What's the best way to learn photography?

awm03April 29, 2010

I needed a new camera & Costco had a good deal on a Casio EX-H10, a pretty-good-not-great camera that suits my purposes. It has a gazillion setting options. How on earth will I ever learn to use them?

Is there a good beginner book anybody can recommend? Is it better just to play with the camera? Should I take lessons or a class? How did you learn to use all your camera has to offer?

I basically use a camera to take pix of the kids & vacations, but if I learned to use all the features, I might have a little more fun with it. Thanks for any tips.

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I think the only way you can learn how to use all your camera's settings is to read the manual. I know......it's not very appealing. But it's a lot faster than trial and error/error/error.

Often the manual that comes with the camera is rather basic, and for more advanced operation you'll have to look online (or on a CD that came with the camera) to download a more complete manual.

Classes are always a good idea. But first learn now to operate your camera. They don't all work the same way.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2010 at 3:39PM
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Thanks, alisande. I just printed out all 185 pages of the manual. (2 pages per sheet, so not as wasteful!) Still, the technical terms don't mean too much at this point. I bought a book, Digital Photography Simplified, which looks to be good for a total newbie like me. Any other book recommendations (or other advice) are welcome!

    Bookmark   April 30, 2010 at 7:47PM
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The book looks like a good choice. My suggestion would be to sit down with it and get some information you can apply to your photography right away. Don't be like me.....my inclination is usually to get caught up in buying books--more than I need--when what I should be doing is reading them. I sometimes think once I buy the book, my job is done. :-)

If you have questions about the technical terms, feel free to ask here. One or more of us might have an answer.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2010 at 9:44PM
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Check with your community college to see if any digital photo classes are offered......and take lots of pictures.
It helps to make notes on the settings used for the pictures and see the differences.
Our local library has books on digital photography and it is a good place to see if a particular book is right for you before purchasing one.
Have fun and keep us updated.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2010 at 11:56PM
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"Check with your community college to see if any digital photo classes are offered"

That's an excellent idea, hadn't thought of the community college. I'll bet they offer classes in the fall.

Alisande, I worked with the first concept in the book: what is autofocus & what are the different types. Then I had to go to the user's manual to find out where the heck autofocus is on my camera. At least now I know what "AF" is, what it does, & how to change it. This is progress!

re making notes on settings, I noticed all that info is displayed when I upload to PBase, so the camera stores that info somehow. Is there a way to display the settings on the LCD when previewing the pictures in playback mode? Hoping for a quick yes/no answer instead of wading through 185 pages in the manual.

How did you all learn to use a camera?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2010 at 8:32PM
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Look for an active photography club in your community.

In my community we have a very active club that meets twice a month and has seminar type training sessions at each meeting.

We also have a theme each month and generally try to organize a field trip of some sort, generally simple stuff within the community, but for the field trips we all take a sack lunch and make a day of it. In that manner the newbies get a chance to work with more advanced ppl for some real hands on directed instruction.

Its a great place to meet new friends with similar interests and learn as you go.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2010 at 10:21AM
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re making notes on settings, I noticed all that info is displayed when I upload to PBase, so the camera stores that info somehow. Is there a way to display the settings on the LCD when previewing the pictures in playback mode? Hoping for a quick yes/no answer instead of wading through 185 pages in the manual.

How did you all learn to use a camera?

Sorry, I have no idea how to use your camera's settings. But if you go to the Casio Talk forum at DPReview, I'm sure you'll find people who can answer your questions.

I was fortunate to grow up in my dad's darkroom. He taught me about shutter speed and aperture when I was ten, and gave me a manual camera. Without a light meter, and with zero automatic settings (and no Delete button!) I had to get a pretty firm grasp of the concepts in a hurry.

That said, I was still fairly lost when I bought my first DSLR last year. I've spent a lot of time reading messages on DPReview, reading my manual, and most of all, taking pictures.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2010 at 10:47AM
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lazypup, that's a good suggestion too. I'll search for a club in the area. Your club sounds wonderful! Are there many members?

alisande, that's so interesting about your sink or swim intro to your first camera, at such a young age too. And that you were at sea when you got the new DSLR despite all your experience.

To display the picture settings on this camera: press the Display button. Duh.

I'm sorry I didn't start this process earlier. My first point & shoot camera took pictures that made me say "Wow!" even though I had no idea what I was doing. It was a nicer camera than my new one, I think, with a view finder & some other features this one doesn't have. I meant to learn how to really use it someday, but my son lost it on a trip. The price was right on the new Casio, though, and some pictures on Flickr & PBase taken by EX-H10 owners are inspiring.

