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What's The Best Way To Learn Digital Photography?


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  • What's The Best Way To Learn Digital Photography?

    In recent months I have developed an interest in digital photography, and you may have seen some of my photos in recent threads.

    I am still very much an amateur and have a lot to learn. I have an Olympus FE-100 4.0 megapixel camera for now. I hope to upgrade but won't be able to for now.

    What's the best way to learn? Local classes? Online classes? I've done enough hit and miss learning on my own. What do you suggest?

    And what about editing software? My brother got me to use Google's Picasa, saying it's better than the Olympus software and even PhotoShop.

    But I see so many people here raving about Photoshop, and if there are a whole lot of creative things I can do with Picasa, I cain't figger em out....

    And which PhotoShop to get? And I look at the how-to books at Barnes and Noble and there are so many it makes my head swim it seems....

    Any ideas....gratefully accepted. Remember, I'm an analog guy in this digital world so speak to me in a language that someone who grew up with a dial telephone can understand!!! Any thoughts on the best photo hosting sites and how to use those also appreciated.

    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

  • #2
    Re: What's The Best Way To Learn Digital Photography?

    Suggestion #1: the best way to learn to take great pictures is to take pictures. Seriously, just snap away like a madman. Figure on one in ten being really good. Plus, you'll get more comfortable with the use of your camera.

    2: if your camera has many settings and special features, try photographing a single object and keep changing features each time (to test them out, find stuff you like, etc) Remember to also change your lighting conditions, try the object in bright light as well as lower light, each time using the whole spectrum of features.

    3. Photoshop elements is a great program. I have both Elements and the pro version, but I confess I rarely need the extra stuff of the pro version, and there are a couple things which are flat-out easier to locate and accomplish on Elements.

    4. If you're really serious about wanting to learn to take great shots, take a class in either photography, painting, or television. I actually recommend painting. You'll learn about composition, balance, etc. How you frame a shot has a HUGE impact on whether it's considered a great shot or not.

    ...that's where Photoshop comes in. Photoshop can cover for a wide variety of sins. When in doubt, take higher-quality photos in a wider shot (try to stay out of the digital zoom range if you can), and then just re-frame (cut) them in photoshop.

    Little things will matter in your photos:
    a. keep unwanted things out of the foreground (like the tops of people's heads if you're shooting something beyond them - at least, whenever possible)
    b. give your subjects enough "nose room" - If they're walking "out" of your shot, give some space in front of them in the frame, don't have them walking off the edge of the picture
    c. one of the least attractive ways to shoot people is from the knees up. Either shoot them from the waist or higher, or get their entire body in the picture.
    d. when shooting people's entire bodies, the picture will be more attractive if you center yourself to what you're shooting - this means get the camera to about waist height, or at least chest height.

    Unusually and exceedingly peculiar and altogether quite impossible to describe...


    • #3
      Re: What's The Best Way To Learn Digital Photography?

      If you want to take classes, check out a local Community College. Many are offering digital photography now -- and they probably won't require an dSLR since they're designed to teach you how to get the most out of your camera, not how to empty your pockets.

      Mostly, though, if you want to know digital, you need to know film. There's no difference in shooting film and digital except for camera settings and the final output. Digital is based on slide film technology, after all.

      The book we used for our digital photography:


      That number is the ISBN. It's a big thick book that concentrates VERY little on digital editing and more on doing as much as possible in camera to get it right before it ever gets to the computer.

      Photoshop is rather expensive. So, if you don't want to spend your life learning it, I suggest Photoshop Elements or Gimp.


      • #4
        Re: What's The Best Way To Learn Digital Photography?

        BTW: You should also join the MC Photographers club. One of the biggest clubs on MCG!


        • #5
          Re: What's The Best Way To Learn Digital Photography?

          I learned photography by taking a film black and white photography course for a year. I want to go back and take more. IMO it does nto matter if it's film or digital. Photogtaphy is photography. That being said the main difference comes in the editing. darkroom vs. photoshop, but for me the foundation is the photography (composition and technique) and photoshop is used to enhance that. Much like a darkroom is used to enhance film photography. Yes, i know photos and negatives can be a scanned and worked in photoshop, but if your doing that you might as well be shooting in digital anyway.

          as far as photoshop. I use CS2. i learned that basically on my own by reading books. I did take courses in college to to get my certificate, but by the time I took the classes I knew it.

          I also belong to a digital photographers board. They have some amazing photgeaphers on it so i read that, look at their work and soak it all up....


          • #6
            Re: What's The Best Way To Learn Digital Photography?

            I learned by playing with my camera...trying out all the settings and such.

            Then I started playing with Photoshop...I just tinkered with it until I started getting good at it.

            Just experiment. That's the great thing about digital photography - no film to buy and/or waste. Instant results!


            • #7
              Re: What's The Best Way To Learn Digital Photography?

              I see painting classes were mentioned....I'm not sure if it helped me or not, but part of the classes I took for my certificate in graphic design was drawing 1 and 2. We learned to paint as well as many other techniques. I like pastels. I also took an illustration class. We made a comic book, but to be honest what helped the most was the photography classes. I really do not like drawing or painting. It takes to long. I like to see reults fast. Of course it could be that i just draw to slow...LOL

              There's another class that I would love to take. I think it's just regular phtography, but the instrutor takes the class out hiking and camping for photography trips. That sounds fun, but alas...all these classes are mon-fri 8 to 5 times...and that is my work schedule...


