New to Photography

Perhaps you’ve recently discovered that you love to take pictures, you’ve joined a photo club, and maybe you’ve bought a small digital camera. Well, congratulations, but now what. If you’re interested in making better photographs or, at least, making photographs that come out the way you imaged, and you’re serious enough to spend $20 and read a bit, then here are a few ideas that might be of aid.

The camera is the tool of photography. And as with all tools, understanding how your tool works means you’ll know which one to use to get the result you want, i.e., using a flat-head screw driver to try to remove a philips-head screw, or using a standard toaster to try and make a grilled-cheese sandwich (this doesn’t work!).

A good beginner’s book is “The Betterphoto Guide to Digital Photography” by Jim Miotke, available at Amazon.com for about $16. It was published in 2005, but the basics still apply and the main thing that has changed since then is more pixels and higher resolution. This book will teach you how to use your camera in an easy and simple way, and also teach you the fundamentals so if you do buy a DSLR, you’ll know how it can be used.

It’s not what you shoot with, it’s how you shoot. Point & shoot cameras have some limitations as compared to ‘bigger’ DSLR cameras(digital single lens reflex), but it’s mainly depth of field and noise issues. As an example, a fair number of photos that were accepted and hung (and got awards) in the current Backus Museum photography show were taken with point & shoot cameras. Don’t feel intimidated by people with big expensive cameras and lenses.

The next step is to slow down a bit. Digital allows us to shoot hundreds of pictures and that’s what most people end up doing – like firing a machine gun and hoping to hit something. Rather, use the book (and a written out simple cheat-sheet) to get the effects you want. Pick a subject and go and shoot it on purpose with an idea of what you want to get. For example, the last time I went to shoot water lilies at McKee, I shot three areas and took 31 digital photos. It took an hour and a half and the biggest difference between the photos was the light coming through different clouds and waiting for intermittent puffs of wind to die down. I used the puffs of wind to blur the water and get a ‘painterly’ effect in the reflections, yet had to wait a few seconds so the plants weren’t moving and blurry. Read the book and you’ll know that I used a long exposure (about 3/4 second), the highest f-stop, a tripod, and for point & shoots – the self-timer so there was no camera shake.

In today’s world, we’ve gotten so use to the idea that we buy something, turn it on and we get what we want, that there’s a marked resistance to actually having to do something like read a hundred pages in order to learn. In life we get what we give, so take some time to learn and you will be rewarded with artistic creation.

Now, go and shoot and have fun making photos. You’ll never stop learning because the more you discover, the more you’ll want to try and do.

Boris Robinson
Vero Beach Photographer

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