Here are some pictures I took using the auto best shot feature (camera selects the mode for you):
Trying Out the New Camera

    Bookmark   May 2, 2010 at 2:02PM
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Looks like you've got it figured out! Very nice pictures of beautiful homes and scenery--very Connecticut looking! I figured that's where these were taken, and then I checked your profile to confirm it. I love New England.

Good job!

PS: It wasn't really sink or swim for me with my first camera; my dad was always there to help.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2010 at 5:27PM
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Thanks, alisande, but no, I haven't figured anything out yet, just how to find the different P&S modes.

What a sharp cookie you are! Yes, I'm on the CT/NY border.

This web site has good advice for beginners. Just like you said, read the manual & shoot, shoot, shoot:
Get the most from your P&S cam

    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 1:23PM
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Flickr.....sign up! It's free. Look at other peoples photos, they often list the techniques they use....or email them for advice. The local photo clubs in your area are often on Flickr.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dh's photo stream....

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 9:22AM
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Ohmygosh, Nicole, those photos are fabulous. Wow! Thanks so much for sharing your DH's talent.

Yes, I've been having fun with Flickr, & PBase too. Very inspiring as well as informative.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 4:11PM
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I honestly don't know how many members there are in the club. I have only been active about three months and during that time there has been an average attendance of about 25pp, but it seems that i see many new faces at each meeting. The club also seems to be a very good cross section of the community from High School kids to senior citizens.

I retired last June so I have plenty of time on my hands. At the last meeting I proposed a silly idea primarily for Seniors such as myself, but open to anyone who wants to participate. Rather than plan a special trip and worry about where to meet and who will ride with who, I suggested that we get a municipal buss pass (Senior rate $21/mo). We could then contact each other via phone and agree to meet at the main buss terminal at a certain time. From there we all board a buss together and head out wherever the buss takes us. If we see something of interest along the way we can get off, spend an hour and catch the next buss and move on to another location.

This has proved to be a very good social outing as well as a photo op to see the sites within our local community, by example, last Tuesday we ended up at the municipal park botanical gardens. What a great place, 12 acres of manicured gardens filled with flowers and shrubs of all varieties, as well as lunch in a nice little romantic cafe overlooking a lake. I shot over 1300 pics and barely scratched the surface of what there was to see, not to mention that they are constantly digging up the flowers and replacing them as the season change.

Future sites include the art museum, history museum, a restored grist mill and covered bridge in the park, the old B&O railroad station, which has been fully restored and has a nice restaurant and a long list of local historical sites and architecture. Its really great because everyone is free to leave whenever they want without worrying about who they rode in with, just grab the next buss.

While at the gardens one of the ladies in our group was shooting a point & shoot camera and she began asking me questions about my Pentax DSLR. Rather that just try to answer her questions I loaded a spare SD card and let her try her hand with it. I told her she could take the card home and return it next time she sees me. I had both manual and auto focus zoom lenses ranging from wide angle to 300mm macro tele, a tripod and some close up equipment so she got a chance to try different features to see if she would like it. In the process I made a new friend and I am sure she is hooked on getting a DSLR now...LOL.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2010 at 10:45PM
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lazypup, thanks for describing your club. The bus pass group sounds fantastic, and your area is so full of wonderful subjects. 1300 pictures?! How long will it take you to review them?

BTW, does anybody review their photos on an HDTV? I found out my son's Xbox has a photo viewing mode. If I buy a $10 HDMI cable from Wal-mart, I can hook up the XBox to the HDTV and view the photos in high definition. Sounds good in theory, will have to try it in real life.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 8:25PM
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Quote:"your area is so full of wonderful subjects"

Years ago I drove 18 wheelers covering the entire U.S.A. Every year Labor Day seemed to open the flood gates as people began their annual vacation migration in search of something to see. But what I found most amazing is that for every person that heads out of your community there is another traveling vast distances to come see your town. To that end I used to offer people a challenge.

Take out a road map of your state and locate where you live then take a simple drawing compass and scribe circles at 5, 10, 20, 30, 40 & 50 miles. Now locate all the communities within those circles and contact their chamber of commerce for information on sites to see in their community. You will find a vast wealth of sites to see, all within a short one hour commute of your house, and many of them are absolutely free of admission. Now consider how much money you can save in fuel, food and lodgings and you have just saved enough to pay for that camera or new lenses you been dreaming about, not mention that you can continue that project year around instead of trying to pack it all into two weeks.

