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Real beginner

Discussion in 'Introductions...' started by Meomyo, Oct 18, 2020.

  1. Meomyo

    Meomyo Member

    Hi all

    Joined up for advice and to learn. I have always loved art but I'm useless at painting and drawing, so felt I needed something to fill that need, photography seemed the obvious choice.

    Finding it an expensive and somewhat overwhelming hobby so far!
  2. Chester AP

    Chester AP Well-Known Member

    If you tell us what type of pictures you want to take, and your budget, and some helpful suggestions will certainly follow. Like many things, how expensive it is depends on how much you choose to spend. For example, you can get some really good older model digital cameras second hand if you know what to look for, which is why the consideration of subject and budget are important.

    Perhaps photography is just one form of art (everybody probably has a different opinion). See if your local library (which may now be open again, subject to certain rules about social distancing and hand cleaning) has any books about photographers and their work - some pictures taken 50 or 100 years ago may inspire you.
  3. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    Hi and welcome. I’m useless at drawing and painting too, and not much better at photography - but I don’t try for art :)

    Photography was never a cheap hobby but most people start from modest beginnings. The main thing is to buy on the basis of need rather than want, or worse, what other people say you should buy.

    There are some basic things to learn but it isn’t that complicated. The great thing(s) about modern cameras is that you can get good results “out of the box”, running costs are low, the technical information about each shot is automatically recorded and you can get instant feedback on the results. With mirrorless cameras you also get a preview of the “result” with respect to whether the exposure is right for what you want.
  4. Meomyo

    Meomyo Member

    Hi thanks for the replies. I do already have a camera (Canon 2000D) and a few lenses, still finding my feet
  5. John Fantastic

    John Fantastic Active Member

    Welcome Meomyo, After your initial gear purchase, things are no longer that expensive. :)
  6. John Fantastic

    John Fantastic Active Member

    Same with me Meomyo, I have always admired paintings unfortunately I cant so I took photography as a hobby intead. :)
  7. RovingMike

    RovingMike Crucifixion's a doddle...

    Welcome. Do stick some things in Appraisals and we'll try to help.
  8. Meomyo

    Meomyo Member

    Hi all,

    As to the question above, my main interest is macro, botany and anything outdoors. I am not interested in taking pictures of people or pets etc. I have a Canon 2000d and various lenses, my most used its the Sigma macro lens. any tips would be great. I watch an awful lot of videos, but still struggle with knowing which setting to use in any given situation., mainly to do with aperture and shutter speed.

  9. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    Hi, watching videos isn’t a good substitute for practice!

    Shutter speed, which I prefer to call exposure time, is the length of time the aperture is open. In practical terms, if it is too long then the subject being photographed my move, the camera may move, or both. For macro photography even the slightest camera movement will cause blurring (in jargon cause softness) of the image. For botanical subjects that aren’t nailed down the wind is a permanent problem. Camera movement can be limited by using a tripod and remote release.

    Aperture, the diameter of the hole in the closed lens diaphragm, controls depth of field. The smaller it is (higher F number) the greater the depth of field in the image. Depth of field varies strongly with distance between camera and subject. Macro/close up photography needs small apertures to get depth of field. As the physical aperture gets very small (towards a pin-hole) the image cast gets increasingly affected by light passing around the edges of the hole which makes the image softer. So although a macro-lens may be marked to F32 the increased depth of field may be countered by the softening effect of diffusion. The trade-off varies on a case by case basis but as a rule pictures become less sharp from F11 onward.

    Exposure time and the area of the aperture together determine the amount of light that gets through the lens. There is an optimum for each situation. The camera meter will, these days, give a pretty good estimate of what it is, but is not infallible. So for a given aperture, subject, ISO value on the camera, there is one exposure time that gives the right amount of light. Close the aperture one stop then the exposure time must be doubled to keep the amount of light constant.

    On today’s cameras the aperture is electronically controlled can be varied in half or 1/3 stops by a camera setting, ditto the exposure time. The whole stop sequence F2, F2.8, F4, F5.6, F8 .... etc is based on a square root of 2 sequence because the area of the aperture, which determines the light coming through, goes as the square of the aperture diameter.

    You can think of ISO as controlling the sensitivity of the camera. A high value indicates “most sensitive” but carries with it an increase in noise and loss of definition. For close up/macro work it is better to use a lower value of ISO where possible.

    Low ISO and small apertures tend to mean long exposure times and increased risk of camera/subject movement so it is common to use tripods for close-up photography under natural light. Hand-held very blurry pictures are probably movement and missed focus. If you lean forward with a camera you will sway as your body seeks to maintain balance. If everything is perfectly set up but the image doesn’t look pin sharp then you probably have too small an aperture (F22, F32). If too light or too dark then the camera meter is getting confused. You can override this using exposure compensation or manually setting ISO, aperture and exposure time.

