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 - Official Group 60,555 photos, 3,491 members
- Flickr Big Cats 111,573 photos, 11,263 members
- TWIP Critique 39,723 photos, 6,829 members
- Exposure blending / Image stacking 1,731 photos, 141 members
- News 21 / The American Dream 1,084 photos, 376 members
- The Gallery Of Fine Photography [DISCONTINUED] 41,416 photos, 5,112 members
- U.S. National Parks 171,162 photos, 15,389 members
- yosemite 40,501 photos, 5,980 members
- Long Exposures 522,532 photos, 40,574 members
- The Shores of California 31,067 photos, 2,098 members
- Mendocino Coast 3,094 photos, 253 members
- Mendocino County, California 7,257 photos, 497 members
- LightSource 91,144 photos, 8,752 members
- One Strobe Pony 73,649 photos, 9,112 members
- The Moment It Clicks 16,844 photos, 1,523 members
- ImageMagick 270 photos, 49 members
- Favorites: 20 81,467 photos, 8,775 members
- Newton 1,710 photos, 298 members
- Tatiana, the Siberian Tiger 54 photos, 37 members
- Views: 2000 48,897 photos, 8,691 members
- Views: 1750 25,170 photos, 3,881 members
- Linux Flickrs 24,955 photos, 1,275 members
- Views: 1500 51,662 photos, 6,641 members
- Views: 1250 45,399 photos, 5,169 members
- Pictures You Can't Take Anymore 1,731 photos, 203 members
- World Trade Center 4,308 photos, 691 members
- september11 (please post only 1 photo) 244 photos, 285 members
- Views: 1000 201,250 photos, 15,928 members
- Beautiful Waterfalls From Around The World 30,918 photos, 4,134 members
- Views: 900 71,743 photos, 8,459 members
- 1,000 Invitational 4,773 photos, 1,853 members
- Sculptures, Statues, and Public Art 234,569 photos, 10,225 members
- Statues and Sculptures. 328,157 photos, 22,248 members
- Favorites: 15 44,041 photos, 7,613 members
- Favorites: <5 (and >0) 107,113 photos, 5,774 members
- Views: 800 85,555 photos, 9,389 members
- iPhone Camera Shots 583,849 photos, 21,630 members
- Golf - public group 38,500 photos, 3,739 members
- Waterfalls Around the World 84,444 photos, 11,966 members
- Waterfalls 154,927 photos, 19,193 members
- Canon EF 16-35/2.8L II USM 63,526 photos, 4,732 members
- Great Golf Pictures 2,197 photos, 595 members
- HALLOWEEN WORLDWIDE 38,102 photos, 6,974 members
- Pumpkin 6,682 photos, 1,398 members
- jack-o-lantern 3,761 photos, 1,052 members
- Strobist.com 603,656 photos, 122,167 members
- lone cypress 267 photos, 160 members
- Views: 700 101,915 photos, 10,010 members
- U.S. Presidents (no photos!) 4,099 photos, 566 members
- Canon EOS 40D Users 498,855 photos, 17,742 members
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- May 2005
- I am:
- Male and Taken