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First DSLR - Please help me learn how to use it


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#1 of 50 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted May 02 2008 - 05:48 AM

After years of APS cameras, I finally took the plunge and invested in a beginner DSLR rig:

Canon XSi (Digital Rebel 450)
Canon EF-S 18-55mm f4-5.6 IS
Canon EF-S 55-250mm f4-5.6 IS

Got out of the store for about $1200 + tax. Not too bad, but there goes my "economic stimulus package". Just call me the model consumer. Your welcome, American economy! Posted Image

Problem is, there's about a million things I can do with this thing which I couldn't with the APSs I've owned, and every time I try to do web research, I either get topics way too advanced, or beginner stuff that's too simplistic.

Can anyone recommend resources for those who understand how a basic DSLR camera works (i.e. I don't need to know that holding the button half-way down starts to auto-focus things) but starts to go down the road of advanced shooting while still taking the time to explain *why* and *how* certain things work (like the relationships between shutter speed, aperture, ISO and how to decide when to do what)?

Thanks in advance! Posted Image

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#2 of 50 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted May 02 2008 - 06:25 AM

I sure can!

Ben's Newbie Guide to Digital SLR Photography - Canon Digital Photography Forums
Scott Kelby's lighting gear recommendations - Canon Digital Photography Forums
FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY 101 – A BEGINNER’S GUIDE - Canon Digital Photography Forums
planet neil - tangents » flash photography techniques
Strobist
Nikon Field Flash Digital Guide photography by Thom Hogan (Nikon focused but lots of general DSLR info)

Also, and this is dangerous for me to link, but you can read Ken Rockhead, er Ken Rockwell. He has a LOT of good info but a lot of the things he writes are intended to tick off a lot of so called experts. So take anything he says with a huge grain of salt.
How to Do Anything Photographic

Sam

I lost my signature and all I got was this Nutter t-shirt


#3 of 50 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted May 02 2008 - 06:26 AM

See, there's this thing called the Zone System...

Just kidding.

This might be a good place to start: Digital Photography Tips for Beginners
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#4 of 50 OFFLINE   Marianne

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Posted May 02 2008 - 06:39 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carlo Medina
the relationships between shutter speed, aperture, ISO and how to decide when to do what


"Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson would be a good place to start.

Amazon.com: Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with a Film or Digital Camera (Updated Edition): Bryan Peterson: Books

#5 of 50 OFFLINE   Scott Merryfield

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Posted May 02 2008 - 07:00 AM

I'll second Marianne's recommendation on "Understanding Exposure". I just loaned my copy to the person who bought my Canon Rebel XT.

This link is an excellent in-depth description of how Canon's flash system works. It will explain the difference between primary flash and fill flash, and which shooting modes use each.

Once you get comfortable with the camera, the first additional accessory I'd recommend would be an external flash. If you do much indoor shooting, this will be a major step up over the built-in flash.

#6 of 50 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted May 02 2008 - 07:06 AM

You guys rock! I should soon go from "That Dude Who Has a Camera that's Way Too Good For Him, Look He Doesn't Even Know How To Use It" to "Okay, he looks like he is more advanced than a point-and-shooter" in no time! Posted Image

Please keep the resources coming! Posted ImagePosted Image

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#7 of 50 OFFLINE   Scott Merryfield

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Posted May 02 2008 - 07:23 AM

Once you understand aperture and it's relationship to depth of field (DoF), this online depth of field calculator may be of interest.

#8 of 50 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted May 02 2008 - 09:13 AM

Carlo, the main thing to understand (you won't believe it until, or if, you truly learn photography) is that 95% of photography is the same regardless of the sensor. In other words regardless of if it is film or digital. I personally would stay away from online forums to learn about photography. They are great for arguments over the minutae of hardware. Find a copy of Kodak's Joy of Photography for a good, solid understanding of the universal principles of photography. There is very little difference between shooting a 35mm SLR and a DSLR. The equivalent focal lengths are just a bit different, dynamic range is significantly more limited and depth of field is greater by default, so selective focus is more challenging.

Also, as soon as you start thinking "I'll just fix it on the computer" you're screwed. Garbage in, garbage out. The computer is great for fine tuning, but you can't "fix" anything.

The Hybrid System

The Music Part: Emotiva XSP-1, Thiel CS 3.6, Emotiva XPA-2, Marantz SA8004, Emotiva ERC-3, SVS PB-12 Plus 2

The Surround Part: Sherbourn PT-7030, Thiel SCS3, Emotiva XPA-5, Polk & Emotiva Surrounds.


#9 of 50 OFFLINE   ManW_TheUncool

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Posted May 02 2008 - 04:39 PM

Carlo,

I didn't read through all the various suggestions -- most/all are no doubt good/useful. Maybe I'll add some more later too.