              • #8
                Re: What's The Best Way To Learn Digital Photography?

                Thanks for the tips, guys! Got any more...please keep em comin...

                God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.


                • #9
                  Re: What's The Best Way To Learn Digital Photography?

                  Learn your camera's lag time (for action shots). By the time you snap that great shot your subject may have moved out of the camera's view.

                  Investing in a spare battery to tote along is a good idea, especially if you have a rechargeable.

                  Morrigoon is right, the more you shoot the more useable shots you'll come up with! THAT is absolutely my favorite part of having a digital camera - the chance to take 7 or 8 shots of the same thing without wasting film.

                  Don't forget a great printer can make or break that great shot. There are so many on the market that it can be daunting to find the right printer for you. I love my Epson - the print quality can't be beat and the ink is reasonably priced, something that is pretty important if you plan on printing out your own shots.

                  I still have and use my film camera but I love my digital!

                  War is over if you want it...

                  Peace - Love - Mickey Mouse


                  • #10
                    Re: What's The Best Way To Learn Digital Photography?

                    Here's some highlights learned with a Sony Mavica CD-1000 (only 2.1MP but a LOT of lens) and a little 3MP Olympus. Some of it learned the hard way.

                    1. Shoot lots of stuff - with digital you don't have to spend money on film, so don't skimp on the clicking. Take multiple angles of your subjects, get it in Portrait and Landscape, Close and Long shots, try different perspectives so things are symmetric and asymetric. (For a Homepage shot you may want the subject to be on one side, so you can overlay text in the 'blank' area.)

                    2. Always shoot at the maximum resolution your camera can do, and always save the file at high resolution unless you have a very good reason. You can always resize the picture file down later (and throw away the excess bits) for use on a webpage, but if you don't have the bits needed for fine details you can never enlarge or crop that picture.

                    4MP is only good for up to roughly 8X10, any lower and you cant go above 6X9 without it looking pixellated.

                    3. Play with the various modes - Close-Up, Forced fill flash, Forced no flash, Red-Eye Reduction, self-timer mode.

                    4. If your camera has semi-auto choices of Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority get used to them and learn when they are useful - Aperture Priority can get you more depth-of-field (both near and far items are in focus) at the cost of longer shutter times.

                    That's how they shot "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" and had everyone in focus, and they did most of it in the camera - very small aperture, as fast film as they could get, and a WHOLE LOT of light.

                    Shutter Priority will stop a race car but not in low light. And you need to go to long exposures for night shots - bracket the same shot at 1/2, 1, 2, 4, 8 seconds, each will give you different effects as to how much of the background is visible. I have some wonderful stuff of the Castle done this way. And you can also do timed exposures with flash - the long exposure gets the background, and the fill flash at the end gets the people in the foreground.

                    5. Don't trust the little preview screen on the camera for making decisions, the detail resolution simply is not there for the "delete or save" decisions or the "I have what I want, I can stop" decisions. Shoot several insurance exposures to make sure you have what you want, and make those decisions when you get to a computer to view the pictures in proper detail.

                    (Because the one shot you thought was perfect, the subject has a tree growing out of their ear, or they blinked...)

                    6. Get as big a memory card as you can - Gigabytes are cheap. (Or get one of the newer Mavica CD models, and keep feeding it cheap blank CD-R's.) Have extra cards with you, like a floppy they occasionally go bad - so don't put the entire month-long trip on one easy-to-lose card. Download them onto a laptop or a DVD-R along the way as insurance.

                    7. Save them *all* to CD or DVD or Hard Drive, or both (well, you can delete the stuff that's hopelessly blurred or out of focus) - you never know when a throw-away shot turns out to be the crucial one. A year later you hear about a crash on Big Thunder, and suddenly one of those 'nothing' shots you took may be priceless.

                    8. Have multiple batteries, and a portable charger. Three batteries (or sets) for each camera is the sweet spot - one for using, one for carrying as spares, one for charging. And when one dies of old age in mid trip (and they will) you still have two.

                    9. For better cameras with a threaded filter mount ring, get at least one filter and leave it on to protect the lens from scratches. A circular polarizer is great for this and will allow shooting through windows with reduced reflections. Or a Daylight Neutral will make the blue skies pop even if it isn't that 'blue' out. Much easier than messing with Photoshop later.

                    10. Get a good carrying case. That little bit of padding may be just enough to avoid an expensive camera repair bill.

                    11. Mark your name on everything, with a contact address or phone number. (Best is a cellphone that you are carrying on the trip.) This includes battery packs, lens caps, chargers and accessories. Lost gear can find it's way home if the finder has a way to contact you.

                    12. Get a good sturdy tripod - it makes landscape shots and fireworks pictures possible. And if you learn how to run the self-timer you can be in your own shots.

                    13. Read the instructions on how to remove the memory card from the camera - on most, you *must* power the camera down before taking out the card. I had a friend accidentally erase a card full of really good stuff (including the Opera House Lincoln Theatre in mid-Rehab) by playing with the card...

                    I am going to stop now... :sleep:

                    --<< Bruce >>--
                    There's No Place Like


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