member, only costs money if you are the group organizer.
Chapendra 10 years ago
:] You're so nice for helping everyone out. I don't consider myself a newbie but, I'm sure not too far above that but not too far below the decent!
mlsphoto Posted 10 years ago. Edited by mlsphoto (member) 10 years ago
hey nice write up Fenster! cool thing is, I own 4/5 of your book recommendations! I looked into buying the London/Upton book too but it's too expensive...I'd suggest the other ones first for any newbie to see if they really like photography.

I will back you up and say those are great recommendations for a newbie photographer, such as myself. I feel that I've learned a ton from those books and just need to go put into practice what I've read to get the most out of them.

I love the Scott Kelby books. They're fun because you can use them as "no-brainers" because he just lays out the steps to do whatever it is (taking a certain shot or image-manipulating in CS2) and following them result in great shots!

However, I didn't really start understanding photography until I started on the Bryan Peterson books I got for Christmas. Understanding Exposure is filled with so much info and he does a great job of explaining the 'photographic triangle'.

Lastly, I think that with these books, re-reading is a must. There's just too much info to absorb the 1st time through so I plan to go over and over with it.

If I may add a suggestion to any newbies reading this thread, I think it's a good idea to keep a pen and notepad with you while you're shooting to take notes on what the conditions were and/or what you were trying to do when you took a specific shot. Since I'm also new & learning, I take shots of random things on random settings to see what effects I will get all the time. But by the time I get the pictures downloaded onto my computer I forget what I was trying to do and mostly get overwhelmed by the crappy shots that came out. One could say that you could just take a look at the EXIF data but it's easier to write 'em down. Plus you could add in stuff like where you took your meter reading, etc.
πρώρα (Prora) PRO 10 years ago
An excellent piece of advice with good references. I have added a link to it in my "Technical Advice and Tricks" group.
zoolpsu 10 years ago
Very informative post, Fenster. Thanks!
bravocharlietango 10 years ago
Amen. Really appreciate the thoughtfulness
RZen 10 years ago
Wanted to thank Bryan for the information and knowledge provided. I am really excited with the new DSLR and hopefully better my understanding on the subject soon.
Dania Hurley 10 years ago
Yes, thanks, Bryan. Huge help! I will of course also be bugging you and Joleen for help, too. :)
theycallmeuma PRO 10 years ago
Sorry...I just read that your wift paid $89 for a 11week course? That's insane...that's £45 here...most courses start off for at least £170 if you're lucky!!!
fensterbme PRO 10 years ago
@:caroline: Yeah in our city there are community centers, etc. that offer this type of thing for that price... Usually some photographer looking to pick up a little coin on the side.

The class my wife took was pretty good for covering the fundamentals, etc. not an amazing class and wasn't without it's issues... but for $89 USD you can't complain.
Arlen:J [deleted] 10 years ago is a good resource. They have a blog that they feature different photographers on and also have excellent tips and a forum.
krismarques 10 years ago
Great Post!!
kcinfocus PRO 10 years ago

I have been drooling for a Photoshop book like the one. I will also say that I loved the two books by Bryan Peterson (Understanding Exposure, and Learning To See Creatively)

Has anyone had any experiences with New Horizan Classes? I just found them the other day, and their PSCS2 Classes look to be very good. However, there is no mention of cost, which usually means it is pretty spendy. They do have several types of training. I am guessing that the Online, NO instructor classes are cheapest. Some thing tells me they still aren't cheap.

I think I will try the Scott Kelby book and then check into the NH classes. I have checked into the PSCS2 classes at the community colleges in my area, but they are all designed to teach you how to make bulletin board stuff rather than focusing on the Photography end of it.

Thanks again Brian, I wish I would have read this a year ago. By the way, did you mention Strobist? I would link to it but I am not a member of the cool kids club and don't know how to do that.
Henry Peach [deleted] Posted 10 years ago. Edited by Henry Peach (member) 10 years ago
mashline 10 years ago
Very good info. I have found to have many good articles about tech/style/and rules of photography. Some wonderful landscape shots. What incredible colors too.
mashline just don't mention his name in any of the nikon threads. :)
whipartist PRO 10 years ago
I'd love to add my blog to the list. It's a tutorial on using manual exposure controls for people who don't know the difference between an f-stop and a bus stop, and who always leave their dSLRs in green box mode.