But I do want to say that I generally agree w/ John that digital is really not all that different from film. Yeah, there are some finer points that are different, but pretty much all the principles work the same though digital postprocessing is more w/in reach for us mortals than film processing. Posted Image But yeah, that too is more limited than people tend to assume. There is no free lunch.

The one big advantage of digital though is it allows you to shoot w/out worrying about film costs and such and thus allows you to experiment more and have a better chance at overcoming poor odds in difficult situations for certain kinds of shooting. Also, since digital bodies are generally more advanced on the tech side beyond the sensor itself than old film bodies, you do get some better auto-type capabilities than the old film bodies, which helps for certain kinds of shooting as well -- but again, that's got very little to do w/ digital vs film per se (unless the film mechanism itself comes into play, which it can for stuff like shooting speed, eg. beyond say 3 fps).

Anyhoo, enjoy your new gear and go make some fine photos...

Cheers!

_Man_

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnRice
Carlo, the main thing to understand (you won't believe it until, or if, you truly learn photography) is that 95% of photography is the same regardless of the sensor. In other words regardless of if it is film or digital. I personally would stay away from online forums to learn about photography. They are great for arguments over the minutae of hardware. Find a copy of Kodak's Joy of Photography for a good, solid understanding of the universal principles of photography. There is very little difference between shooting a 35mm SLR and a DSLR. The equivalent focal lengths are just a bit different, dynamic range is significantly more limited and depth of field is greater by default, so selective focus is more challenging.

Also, as soon as you start thinking "I'll just fix it on the computer" you're screwed. Garbage in, garbage out. The computer is great for fine tuning, but you can't "fix" anything.

Just another amateur learning to paint w/ "the light of the world".

"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things..." (St. Paul)

#10 of 50 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted May 02 2008 - 05:47 PM

My point is, the principles are the same. Speed is not a factor in understanding the fundamentals. Also, it is always best to understand what a camera is doing automatically, rather than just pushing a button.

The Hybrid System

The Music Part: Emotiva XSP-1, Thiel CS 3.6, Emotiva XPA-2, Marantz SA8004, Emotiva ERC-3, SVS PB-12 Plus 2

The Surround Part: Sherbourn PT-7030, Thiel SCS3, Emotiva XPA-5, Polk & Emotiva Surrounds.


#11 of 50 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted May 02 2008 - 10:31 PM

I think I've already figured out my next purchase: either the "nifty fifty" EF 50mm f/1.8 II or the f/1.4 version.

Scott, I do take a lot of indoor photos, but a lot of times flash is not allowed (i.e. museums) or inappropriate (i.e. quieter settings where you don't want flashes popping off). So I've read that either one will take great low light pictures (obviously the 1.4 is better but is also 3X the price). But since this may be the lens that gets the most use indoors (the 18-55 will be my walk-about lens) it may be worth the $350 or so to go with the f/1.4.

Maybe in a few months, when my pocketbook recovers, I'll spring for the external flash!

Thanks again for all of the great suggestions!

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#12 of 50 OFFLINE   Scott Merryfield

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Posted May 03 2008 - 12:58 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carlo Medina
I think I've already figured out my next purchase: either the "nifty fifty" EF 50mm f/1.8 II or the f/1.4 version.

Scott, I do take a lot of indoor photos, but a lot of times flash is not allowed (i.e. museums) or inappropriate (i.e. quieter settings where you don't want flashes popping off). So I've read that either one will take great low light pictures (obviously the 1.4 is better but is also 3X the price). But since this may be the lens that gets the most use indoors (the 18-55 will be my walk-about lens) it may be worth the $350 or so to go with the f/1.4.

Maybe in a few months, when my pocketbook recovers, I'll spring for the external flash!

Thanks again for all of the great suggestions!

Carlo,

Yes, for indoor photos without flash you will need a faster (i.e. larger aperture) lens than you have. That means at least f/2.8 or faster. I own the 50mm f/1.8 -- it's not a bad lens image-quality-wise, but it's poorly constructed (plastic mount). Of course, for $80 you cannot expect much. I never use it anymore, since it needs to be stopped down to f/2.8 for the best image quality, and I now have the 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens, which is very good wide open.

The 50mm f/1.4 is better-built, but about the same image quality as the f/1.8. Another option would be the 85mm f1/8. It's supposed to be an excellent lens, and is very affordable. This one is on my wish list for indoor portraits.

One other word of advice -- if you plan to shoot indoors without flash, learn to shoot in RAW format. Canon's auto white balance function does not work well on these types of shots. My indoor non-flash photos always look too orange using auto white balance, and the tungsten setting is too blue. This was the case both with my old Rebel XT and my 40D. So, your options will be either setting a custom white balance or fixing it in post processing.