Now in regards to how long it takes to edit 1300 photos. Actually the problem is not as difficult as it might seem. I began my interest in photography with a Pentax Spotmatic, which was the first 35mm SLR to have a built in through the lens light meter. (The Nikon F offered a light meter in an accessory viewfinder and Canon had not yet got into the professional SLR market). Lenses were manual focus, manual aperture and exposure was controlled by manipulating the shutter speed and lens aperture to center a match needle indicator in the view finder. As if that was not enough, in those days most films had an ASA (ISO) rating ranging from 64 to 325. I can vividly remember when AGFA introduced a 1000 ASA B&W film for the first time, and Fuji film almost took over the industry with a 500asa high resolution color print film. In those days getting the correct exposure was at best a bit iffy so it was common practice amongst the pro's and advanced amateurs to use a technique called "Bracketing" In fact, Bracketing is an automatic feature on most DSLR's but most people fail to use it. Bracketing is a technique where you shoot one frame at the measured exposure, then a second frame one f-stop under and a third frame one f-stop over. We could then push or pull an additional f-stop in the darkroom if need be. In those days there was no "live view" or "instant replay" so that is how we could insure we would have a usable print when we processed the film. I still rely heavily on that technique when i am out in the field where it would be difficult to return and try again, especially when shooting birds or wildlife where the shots cannot be repeated.

When shooting macro shots of plants & flowers on a windy day I often set the mode to "Sports" which is shutter priority mode keeping the shutter speed as high as possible. This has a two fold effect. 1. By keeping the shutter speed very high it assures stop action when the subject is moving in the wind and 2. it keeps the aperture open, limiting depth of field, which generally puts the background out of focus giving a nice soft pastel background that does not detract from the subject.

Back in the days of film bracketing the exposures was rather expensive when you considered the cost of film and processing, but in this age of digital when i go in the field I carry 5 or 6 SD cards and 5 sets of batteries so I am not concerned about wasting a shot or two if I can be sure that I will ultimately have the shot i want.

In addition, I generally do not take just one shot, but rather I like to shoot a series of shots that show different aspects of the subject. By example, I am attaching a series I took of the evolution of a Dandelion. My brother said i was as crazy as an outhouse rat for taking pictures of dandelions but I like the outcome.







    Bookmark   May 9, 2010 at 1:25PM
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lazypup, those are beautiful photos.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2010 at 9:44PM
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lazypup, inspired by your photos, I tried shooting some of my own in Sports mode. As you can see, I have a lot to learn, and thought you might get a chuckle from these. At least in the first one the colors are pretty!

"Flower With Foot" (pretend it's a Surrealist composition):

    Bookmark   May 10, 2010 at 11:49AM
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I hope you are not offended, I took the liberty of copying your "Flower & Foot" photo then I applied a bit of post processing just to see what I could do with it.

I am sure I could have done a lot more if I had used my Photoshop 7 program, but for this experiment I used Photoscape, which is a free photo editing program created by Google and is available as a free download. (run a search for "Photoscape" to find a free download site).

I happen to like Photoscape because not only is it free, it is very powerful yet extremely user friendly.

I began by cropping the photo to remove the foot and concentrate on the desired subject, although who is to say, perhaps you intended to have the foot in there to create the surrealistic effect. If that is so, so be it, because unless you are working on a photo assignment to get a specific image as directed by the sponsor, photography should always remain a free expression medium, and the only one you need to satisfy is yourself.

After cropping I hit the auto contrast button, then i deepened the color and increased the sharpness, both of which are simple one button adjustments. Total editing time was under 2 minutes; actually less time than it is taking me to write this...LOL.

I can see from your photos that you are intent on leaning how to use your camera. To that end I would like to propose a project.

I currently have three other people who are also just learning the basics of photography. Send me an email and I will put you on my mailing list to receive some basic photography lessons that I have been writing. As you proceed through the lessons you could send me some of your photos and I could perhaps suggest pointers on how to improve your work.


    Bookmark   May 10, 2010 at 12:51PM
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That is so interesting! I didn't think to tweak the photos in an editing program. Will definitely look into Photoscape. And no, I'm not at all offended. The "surrealist composition" was a joke about accidentally getting my foot in the picture.

I would love to get your basic photography lessons. Will email to get on the list.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2010 at 1:25PM
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