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Old 13-03-2008, 03:30   #1 (permalink)
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How do other beginners get it?

I've been thinking about this for a while and thought I'd post to get some ideas. I am relatively new to photography and am finding that although books are a great way to learn I think I"m confusing myself with too much info and need to perhaps focus on one area To be honest most of my pics are probably 95% luck and 5% skill! Which brings me to an idea. I think I would find it useful if there was somewhere or someone out there that could give me a photo technique to learn and practise and then perhaps at the end (however long it may be) have a beginners fortnightly challenge on that particular technique to see how you've gone and have the photo critiqued so that you know what you can improve on. Not sure if there's any sites out there like this or if this is something that Pixalo would be willing to do, I know theres a lot of great people on this site and I've found the tutorials really helpful on here so maybe there is someone who may have the time to challenge us. I have found the fortnightlly challenges really good in getting me out there and trying different things but just need to get focussed on getting better shots and techniques.
Any thoughts??

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Old 13-03-2008, 07:45   #2 (permalink)
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Re: How do other beginners get it?

Sounds like a plan, mickeymax. So, how do you think it would work? Concentrate on a fortnight's assignment that concerned itself with, say, shallow depth of field?

Having said that, you've put your finger on one of the routes to success: the more photos you take, the "luckier" you get! Especially if you combine this with feedback from the Critique forum to give indicators for improvement.

Personally, I've never read any books but used the instant results of digital combined with the feedback from internet photography forums to improve my photography
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Old 13-03-2008, 08:09   #3 (permalink)
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Re: How do other beginners get it?

The best way to improve is in stages and not try to do everything at once. The important aspect to remember is that to learn, it has to be interesting and fun (unless you do it for a job and are being financially rewarded).

My advice would be to pick just one photography subject or area that interest you the most (something like depth of field, macro, low light, flash, landscapes, portrait, wildlife etc..just only one though) and then take some photos on that topic. Look at the results and post them here on Pixalo with details of what you where trying to achieve and where you are having problems. Just about everyone here will be willing to offer quality advice and help aimed specifically at your problems or concerns and armed with that information, you can then go away and do some more shooting. If you follow that process, the learning should remain fun, be productive and result in you having a firm understanding and grasp of each technique.

Once you are happy that you are at the level you want to be on one area, you then pick the next and begin all over again. You will find because photography is such a wide topic nobody is a master of all aspects. The best specialise in one or two niches and spend years learning their trade. Thats not to say that you can't end up with a firm understanding of photography as a whole, you just need to structure your progress so that you can see your improvements and maintain your motivation.
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Old 13-03-2008, 09:16   #4 (permalink)
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Re: How do other beginners get it?

I have to say over the last few years i have come to realise that we improve without even realising it.
not that long ago i decided i would look over my old shots going back about 5 years to when i first picked up a digital camera.......... and to think I thuoght my shots were good! i was gob smacked on how bad they were, but it is only now that i have amassed the small amount of knowledge that i do have, that i can apply that knowledge to the images and see them for what they are.......... there is a definate visual learning curve right thru my images and im sure it is there in ALL our images, so just when u think you are not learning anything........ go back over your older shots, you will probably suprise yourself with how much u have learnt!

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Old 13-03-2008, 09:42   #5 (permalink)
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Re: How do other beginners get it?

I know exactly where you are coming from. There have been times when I thought that the whole process of working a camera and all its functions together would completely defeat me and I'd be better off taking up knitting. I read up on the basics and understood each individual function but could never put them together.

I took myself off on a one-day course and that helped enormously as has meeting up with other photographers who were good enough to explain things to me. Other than that it's just a case of practice, practice and more practice. Trying different settings and seeing what worked and what didn't. Finally the proverbially penny dropped and whilst I still have an awful lot to learn, things do make more sense now.

