The best advice I can give you (Beginning Photographers)
on the topic of
It's taken me many years, and many rolls of film (Thank goodness I don't have to say this anymore with digital photography) to get where I am today with photography. Like any good photographer, I'm still learning. I remember many years ago when I first started shooting with my first semi-pro film body (Elan IIe), many of the basics of photography seemed overwhelming. I stuck with it, received mixed results, and today can look at most situations and understand what to do to receive specific results. You may think that with the digital age, and LCD preview screens, this is not as necessary. I would have to disagree with you. Many situations require lightning fast reflex's and good timing. If you are spending all of your time trying to figure out what settings you should use, you have most likely missed the opportunity. Plus... knowing photography allows you to be more creative than most automatic settings will allow.
Buying a Body
If you haven't yet purchased a semi-professional body/camera yet, and really want to get into photography, the best advice I can give you is to purchase a used one. This advice will either be obvious, or overlooked by everyone who reads this. If it's obvious great, go find yourself a 20d, 30d, 40d or better Canon body for a steal on eBay, Craig's list, or your local used camera shop, but take heed; you want to purchase a semi-pro body if your buying used, not a rebel. For those of you who will overlook this, I understand. You don't like buying used, plus, what happens if something goes wrong with it, and who knows what you're buying? I've heard all the arguments, but if your serious about photography, or if you want to learn photography, you'll quickly find out that entry level slr (single lens reflex) camera's like the canon rebel series are nothing more than a glorified point and shoot, and buying a semi-pro body new, will cost you triple what one used will.
Buying a good used semi-pro body will be something you won't regret. Once you learn about the camera, and photography, and know what you want in a camera; the body you first bought will either be just what you needed, or an excellent backup body, or at worst,... still worth about what you paid for it. Semi-Pro/Pro equipment takes it's initial hit in price as soon as you buy it new, then stay's about the same for a long time.
If you want a camera that you can just point and shoot with lots of options, don't buy a rebel and then have to lug it around everywhere. Instead buy a canon G series point and shoot. Their great, and they are what they are... point and shoots. Recently, I have convinced three seperate friends not to buy rebel series bodies. They all had the same arguments. Well I don't need anything crazy, I just want something to take nice pictures. POINT & SHOOT's take nice pictures.
At Right: Good friend of mine whom I convinced to purchase used 30d body instead of rebel series. This picture was taken as we were attending a NASCAR event, and practicing pan shots about a year after him purchasing the camera. He couldn't be happier with his purchase, and hey... look at that nice glass attached. (70-200/2.8L).
The rebel series and camera's like it (entry level SLR's), are not capable enough for you to push the limits when you learn about photography. Regardless, you should know, that a camera is not going to let you take good pictures. Your creativity, imagination, and knowledge should allow any photographer to take good pictures with any camera. But their does come a time when you want to use the extra capabilities of a good camera as an extension of these, or you may need these capabilities if you're trying to capture sports.
Bottom line, if you want a starter camera to learn photography, or something to lug around that can allow you to be more creative, don't buy a glorified point and shoot, buy a used semi-pro slr body, and learn how to use it. Once you get the hang of things, I promise you, you will not be dissappointed. Plus, it's cheaper to buy a used semi-pro body, than buying one of those rebel kits.
Now, if you're going to buy a used 40d for instance, you'll probably notice that it does not come with a lens. And if it does, you probably do not want it. Most lenses that come packaged with bodies are absolutley useless. It's like buying a mclaren f1 chassis, and then installing a crappy little engine in it. Your camera is only as good as your crappiest component. And let me tell.... those kit lenses are crap. If you can, purchase your camera with just the body, and buy your glass (lenses are called glass, because that is essentially what your paying for.) seperatley. You will soon realize, that the price of the body is soon overshadowed by the cost of glass. This brings us to my second best piece of advice, and which type of lens to buy.
Prime lenses rule the kingdom. Unfortunatly for me, It took me a little while to learn this. When starting out with photography, I was mesmorized with the big zoom lenses, and then the big fast zooms; 28-80L 2.8, 70-200, 100-400, I could go on for a very long time. I've owned many lenses over the years, but it wasn't until I bought my first prime lens that I understood the big deal about prime's. Now don't get me wrong, there are plenty of instances where a big fast zoom lens like the 70-200 or 100-400 are very handy, and allow you to carry less, but these are expensive zooms. Most of the affordable zooms like the kit zooms, or the non L zooms should be avoided.
Instead, buy yourself a very cheap and versatile Canon 50mm 1.8 prime. It's cheaper than lets say a 28-135 zoom, and you can walk the distance between these ranges very easily. (except maybe the wide end, but then you can buy a wide lens for those ranges later.) The biggest problem you will face with photography, is light.... not enough (usually the case), or too much. For family shots indoors, or events, or portrait shots etc... the 50mm 1.8 is an awesome beginners lens, and it will help hone your photography skills. Instead of being focused on zooming in and out, you can focus on your composition, and settings. If you have a little extra, you can spring for the 50mm/1.4.. or better... :) It makes for some amazing natural light photographs. In short... when you purchase your body, leave the zooms at the store, and grab yourself a 50mm prime. When you want to explore wider ranges, the 10-22 (if your camera supports it) or the 17-35 are some great options. A 70-200 non-is is a cheaper alternative for a fast zoom all the way to 400mm with an extender. Those three lenses are an amazing kit for any photographer.
I've always had a love hate relationship with light. It's hard to give you advice to cover every situation. Outdoors during the day, their is usually plenty of it. Try shooting in the early morning or evening (dusk and dawn). The colors in the sky will be more dramatic, and the light is more evenly distributed. Many people feel that when the sun is nice and strong, it's a great day for photo's. Not so. Most wedding photographers pray for an overcast day. The clouds disperse the sun's light across the sky, and prevent it from casting dark shadows. Morning or evening or overcast are your lighting conditions that will make your subject's look more natural and balanced. If you are shooting during a strong afternoon sun, experiment with using flash. Flash is not always for dark rooms, and give's you great daytime results. This is called fill flash. When shooting indoor's, a fast lens is your best friend. I like the 50mm 1.4 for this. It allows me to shoot with natural lighting and not have to use flash. If I use a flash, I like to bounce it off a low (white if possible) ceiling with a bit of reflection to the subject with the flash's built in reflector.
Framing the picture
There's nothing more boring than a subject that is centered. Try getting in closer and taking a picture of the subjects head and shoulders, or just head. Try different angles instead of straight on, and put the subject off to one side. Experiment with tilting the camera left and right. Many people are not good at posing for a picture. Try catching them when they are paying attention to something else; in conversation, or deep thought. Catching a subject's emotions can make a beautiful picture compared to that person's pose.
to be continued.......
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