November 20, 2015 8:16 PM MST - Subscription purchasing, account maintenance, forum profile maintenance, new account registration, and forum posting have been disabled
as we prepare our databases for the final migration to our new server next week. Stay tuned here for more details.
Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Where do I start?
Display Avatars Sort By:
Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Where do I start? on 07/01/2013 18:23:21 MDT Print View

I'm a sub novice photographer. I own a Nikon D5000, a Canon P&S, and an iPhone 4s. I'd really like to learn how to get the most out of my existing equipment before I think about upgrading.

Where do I start? Is there a book I should read or another forum I should stalk which caters to beginners?

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Where do I start? on 07/01/2013 18:30:09 MDT Print View

I don't know about your specific area, but where I live, there are community college classes for different kinds of photography. If not c.c., then sometimes a city has adult recreation classes that cover photography.

There are some books on outdoor photography, but many are very equipment-specific, and the books seem obsolete in a hurry. If nothing else, they tend to be a source of inspiration, and then the reader has to go put it into practice.


Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Where do I start? on 07/01/2013 18:36:02 MDT Print View

You can also check out for photo groups geared toward beginners in your area.

Richard May

Locale: Swamplands.
One book I've really enjoyed on 07/01/2013 18:44:44 MDT Print View

Hi Ian, I've taught photography on a few occasions and when looking for books the vast majority are technical instruction books. There are so many I'd recommend just going to a local book store and browsing until you find one that is clear to you. There isn't much magic to the technical stuff. It's like driving and the more you practice the easier the tech will come to you.

The magic of making good images is about seeing them in the first place, the technical simply supports your vision. Kind of like writing. Unless you have a good story all the writing skills in the world don't matter.

To that end there is a book I have enjoyed very much: The Practice of Contemplative Photography by Andy Karr and Michael Wood.

I think it's well suited to the outdoors as it teaches you to 'see' first, which is one of the main reasons for going, and develop the technical skills in tandem with your vision. The book is divided into exercises that help you see light, texture, color, simplicity, etc. The technical stuff will come naturally as yo inquire the medium and make images.

Just my 2 cents.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Where do I start? on 07/01/2013 18:45:22 MDT Print View

For each major camera brand, like Nikon or Canon, there is a user's forum on the internet. Sometimes that is more of a discussion group, and sometimes that is more of a photo-sharing group. Some are better than others.

No offense here, but if you are really a beginner, it would not hurt you to get into a photo-sharing group. You will see both good stuff and bad stuff, and if your eye can sort out the difference between the two, that is a start. Sometimes the intermediate users get into a discussion group. If you share some recent images, don't be afraid that they will tear you apart. At first, that happens.

Another approach is to shoot some stuff, and then print out the very best images with a good printer on good paper. Show those around to friends. After a while, you will learn which ones show good skills and which do not.


Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Where do I start? on 07/01/2013 19:29:26 MDT Print View

Thanks Gents. That gives me something to work with.

Clayton Black
(Jivaro) - MLife
My now professional photographer son started on DPchallenge on 07/01/2013 19:39:27 MDT Print View

Peter S
(prse) - MLife

Locale: Denmark
Dpreview on 07/02/2013 02:48:52 MDT Print View

Hej Ian

Try looking at the forums at, you'll probably find a subforum for each of your cameras and some for your beginning needs. Very high activity, so easy to get good answers. Highly Recommended forum, I've used it for years.

Good luck.

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Where do I start? on 07/02/2013 03:25:45 MDT Print View continues to have a very high std of photography posted by its members and the forums are a good source of advice.

Mountain Light: In Search of the Dynamic Landscape by G Rowell is as inspirational today as when it was first written, despite being years out of date in terms of equipment.

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: Dpreview on 07/02/2013 08:54:50 MDT Print View

My best piece of advice is to not worry so much about the gear. The various forums can be a good place to learn but its easy to get sucked in to thinking you need the newest camera, lens, or gadget will make your pictures better.
When I got interested in photography I took the one photography course my college offered. It didn't focus on how to use all the modes and functions of the camera. Instead we studied a host of different photographers' work and worked on learning how to see. Sure, knowing how to control DOF with the aperture or freeze/blur motion with the shutter speed is an essential skill but after not much practice it will be easy. Having a vision or inspiration is much harder to come by. I find that checking out a new photography book or going to the museum help inspire me or at least give me a new idea to try out.
To figure out how to use the camera, Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson is very good. For more on how to make better photographs The Photographer's Eye by Michael Freeman is one I like, as well as The Art of Photography by Bruce Barnbaum and The Practice of Contemplative Photography that was mentioned above.
The big thing is to get out and start making pictures that YOU like. Getting on the internet and debating whether the extra 1/3 of a stop of the 85/1.4 is worth the $500 premium over the 85/1.8 is about as productive as arguing the merits of a 10d vs 15d shell on your quilt here. You're never going to get better if you don't practice and don't show your work to your friends and family. You'll know you're getting better when you have to turn down offers to take their wedding pictures :)


