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09-02-2009, 07:23 PM   #1
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Beginner seeks general advice

First some context I guess. I have only a few weeks shooting with my K200D, and before that I only shot with a P&S. After getting the K200D I went straight to Manual to try to figure it out, and lately I've been using more Aperture Priority trying to learn the ins and outs and whatnot, and here's where I require some help I guess. I am not sure if what I have learnt is correct or not to be honest, as the quality of the photos I take is far from good.

For samples I uploaded a few pics in here. None have any post processing yet.
Picasa Web Albums - the.eli.cash
Not really happy with many of them, given that I lack eye for composition. Was just wondering if anyone more knowledgeable here sees something salvageable there? hehe

When I started I knew what a correct exposure was and about the 3 exposure settings, but didn't have much of an idea of what was for what. After a while from shooting and reading online this is what I think I understand.

Wider apertures give less depth of field (bokeh?) and smaller ones are better for landscapes since they need the most depth of field possible (I don't have a tripod so haven't really tried that last part). Also I read a bit about Hyperfocal distance. From what I understand one should shoot in that for wider DoF, right? And also, does the crop sensor affects the Hyperfocal distance scales on primes? Or would they still work?

For low light you need a really wide lens (got the FA 50mm f1.4 as my first non-kit lens for that)

Also, the fastest the shutter speed the best to capture motion with blur. I read today in here that the aperture should be at least 1 divded by your aperture x 1.6, I wasn't aware of this rule, but going back to the exif data of my photos I sort of did that without realizing it.

I was just wondering if those assumptions were correct, and also if there's some good reading that goes in further detail about aperture and in which circumstances certain aperture would be the best option? Also, is composition something learnt the hard way? The only "compositional" rule I am aware of is the rule of 3. Are there any books worth getting that could serve as an intro for composition?

Thanks in advance

09-02-2009, 08:48 PM   #2
graphicgr8s
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My recommendation would be Scott Kelby's digital photography books. There's 3 now.
09-02-2009, 09:00 PM   #3
Damn Brit
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QuoteOriginally posted by betamax Quote
First some context I guess. I have only a few weeks shooting with my K200D, and before that I only shot with a P&S. After getting the K200D I went straight to Manual to try to figure it out, and lately I've been using more Aperture Priority trying to learn the ins and outs and whatnot, and here's where I require some help I guess. I am not sure if what I have learnt is correct or not to be honest, as the quality of the photos I take is far from good.

Get yourself a decent book like 'Understanding Exposure' by Bryan Peterson or 'The Digital Photography Book' by Scott Kelby


For samples I uploaded a few pics in here. None have any post processing yet.
Picasa Web Albums - the.eli.cash
Not really happy with many of them, given that I lack eye for composition. Was just wondering if anyone more knowledgeable here sees something salvageable there? hehe

Rather than have us look at all of them and say "this one and this one could be worked on", why don't you pick two or three and post them in 'Photo Critique', that would be more useful to you.

When I started I knew what a correct exposure was and about the 3 exposure settings, but didn't have much of an idea of what was for what. After a while from shooting and reading online this is what I think I understand.

Wider apertures give less depth of field (bokeh?) and smaller ones are better for landscapes since they need the most depth of field possible (I don't have a tripod so haven't really tried that last part). Also I read a bit about Hyperfocal distance. From what I understand one should shoot in that for wider DoF, right? And also, does the crop sensor affects the Hyperfocal distance scales on primes? Or would they still work?

Faster apertures give less depth of field (the part of the picture that is in focus. Bokeh is how the lens renders the out of focus areas and is somewhat subjective whereas depth of field isn't. Hyperfocal distance is that with maximum DOF. Wikipedia is a useful resource for looking up theses things, Rule of Thirds is one that you should look up for composition help.



For low light you need a really wide lens (got the FA 50mm f1.4 as my first non-kit lens for that)

You need a fast lens for low light, that is to do with aperture. A Wide lens concerns Focal Length 24mm for example would be a wide angle.

Also, the fastest the shutter speed the best to capture motion with blur. I read today in here that the aperture should be at least 1 divded by your aperture x 1.6, I wasn't aware of this rule, but going back to the exif data of my photos I sort of did that without realizing it.