Stop Shooting Auto!
Brendan Falkowski 10 years ago
I saw a new edition of the book Photography (on-shelf snapshot), by London/Upton/Stone, in the Penn State bookstore. It seemed very comprehensive, but wondered if it was worth $100 ($85 Amazon)?
nicolernorman 9 years ago
whipartist's blog is an EXCELLENT resource for new photographers. I printed out almost every page and have read it several times. I highly recommend it!
Orbmiser 9 years ago
I just started a everything D40 blog

It is about 1/3 D40 specific but the other 2/3rds is every Turorial,HowTo's,Reviews.Software,etc.. That has to do with Photography for a newbie like myself .

Stop by and see what you think. I accept All Comments,Criticism,Feedback I just want it to be the best for people wanting to Learn.
andrew_bisset PRO 9 years ago
If you happen to find a Nikon D80 in your hands, the D80 users group here on flickr is a great resource.

I'd link to it, but i'm tired. Search 'Nikon D80'.
mac218 9 years ago
Can't thank you enough. Thanks for this thread... and for being so prolific with your educational comments, suggestions, tips, etc, fensterbme. Man, you are everywhere! I'm very new and learning on my own slowly, but hope to at least take a first class by next summer ('08) (life is so full of paying bills, it's hard to make fun/hobby-time), and am so anxious to learn...
Again, thanks and cheers to the good deeds...
fensterbme PRO 9 years ago
@mac218: Thanks for the kind comments, makes me blush..ha!

Yeah just keep plugging along, my hobby is just now becoming a side job (just going into my 3rd year as a camera owner), and this spring I'm taking a bit of my own advice and taking a photography course at a local college.
this is the best thread i've read on flickr. awesome/amazing/awesome... :D
galuppi PRO 9 years ago
@fensterbme - fantastically informative and approachable post. And thanks for putting a link to it on the group home page. A terrific resource. Long live people like you in a place like flickr!

@kljfrancis - interesting Natl Geographic link too, thanks.

@whipartist - great blog!
peace1374 9 years ago
Great stuff. Thanks for the all the great tips and info.
Carl McKinney 9 years ago
Spoken like a true professor. I'm going to look into those classes at CSCC. Which one's did you and Jolene take again?
Winterwaves [deleted] 9 years ago
Hi -- Great post, fensterbme. I just happened to stumble across this thread now.

Since you already had 'Understanding Exposure" in the list, I would add his comparatively new "Understanding Shutter Speed" also. Another winner by a great author.
goldiestereo 8 years ago
just did a search for "photography classes in columbus, oh" as i tried to sign up for the UA comm center classes and they are full for the winter session. i was very pleasantly surprised to find this helpful article written by my friend! i'm definitely going to check these books out (hopefully at the library) and keep trying to take a class. thanks bryan for the time you took to write a great and really helpful article.
TXCanonGrl 8 years ago
I'm not new to photography, but interested in learning more about the technical end of photo taking. Recently took a non-credit photography course just for the heck of it, and actually learned some new things... which has now pushed me to learn more.

I actually just purchased 2 books by Bryan Peterson that you guys mentioned above: Understanding Exposure and Understanding Shutter Speed. Can't wait to really get into these!

Thanks so much for posting all of the awesome links too! I bookmarked quite a few of them for further reference ;)
John Cook 4 8 years ago
This thread is exactly what I was looking for and is very helpful. Thank You.
Zekewhipper PRO 7 years ago
If your desire is to learn first about just the (non-digital) basics of photography, like about "depth of field" and things like that, then try looking in used book stores. Most any good book written on the subject since the late 1950's will teach you what you need to hit the ground running, and are sometimes written better with more helpful illustrations than many modern books.
Len Hoff 7 years ago
My advice to all new owners, read the instruction manual, 6 months later, read it again, and 6 months later, read it again. The first time your learning what the functions are, the second time you'll understand what it was saying as you relate back to time when certain things went right or wrong, and the 3rd time you'll start to discover little tricks to make the camera work easier and better. You get a lot more "oh!" moments then.
Fotaki 7 years ago
Len Hoff ...Totally agree with you. How many times have I done just that ? :))
Studio Kits 7 years ago
I'd love to add my blog to the list too. It discusses various studio lighting techniques and also technical reviews of some of the studio lighting kits on the market.
Chrisser PRO 7 years ago
I should look for those books that TXCanonGrl posted about and see if Chapters/Indigo carries those in their stores. If I can buy those in a Chapters/Indigo store, they could provide more help whenever I am out and about with my Canon EOS Rebel T1i.
Groups Beta