RAW is not difficult to PP using Canon's Digital Photo Professional software, which is included with your camera. There is an online tutorial here for version 3.2. Version 3.3 is now out, but it operates the same as ver 3.2, so the tutorial should still be fine.

#13 of 50 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted May 03 2008 - 03:38 AM

I like shooting concerts and the 50mm 1.8 has been great for that. I'm thinking of getting the the 85mm 1.8 for a little more reach, but it's hard to beat the price per quality of the 50mm.
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#14 of 50 OFFLINE   ErichH

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Posted May 03 2008 - 04:28 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam Posten
I sure can!

Ben's Newbie Guide to Digital SLR Photography - Canon Digital Photography Forums
Scott Kelby's lighting gear recommendations - Canon Digital Photography Forums
FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY 101 – A BEGINNER’S GUIDE - Canon Digital Photography Forums
planet neil - tangents » flash photography techniques
Strobist
Nikon Field Flash Digital Guide photography by Thom Hogan (Nikon focused but lots of general DSLR info)

Also, and this is dangerous for me to link, but you can read Ken Rockhead, er Ken Rockwell. He has a LOT of good info but a lot of the things he writes are intended to tick off a lot of so called experts. So take anything he says with a huge grain of salt.
How to Do Anything Photographic

Sam


Thanks for the links

As for Rockwell, he does tick off a lot of so called serious shutters, but always reinforces the thought that gear is not the goal. I do like his not so serious approach to reviewing DX lenses. The new Tonika 11-16mm could be my answer for indoor shots of furniture. His lens correction tips for the wides are very useful.

#15 of 50 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted May 03 2008 - 07:22 AM

Thanks Scott. Since I don't have the cash to sprint for the 17-55 f/2.8 lens, I'm pretty much stuck with either the 50mm 1.4 or 1.2, depending on what I can afford and the image/build quality difference.

I am learning to shoot in RAW. And I do have Photoshop CS3 so I'll have to figure out which is better for PP (I'm going to assume it's CS3 but I have to learn how to properly do it). I'm actually going to shoot in RAW+JPEG so I can have instant gratification to send the images to friends as a JPEG, and fool around with the RAW later.

I think I'm going to go with the 50 over the 85 because with the XSi having a 1.6 multiplier, I want the shorter distance of the 50 over the 85.

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#16 of 50 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted May 03 2008 - 09:56 AM

Okay, I just spent $320 for the EF 50mm f/1.4 and $30 on the haze filter and oh my God...it's amazing! Crystal clear, razor sharp, indoor shots at low/ambient lighting, f/1.8, 1/50 shutter speed, ISO200. I already don't regret it. And it's heavier than my other two el-cheapo Canon lenses. This thing is built solid and probably will be my every day lens as long as I don't need telephoto or wide-angle.

Unfortunately now that I see what a true quality lens can do, I'm going to start saving up for that quality 17-55 f/2.8 that Scott has or the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM.

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#17 of 50 OFFLINE   Scott Merryfield

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Posted May 03 2008 - 10:06 AM

Quote:
Unfortunately now that I see what a true quality lens can do, I'm going to start saving up for that quality 17-55 f/2.8 that Scott has or the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM.

Uh, oh. You've been bitten by the lens bug, Carlo! I foresee many expensive purchases in your future. Posted Image

Personally, I'd go with the 17-55 over the 24-70 because 24mm is really not wide enough for a 1.6x crop sensor. My original walk around lens was a Sigma 17-70mm, and I really do not miss the 55-70mm range.

#18 of 50 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted May 03 2008 - 08:11 PM

Why I love my EF 50mm f/1.4...

Hopefully this works. My first uploads to my Flickr account. Best viewed in Safari, because for some reason Firefox lightens up the pictures and changes the colors! Safari looks most like what I see in Photoshop CS3 when I reduce the RAW files. Firefox looks like it not only increases the brightness, but puts a slight brown/sepia tone to my pictures! That was enlightening as I figured all browsers displayed images the same way. Never would have figured they could render the photos differently from each other.

The indoor shots were with no flash. And despite having no IS (and I have notoriously poor luck with camera shake) the EF 50 f/1.4 let me take the shots at a high enough shutter speed, while keeping ISO low, so that the image didn't suffer from blurriness due to shake.

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#19 of 50 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted May 03 2008 - 08:22 PM

I don't see a difference between Safari and Firefox, at least on my computer.
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#20 of 50 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted May 03 2008 - 08:32 PM

Cameron - I just uploaded a tiff of a screengrab of my Mac. Hope you can see the difference I see on my desktop (though it may look identical on yours). Put my equipment and software list on there in case it matters.

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