There are still certain types of photography that elude me. Landscapes will never be something I excel at because I simply don't "see" them. Trying everything will give you a feel for what type of photography you enjoy mos, and what you have a natural ability for.
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Old 13-03-2008, 11:16   #6 (permalink)
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Re: How do other beginners get it?

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Originally Posted by Markulous View Post
Having said that, you've put your finger on one of the routes to success: the more photos you take, the "luckier" you get! Especially if you combine this with feedback from the Critique forum to give indicators for improvement.

Personally, I've never read any books but used the instant results of digital combined with the feedback from internet photography forums to improve my photography

just let your creative side take over, look around for inspiration in magasines ect and practice as much as you can. worrying too much about camera settings can distract people from thinking about what looks good as a picture.
review your pictures on the camera lcd and adjust the settings accordingly remembering the basics like minimum shutter speed for focal length ect.. and soon you will have a feel for it and know what setting work in a situation. its like learning to ride a bike, you will fall off a few times but once you get going youre ok! its all trial and error
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Old 13-03-2008, 11:17   #7 (permalink)
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Re: How do other beginners get it?

Thanks for taking the time to reply everyone.
Markulous - that is pretty much what I was thinking. Pick something like shallow depth of field, give a small tutorial on it or maybe we could research it ourselves (I know there are some good tutorials already on here) and then post your best pic regarding that topic for others to maybe vote on and critique.?
I don't feel I want to bother everyone constantly with critiquing my photos but I guess thats the best way to learn.
Steve you are right about sticking to one technique and master that first and I think that is what I need to do instead of overloading myself with all sorts of info and ideas!
Fiona I have actuallly taken a look over some pics I took 12 months ago on a point and shoot camera - pics that I thought were not bad at the time but are really pretty ordinary so perhaps there has been improvements.
Angela I certainly hear you on the knitting front! I'm waiting for that lightbulb moment when it all comes together for me.
I look at the critiques written here and I think - how do people notice these things?? They see things I would never even think of but it all comes from experience I guess.
If all else fails I have to say photography has a way of making you look around at the world and appreciate the beauty in all things and notice things that you would normally not notice!
Thanks again everyone
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Old 14-03-2008, 00:09   #8 (permalink)
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Re: How do other beginners get it?

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Originally Posted by mickeymax View Post
I look at the critiques written here and I think - how do people notice these things?? They see things I would never even think of but it all comes from experience I guess.
If all else fails I have to say photography has a way of making you look around at the world and appreciate the beauty in all things and notice things that you would normally not notice!
Thanks again everyone
This has got to be one of the most important statements made on any forum for some time. Mickymax, the fact that you have made this statement shows that you have taken one heck of a stride forward in your photography. The crucial word missing from these sentences, but which you imply most clearly, is 'feelings'. Most exceptional pictures manage to capture, through the skill of the photographer, the photographer's feelings about that subject. This is one 'technique' to aim for the most, to capture as Ansel Adams once said "What you saw and felt" about the scene.

Man you are well on your way!

Cheers

Les

PS A good way to understand what a photographer/artist needs in the way of observational skills is to read Sherlock Holmes stories and pay particular attention to how Holmes explains it when he 'miraculously' seems to know so much about someone or thing after a moments glance. Then, as you walk the road of life, use your eyes in the same way!
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Old 14-03-2008, 00:59   #9 (permalink)
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Re: How do other beginners get it?

Know exactly what you mean mickeymax. I too learn from books, and in the beginning it was difficult to know where to start. I never realised there was so much to photography until I decided to learn about it And you're right, it can be "information overload" if you try to learn it all at once

There's some good advice in this thread, main one being your own ... learn one aspect at a time + thoroughly understand it before you move on to the next one

And I think your idea of a set challenge is a good one, something like the Fortnightly Assignment, but centred on a specific technique (rather than a general theme, like in the FA), which I think would be an excellent learning tool for us all
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Old 14-03-2008, 01:39   #10 (permalink)
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Re: How do other beginners get it?

I'm probably repeating what has already been said....