    I won’t touch on lighting other than to say that bright sunshine makes flower photography very difficult because of high contrast and reflections. Modifying light is a big subject.

    Hope this helps. Show us some pictures!
  10. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    Hi Meomyo,

    Pete has given a good precis of what each thing does. The thing now is to learn how to apply that. I always ask my classes to think about the photograph they are hoping to take before they press the shutter. Do they want a fully sharp picture front to back? Do they want the background to be soft but the subject sharp? Do they want to show the movement of the subject or is it important that it has that 'frozen in time' look? Because you use the info Pete gave above to achieve those looks.

    There are two rough and ready ways to tell if your exposure is appropriate or not. One is to use your camera's built in light meter. Turn the camera on and look through the veiwfinder. You may need to half depress your shutter to activate it on certain models but there will be a series of marks in a line across the viewfinder. Sometimes red marks sometimes green. Point your camera at something very dark and the moveable indicator will shift to the left. Point it at something very bright and it will move to the right. If the indicator comes to rest in the centre of the line you 'should' have a decent exposure. It isn't foolproof because the camera can be 'confused' by very very dark scenes or very very bright scenes and it doesn't always handle very high contrast scenes but it's a good start.

    The other thing to do is to take a picture, assess what you got and make tweaks. This is probably a better learning exercise than simply relying on the light meter when you start out.

    First thing to do, always in my opinion, is to decide what the light is like. There are various qualities of light that we can discuss but start with how bright it is. Properly take note of that, particularly if you are indoors. Our eyes can adapt to what my gran used to call the 'dim glim' of indoor lighting but cameras are much less adaptable and if you're shooting indoors there is a very good chance you don't have enough light. But we can come back to that and in the mean time, while you're still learning to asses the light for yourself you can use your camera to do it.

    I think the best thing to do is learn to change one setting at a time on your camera or it can feel like a confusing mess. So. One way to do this using fully manual settings to choose a mid-range set of options (I like f/8, 1/125secs and ISO 200 because it gives you some wiggle room in all directions) and then take a picture. Look at it. Is it too dark? If depth of field (how much of the image from front to back appears sharp) is the key thing for you, you can impact the brightness of your image using your aperture. If you 'open up' the aperture from f/8 to say f/5.6, that will let in more light (double the amount actually). The additional effect will be that a smaller portion of your image will appear in sharp focus - it will have a shallower depth of field. If your image is too bright, making the aperture smaller, say from f/8 to f/11 will let in less light (half in this instance) and your image will similarly be darker. In turn you will have an increased depth of field and more of your image will appear sharp from front to back.

    If the way that movement is captured is your main focus, affect the amount of light reaching the sensor using your exposure time instead. The shorter the time, the less light gets through. 1/125th second isn't much time at all and if your light isn't particularly bright you may find that you have to extend the exposure time. Moving from 1/125th second to 1/60th of a second will pretty much double the amount of light and increase the brightness of your shot. If your subject moves while in front of you, you may capture blur. Moving from 1/125th of a second to 1/250th of a second means you'll likely freeze motion but you'll half the amount of light coming in.

    Practice changing just one of them to get a feel for what that does in given situations. Then try changing both. You will see that they work in tandem and that you can increase the amount of light coming in with one, and decrease the amount of light with the other. Or vice versa. This lets you do things like have a greater depth of field (smaller aperture) but capture the blur of movement (longer exposure) in the same lighting conditions as you could have a shallow depth of field but frozen movement. I like to think of it like cooking. You could cook a pan of potatoes on high heat for less time, or low heat for longer. Substitute heat and time for light and time and you've figured out your camera settings! The difference is that in photography, if the light conditions aren't going to let you take the shot you want with the settings you want, you can increase or decrease the ISO until they work.

    Simples. The next thing will be composition and framing which personally I think is probably even more important that all of the above because your camera can and will do a pretty good job of dealing with most of that on auto but if you can't create a decent composition you're on your own!
    EightBitTony likes this.
  11. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    My advice is much simpler:
    1. make sure the camera is set to full automatic
    2. find a subject that interests you
    3. take lots of differnt pictures of that single subject
    4. go home, download and view each picture
    5. if you don't like a particular pictures, delete it
    6. when all the pictures you don't like have been deleted, study the remainder carefully
    7. decide what made you keep those pictures
    8. store the pictures you've kept carefully, remembering to make backup copies on a different disk or USB stick
    9. delete everything from the card in your camera
    10. start again at (1)
    You'll notice that I argue against trying to understand the technical side of things until you've worked out what pictures please you. There's no point in keeping a dog and barking yourself and there's no point in using an automatic capable camera and worrying about technicalities that the programming can handle better than you, in almost every case.
  12. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    It is true that cameras are very clever. For specific subject matter - like close ups I would change 1 from "use fully automatic" to "use a scene mode" because most cameras have built in modifications to full auto that will increase the chance of success.