Eric Lundquist
(cobberman) - F - M

Locale: Northern Colorado
Re: Where do I start? on 07/02/2013 09:45:46 MDT Print View

Tony Wong has a great essay posted on Hike It. Like It. The whole series is a good read, but I like Tony's comments on changing your position to get shots that aren't from eye level. Such as standing on a stump/rock or crouching down low. Often the images will be more dramatic than those taken from a standing position.

Edited by cobberman on 07/02/2013 09:46:44 MDT.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Where do I start? on 07/02/2013 10:08:45 MDT Print View

Again gents, thanks for the wealth of information. The D5000 is certainly an entry level DSLR but I'm not going to consider upgrading until I've improved my technique. I really appreciate all of the advice and I'll start reading through some of these forums and order the suggested reading material.

Happy trails folks!

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Where do I start? on 07/02/2013 17:00:07 MDT Print View

Ditch the iPhone.
Carry the P&S with you in your pocket or in a pouch on your shoulder strap, where you can get it out in seconds with one hand. Practice that.
The problem with a DSLR is the time it takes to get it out and take a photo. One tends to miss far too many shots. It is not a good learning camera.

Realise that taking a photo costs nothing these days. So take many, many, many. When you take one photo, take a second in the opposite mode (landscape vs portrait). Then another zoomed a bit. Then move along a short way and take another. LOOK at what you are photographing.

When you get home, study each photo as though someone else took it. What are the good ones? Fwiiw, I would expect to take 20 average photos or more for every good photo. Oh well, and probably one or two duds as well!

Really good photography has very little to do with the technical merits of the camera. Some of the world's finest photos were taken with a Box Brownie. What you need is an 'eye' for a photo, and training your eye takes time - and lots of practice.


Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Where do I start? on 07/02/2013 17:09:07 MDT Print View

Thanks Roger. The one benefit I have with the iPhone is time lapse photography. I may be able to do that with my other cameras but if so, I haven't figured out how yet.

I can identify with the 20/1 ratio. I think part of the problem is that I'm not taking enough pictures and from enough angles.

Richard May

Locale: Swamplands.
take your time on 07/02/2013 17:40:53 MDT Print View

I once had a teacher who always wanted to see my bad pictures, all the outtakes, We'd spend most of our time on those... at first it was kind of embarrassing, I was a bit of a smart-assed teenager so it was also a reality check. But in the end, and to this day, I learn more from honestly looking at my bad pictures and assessing what I wanted to get versus what I actually got.

I find that most of my bad images are the result of my vision not matching reality. Either because what I wanted wasn't there (time of day, lighting, etc) or, I hadn't clarified what I wanted to portray (ie not the water but how the ripples distort the reflection in the water).

These kinds of assessments are invaluable.

Esoterically speaking to make a good image you have to see reality for what it is and not what you want it to be.

Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: London, UK
Re: Where do I start? on 07/02/2013 18:10:02 MDT Print View


Edited by rmjapan on 06/19/2015 14:51:43 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Where do I start? on 07/02/2013 18:19:17 MDT Print View

Yes, I read books by Galen Rowell and John Shaw during my formative years.

Yes, if you really understand photography, you can get good results regardless of whether you are digital or film. However, digital photography minimized so much of the continuous cost of photography (compared to film and processing) that you can shoot a lot more and eventually get good results just by trial and error. You really want to have that internal feeling for exposure and composition. Preconception of the image before you ever snap the button becomes important.


Peter S
(prse) - MLife

Locale: Denmark
Disagree on 07/02/2013 19:56:37 MDT Print View

Ian, I'll disagree wholeheartedly with Roger. I believe a SLR is the best and fastest way to learn photography. A good pistol bag makes fast enough drawing of your "weapon", and they're faster to turn on, and with a manual zoom, and an optical viewfinder, composition lock is beyond compare to a P&S in speed.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Disagree on 07/03/2013 00:45:58 MDT Print View

I'm glad that you disagreed first, Peter.

Perhaps Roger got bogged down with a poor example of DSLR.

I'll pick my DSLR anytime before my P&S.


Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Where do I start? on 07/03/2013 00:53:59 MDT Print View

It is like anything we do in life -- practice.

Next is to study pictures you like.

Disclaimer: I rarely take a quality picture.