Modern cameras can be too complicated. They're like video recorders were a few years back, with lots of little buttons and menu functions that need a lifetime of dedication to master. But you don't need to know about all of that. Not *all* of that.

Taking good photos comes in two parts - composition and technical skill. A technically perfect photo will be of no interest if the subject and framing are boring. That's the artistic side of photography, and in my opinion the most important. However, a perfect composition can be spoilt by bad technique - wrong focusing, depth of field, exposure, etc.

Some superb photos can be taken with point-and-shoot cameras, provided the composition is right. You really don't need to spend thousands of pounds to take good photos - just learn what makes an interesting pic and how to frame it. Even with a DSLR, that's where to start. Never mind all the buttons - set it to Auto and enjoy taking interesting photos.

Then, after a while, you may think that a particular shot would have been better if more (or less) had been in focus, or if the exposure had been different, or if it had more (or less) contrast, and so on. That's the time to look at the science as well as the art. But don't let that befuddle you to begin with, because until recently we didn't have all the buttons but still managed to take decent photos.

As has already been suggested, if you'd like to post a shot that you think could be improved, there are plenty of people here who would be happy to advise. Just take it one step at a time.
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Old 14-03-2008, 02:25   #11 (permalink)
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Re: How do other beginners get it?

While I can see why Silkstone is advising to learn the creativity of composition first then the technical side afterwards, I think it's important to learn the technical stuff early on, and here's why:

1) If you learn the basics of the technical side of photography from the start, then technical issues - what settings to choose - will become 2nd nature, thus enabling you to concentrate on composing your images, instead of the inevitable fumbling with settings, not knowing what to do with them. The idea of learning photography beyond point-and-shoot is to take control, and you can only do this if you know how your camera works + how to operate the settings, and most importantly understand why + under what situations you need certain settings.

2) If you just leave everything on auto + learn how to compose pictures first, then you are not progressing beyond point-and-shoot photography.

3) Many techniques which are achieved by knowing which settings to use and how to use them are, in fact, the means of being creative with your photography, e.g. creative use of DoF, creative use of shutter speed, etc. i.e. Being creative does not exclude the technical issues; on the contrary the 'science' and the 'art' of photography are intermingled: The technical issues (settings) can be used to good creative effect, and the 'art of composition' does in fact also have a scientific element as well, if you care to learn it. Many good photographers compose their shots intuitively, which is absolutely fine, but that's not to say that there is no science in composition, it just is not the subject of very many books, tutorials, etc. and so is perhaps not widely known.

Edit: I don't mean that one shouldn't learn composition until one is familiar with all the settings + technical stuff ... I think you have to find a balance + learn them together. I do think it would be a mistake to dismiss the technical stuff in favour of composition. They're both equally important.

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Old 14-03-2008, 07:57   #12 (permalink)
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Re: How do other beginners get it?

Think the whole process is definitely 'horses for courses' and what works for one person may not be ideal for someone else.

Personally, I used a 'point & shoot' (Fuji S602Z) and didn't overly concern myself with the technicalities (and this despite my background being computers - very definitely not artistic). As I ran into deficiencies in my technical abilities (and discovered a need to use and so learn them), that was when I investigated how to achieve them.

Then found that I wanted more control (manual focus was dire and difficult to eliminate shutter lag on Fuji) and needed to use some of the techniques and moved onto a Sigma SD10 which is very basic, having only the needed controls. The RAW-only image was another positive as I found the imposition of someone else's idea of interpolation a serious constraint on the output (the Fuji consistently lost fine detail in certain areas through interpolation). Superb for learning the fundementals, principally as it just doesn't have bells and whistles to confuse the issue and definitely still my camera of choice, artistically (nothing I've used touches it for results).

Circumstances dictate that I move to Canon, currently a 350D but upgrading to a 40D fairly shortly, and whilst I find I can take advantage of some of the improved technicalities, I still rely on the basics (preferring manual to most of the auto options)

So, I rely on the composition basics learned from my 'point & shoot' days, preferring to keep to manual where possible but making use of the extended capabilities when necessary. The best of both worlds
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Old 16-03-2008, 03:35   #13 (permalink)
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Re: How do other beginners get it?

