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01-02-2014, 02:55 AM - 26 Likes   #1
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True Beginners - READ THIS / START HERE!

If you are BRAND new to photography, this should provide a helpful head start that I wish I had all in one place rather than having to hunt it out when I was starting.

You may or may not have a Pentax DSLR already. At this point in time (January 2014), the only type of DSLR offered by Pentax is an APS-C 'crop sensor'. Crop sensor is a bit smaller than the full frame standard that uses a sensor the same size as traditional 35mm film - don't worry about what that difference means. At this point in time it means nothing to you. Trust me.

Your DSLR was not designed to be used in "Green Mode." Of course it works perfectly well in fully automatic mode, but what I mean by that is it was designed for you, the photographer, to drive it. To change the settings, to envision your photograph before you take it, knowing how to turn the dials and push the buttons to make that vision a reality. It's without any doubt that the tool you have in your hand is capable of nothing short of professional quality images. Nothing short of it at all.

If you really want to take advantage of the incredible capabilities of it as opposed to using it as a very expensive (and bulky) "point and shoot," learn the following:
  • Depth of Field - what it means, and how to manage it and when having more (deeper) depth of field is critical (i.e. landscapes) and when having less (shallower) depth of field is critical (i.e. portraits). Also, how to accomplish less or more depth of field in your photos and what affords depth of field (large aperture on your lens, distance to subject, distance of subject to background, zoom/magnification all contribute to DOF control, with the first one being the most critical).
  • Shutter Speed - yes it has to be balanced for a good exposure, but you also need to learn what it means. Too long a shutter speed and it won't freeze even a person standing there for you frozen for a portrait. Too fast a shutter speed, and you've unnecessarily raised your ISO to poor quality levels.
  • ISO - aka "sensitivity" it allows you to increase or decrease your sensors responsiveness and sensitivity towards light. In poor light (say inside a bar) it becomes your best friend, but at a cost in image quality. Learn what that cost is.
  • Exposure - how the three critical photographic settings (Shutter Speed, Aperture, and ISO) are in a three-way marriage. Think of the three points of a triangle that you need to always balance, as they always change depending on what your priorities are (depth of field, freezing action, etc) and more importantly and much more constraining - the amount (and quality) of light available to you when taking the shot. Here is a great simulator that will help with getting started:
  • Composition - a good photograph is not just taking a good photograph technically, but remember that the "study of light" is also an art. Compositional guides will be your friend until you learn how to break them purposefully because a certain shot/situation calls for it. Such 'rules' or 'guides' are the Rule of Thirds, Negative Space, Golden Spiral, and many others. Here are two guides provided by Pentax Forums that should provide an excellent starting point (and they're quick to read with plenty of examples!):
  • Focal Length - learn what difference focal lengths afford in terms of "Field of View." The lower the number, the wider the focal length, and vice versa. See what this means with regard to different shooting scenarios (indoors, portraits, outdoors, landscapes, far away shots, etc.). If you have a zoom lens (which chances are you do if you bought your DSLR with a kit zoom), so this should be easy to experiment with by just zooming in and out.
  • Your Camera - Read the manual. Read the manual. Read the manual. And then keep it in the bathroom and read it. It will answer many of your questions and teach you what the different dials, buttons, etc are for your camera, and how to change specific settings.
  • Av, Tv, TAv Modes - as soon as you can, get out of green mode. These three modes are "Manual/Automatic" type modes. Meaning you change 2 of the three settings (Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO), and the third is automatically set by the camera's internal light meter to balance the exposure (the triangle reference above). Av is "Aperture Priority" where you change the aperture and ISO manually and the camera sets the shutter speed. This is arguably the most popular and used camera setting, so it would be a great place to start. I shoot only "M" (full manual where you change all settings manually - nothing is automatic) now, but I started in Av after switching from green mode with a trusty Pentax K-7. Do not wait the six months that I did before going off Green mode - it only delayed my progress that much longer. Initially you won't get good photos - way too dark, way too bright, or way too blurry because the shutter speed will be too slow. That's ok. Don't go back to Green mode.
I could go on, but this seems to be a good starting point, and if you have too much to focus on, then you learn nothing, right? And once you start really learning what these tenets mean, the rest will fall into place through self-discovery.