    Looking at the "picture" rather than getting obsessed by details is very important. Ultimately to reproduce successes ( point 7) understanding of the details is needed.

    I'd endorse point 9 and 8. It is awkward ending up with thousands of pictures on a card. On the computer you will quite quickly need to have some filing system to keep track of images. Ten is easy, a hundred is easy, ten thousand is a nightmare if not organised.
  13. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    Using the scene modes is a good second step, I think. I'd suggest the following...
    1. Use the full automatic setting until you've understood what works for you
    2. Progress to the scene modes when you understand what isn't working for you
    3. Move on to manual over-ride when you know what situations scene modes can't help you with.
  14. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    See my last paragraph. But as the poster specifically asked about the technical settings....
  15. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    I gave the best advice I could. If he finds it helpful: good. If he doesn't: equally good.
  16. Chester AP

    Chester AP Well-Known Member

    You might find this website page helpful - it's American, but mostly comprehensible. The 'exposure triangle' section may be confusing initially (it tries to show how the 3 variables of shutter speed, aperture and ISO work together), so look at the separate sections about these first. What this website does well is to show you examples of pictures that illustrate what it explains.

    Also, using the website's search facility will help you understand other terms you may read here or see online (for example, searching on 'macro' lists 15 sections of the website that may help you, but start with the 'exposure' page). I suspect you may find this more helpful than videos found online that are sometimes made by hyperactive people who have difficulty talking clearly.

  17. dream_police

    dream_police Well-Known Member

    Haha. That made me smile.
  18. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    A bit like my husband then ;-)
    MJB likes this.
  19. Meomyo

    Meomyo Member

    Wow thanks for the help, I am overwhelmed with the kindness and time you lads/lasses put in. I am aware practice makes perfect, but am often out and about, and as I live in the UK, the weather is changeable to say the least. What I struggle with most is seeing something that will move and fiddling with the settings to get the best shot. I'll keep at it. As to watching videos I do this as even if one thing suddenly 'clicks' in my head, I find it useful, also I only watch videos from non hyperactive people :), as soon as it looks like more like someone trying to make it big, then I don't subscribe. I only watch composed, intelligent people who are simply trying to help, such as those on this forum. I am trying to gain confidence and as has been mentioned above I am trying to adapt to differing light levels and conditions. I find the science behind this fun (always been a bit of a geek at heart) , I think I may have improved ever so slightly, I am always trying to shoot on full manual as I know that is the best way to learn. I am not ready to upload any photos, unless you want a good laugh? :)

    Next thing to tackle is editing afterwards. Phew, that is an art in itself, knowing what to tweak and what to leave alone. I think it is like any art form, I may love the look of a photo, someone else will not. Each to their own I guess.

    Very quick question to tag on to the end, are the 'auto' settings in Lightroom (and other similar apps) any good? Is it really intuitive enough?

    I have read your replies and will use that link, have to go to work now, well turn on my work laptop, I'm not going anywhere, like most of us. Damn work getting in the way.

    I really appreciate the replies.

    Thanks again for the help
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2020
  20. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    That is so not true! It is a myth.

    There are three main reasons to shoot with entirely manual settings.

    • The camera has no auto-mode. My film camera doesn’t. I use a hand-held meter and transfer settings across.
    • The studio where light is controlled. The photographer sets the lighting to match the preset exposure.
    • Photographing action against a changing background when lighting is consistent, here the meter on a panning camera can respond to the background going from dark to light while the light on the subject is constant.
    There is a fourth, taking pictures of strongly back-lit subjects when you don’t want a silhouette. I will use a hand-held meter for this. My most common application for this is birds in flight/on water.

    My preference is aperture priority at F8. I preset ISO to ensure exposure time is consistent with hand holding, say 1/125 and I do this when I turn the camera on as well as checking exposure compensation is zero.

    Others may prefer shutter priority.

    Some set aperture and exposure time and auto-iso.

    Others, as already said use full auto or program modes.

    There are times to recognise that a camera meter doesn’t get it quite right. A bright subject will sometimes be rendered too dark and a dark subject may be rendered too light because the camera aims to produce an exposure with an overall uniform brightness. This is what you have to learn. On a mirrorless camera you can see this straight away. On a DSLR it is a reason to take a test shot and check. The solution is to apply +/- exposure compensation to the (semi) auto setting. If recording raw files these kind of corrections can mostly be applied in post-processing.
    EightBitTony likes this.

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