Interesting discussion and a common struggle for all of us new photographers. I have been taking "snaps" for years but now want to have a lot more control. I too am a book reader, our local library has a good selection. One that may interest you takes you through 50 specific techniques a step at a time. I haven't worked through it step by step but sme may prefer to. However I have found it a useful read.

50 Fast Digital Camera Techniques Second Edition by Kevin L. Moss
ISBN - 13:978-0-7645-9806-7
ISBN - 10:0-7645-9806-6

I think in some ways I'm taking worse pictures than before in terms of technique but mainly because I am trying very hard not to use the auto feature in order to force myself to learn how to make use of the camera to achieve different results.
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Old 16-03-2008, 11:03   #14 (permalink)
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Re: How do other beginners get it?

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I think in some ways I'm taking worse pictures than before in terms of technique but mainly because I am trying very hard not to use the auto feature in order to force myself to learn how to make use of the camera to achieve different results.
This is to be expected and quite natural as you concentrate on gaining control of your technique. When this happens it is too easy to go back to 'auto' simply because in 'most normal' situations auto can produce a reasonable result.

Stick with it and you will be rewarded not only by better images but by having the satisfaction that you actually contributed to the creation of those images in a controlled/artistic way. You will feel (and be) more like a 'photographer' rather than a 'snapper' once this happens.

To quote Lennon: "The long and winding road...", will lead you to your creative door!

Have fun on the journey!

Cheers

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Old 17-03-2008, 04:45   #15 (permalink)
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Re: How do other beginners get it?

Thanks willow I will take a look next time I"m at the library. I did get some great books from the library but found I was getting info overload so concentrating on one thing at a time is the way to go. I also hear you with the 'taking worse pictures than before comment' I feel that way too sometimes but looking back I am improving.

Thanks to all who have given advice etc. I will keep perservering in the hope that I might just 'blow you all away' one day with one of my pics!!
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Old 17-03-2008, 05:12   #16 (permalink)
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Re: How do other beginners get it?

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Originally Posted by Willow5075 View Post
Interesting discussion and a common struggle for all of us new photographers. I have been taking "snaps" for years but now want to have a lot more control. I too am a book reader, our local library has a good selection. One that may interest you takes you through 50 specific techniques a step at a time. I haven't worked through it step by step but sme may prefer to. However I have found it a useful read.

50 Fast Digital Camera Techniques Second Edition by Kevin L. Moss
ISBN - 13:978-0-7645-9806-7
ISBN - 10:0-7645-9806-6
Funny! I thought this book title sounded familiar! I JUST checked it out at our local branch! Haven't really gotten in to it though because I also just bought a DVD on how to shoot with my new camera and have been replaying that thing over and over again!

The whole learning process for me is very much like the original post here in the thread. I am all over the place and probably need to focus on one thing and "master" (or at the least get a good handle on it) before moving on. I am not so much a book learner as a hands on learner and think the Technique Challenge is an awesome idea! I'll have to keep an eye out if you all decide to start something to that effect.

Thanks for all the advice. Think I need to get posting my stuff to the critique forum. You all are very helpful.
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Old 17-03-2008, 05:49   #17 (permalink)
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Re: How do other beginners get it?

yay another beginner who feels the same. Thanks wildblue - maybe there is an opportunity for someone on pixalo to give us beginners some challenges to undertake, and then asses our work.?

Cheers
Rachel
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Old 17-03-2008, 11:36   #18 (permalink)
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Re: How do other beginners get it?

I think pixalo already gives us heaps of ways to do that - photo sharing where you can get direct comments, also I find the fortnightly and monthly comps enlightening - enter a pic then examine the other entries - I find that what I vote for is what I aspire to......and I can compare to what I entered and think about what is better
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