In the mean time, make sure to always keep your lens cap on when not using your lens, and always use your lens hood. Always. You will see the vast majority of shooters around you will not have a lens hood, or worse, leave it at home or have it reversed in the storage manner while shooting. I don't understand this, but don't fall into that trap. The lens hood not only benefits the quality of your images by cutting glare from the sun (think of your pull-down shade when you are driving - doesn't it make a world of difference when the sun is in your eye?), but it physically protects your lens. Just the other day I was walking around with a camera and I slipped on ice walking down an old staircase. I punched the brick wall with my camera and lens that I had in my right hand (there was no hand rail) and the lens hood was destroyed. The lens and the camera? Perfectly fine.

Hope this helps, and once again, just like I was when I first wondered what the hell I spent so much money on, you have a camera that you do not have any idea how powerful it is. This is not a bad thing nor meant as an insult. But devote the time to unlocking bits of that horse power, and your photography will start to take off, and the investment in such a machine will be more than worth it.

And welcome to the Pentax family


Last edited by Heie; 01-02-2014 at 03:00 AM.
01-02-2014, 03:12 AM   #2
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Good Job!

Very nice summary of the basics, Alex. Hope all the new users print out the page and keep it handy!
Thanks for taking the time to write this.
01-02-2014, 03:52 AM   #3
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I've got a friend that just got a K-50, this should be very helpful to him, thanks, Alex.
01-02-2014, 04:24 AM   #4
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Kudos, Alex. Thanks for posting this, I will point some folks this way in future! (Maybe Adam will make it sticky?)

01-02-2014, 04:50 AM   #5
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All good advice.

And once you master the tools, including PP, the hard part starts - what the hell do you hope to say with the final image in the first place?
01-02-2014, 09:20 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by wildman Quote
All good advice.

And once you master the tools, including PP, the hard part starts - what the hell do you hope to say with the final image in the first place?
Agree... the OP's advice is excellent. All I might add is to shoot everyday and produce the best photographs you can (knowing that you start with a crawl, then quick-step, then dance - hopefully). I suggest launching a 365 project with images posted everyday so others can see and react to your work, if they so choose. This adds an 'accountability to excellence' dimension and helps keep the ol' creative/motivation juices flowing. One's early images will probably be awful, but no big deal. Things will improve. The world is full of attractive settings waiting for your creative eye.

In my case, rather than "master" the tools, first; I started with the 'what do I want to say?' part, then researched, found and worked the tools (somewhat by trial and error) toward that end. Guess you might call it a "purpose driven" approach... and I'm a long way from being able to 'nail it' every time. Still, chasing 'the moment' it's a great adventure and a ton of fun.

Think positive... M
01-02-2014, 01:30 PM   #7
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Unless I'm missing it, you don't have a bullet point for aperture.
01-03-2014, 01:54 PM   #8
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I would add reading the book "Understanding Exposure" byBryan Peterson. I really helps gel many of those concepts.

01-11-2014, 03:59 PM   #9
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Here is an online self paged beginners course...
New To Photography Book - AusPhotography:: Australia's Premier Photography Forum::
01-16-2014, 06:43 PM   #10
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Very nice!

I'm not a new photographer, but I'm pretty new to digital photography, which seems like a new world to me. This is great info for any new photographer, and helps to remind me that the same concepts apply, even though I'm now dealing with pixels instead of film.

01-18-2014, 08:32 AM   #11
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Excellent post!
I too am new to digital; purchased a used Nikon D50 about eight months ago which led almost immediately to a screaming deal on a Pentax K100DS and THAT made me almost wish I'd found that one first because I'm now stuck with BOTH systems! Of course those d right back into re-discovering an old hobby and I've now expanded my film cameras, lenses, trinkets and wow, I don't remember having this much fun with photography back in the day!!
01-21-2014, 07:44 AM   #12
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Thanks so much.
Got my K-30 in the beginning of this year and Im trying man, Im trying to drive the right way.
Its tough, but I keep trying
01-25-2014, 08:16 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Styx1284 Quote
Thanks so much.
Got my K-30 in the beginning of this year and Im trying man, Im trying to drive the right way.
Its tough, but I keep trying
Hey styx1284..hang in there,man...i know its in the same boat as my White K-30 at the end of last year(only the body) and was able to get the lens by the beginning of 2014 and im still learning all the tricks and let me tell you sometimes i think my head is spinning from trying to remember all the stuff but im hanging in there and so should you for the love of photography ..i have to thank Heie for this post because this actually helps on a few things. i also bookmarked some of the link to step my game and make my fellow pentaxians proud haha
01-26-2014, 04:44 AM   #14
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I'm definitely not new, but this is really direct and concise. Good on you!
01-26-2014, 04:39 PM - 2 Likes   #15
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An excellent post, which I would like to see made into a sticky. I think that some beginners don't even know the questions to ask, and here these questions are.

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