Faster shutter speeds freeze the action, if you are shooting a runner for example, the idea of the faster shutter speed is to make sure the runner is not blurred. A slower shutter speed would make the runner blurred because he may have moved within the frame while the shutter is open.

I was just wondering if those assumptions were correct, and also if there's some good reading that goes in further detail about aperture and in which circumstances certain aperture would be the best option? Also, is composition something learnt the hard way? The only "compositional" rule I am aware of is the rule of 3. Are there any books worth getting that could serve as an intro for composition?

See above.

Thanks in advance
Welcome to the forum.
09-02-2009, 09:04 PM   #4
graphicgr8s
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Gary, Scot has 3 Digital Photography books now. They are Vol. 1, 2 and 3. I don't get why he called them 1, 2 and 3 though. And yeah I have all 3.

09-02-2009, 09:47 PM   #5
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Do consider going back to basics to pick up the fundamental knowledge you need to understand these things and answer your own questions.

Once you do get a good definitive resource like Scott Kelby's or Brian Peterson's books, then you can look up each of those terms for more detail.

All the best in that.
09-02-2009, 10:07 PM   #6
Damn Brit
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QuoteOriginally posted by graphicgr8s Quote
Gary, Scot has 3 Digital Photography books now. They are Vol. 1, 2 and 3. I don't get why he called them 1, 2 and 3 though. And yeah I have all 3.
Yeah I know but you don't need all three to get started.
09-03-2009, 10:07 AM   #7
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I've been considering picking up Understanding Exposure for a while. Guess it is time to do so.

Also, about posting a picture in the critique section... is that okay even if the photo to be posted is less than alright? I mean, I wouldn't mind having something critiqued but I thought that section was more for more advanced users than newbies and whatnot.
09-03-2009, 10:18 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by betamax Quote
Also, about posting a picture in the critique section... is that okay even if the photo to be posted is less than alright? I mean, I wouldn't mind having something critiqued but I thought that section was more for more advanced users than newbies and whatnot.
It doesn't matter if you're a newbie, post away. It would help, though, if you made it clear that you are a newbie (people will cut you some slack), and try to ask specific questions about the photo. For instance, "Would this be better with more or less dof?" will get you more helpful responses than "What's wrong with this photo?"

Good luck! I'll look for you in the critique section...

Julie

09-03-2009, 10:35 AM   #9
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I think the 1st Scott Kelby book is a really good how to book. I learned a lot from it (need to re-read it ocassionaly too). The 2nd book is for a lot of studio and special stuff. Didn't know there was a 3rd one.

But his first book is a good read with good tips.

I'd agree with the recco on Understanding Exposure.

The other really important suggestion is that you shoot - for a while - in manual mode. This has helped my shooting even though it tends to take a bit longer. You will learn to balance ISO choices with aperture and shutter speed (and do some experimenting with white balance too, AWB is a place to start but you should be controlling it not the camera). When you get these figured out - more or less - then return to Av mode (or whatever).

Edit: Just had another look at your images. Looks like you're doing better indoors than outdoors. Metering outdoors can be a problem, as the meter may read the bright sky and darken your subject. Changing your metering mode to spot metering may help this. Bracketing can help as well. Also read up on EV (exposure compensation adjustment).
09-03-2009, 01:31 PM   #10
graphicgr8s
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QuoteOriginally posted by blackcloudbrew Quote
I think the 1st Scott Kelby book is a really good how to book. I learned a lot from it (need to re-read it ocassionaly too). The 2nd book is for a lot of studio and special stuff. Didn't know there was a 3rd one.

But his first book is a good read with good tips.

I'd agree with the recco on Understanding Exposure.

The other really important suggestion is that you shoot - for a while - in manual mode. This has helped my shooting even though it tends to take a bit longer. You will learn to balance ISO choices with aperture and shutter speed (and do some experimenting with white balance too, AWB is a place to start but you should be controlling it not the camera). When you get these figured out - more or less - then return to Av mode (or whatever).

Edit: Just had another look at your images. Looks like you're doing better indoors than outdoors. Metering outdoors can be a problem, as the meter may read the bright sky and darken your subject. Changing your metering mode to spot metering may help this. Bracketing can help as well. Also read up on EV (exposure compensation adjustment).
I didn't know he had a third either. Until I ordered the first two for my brother-in-law. So I got it for myself and just sent him the first 2. The price was right for the set. And let's face it you're never too old nor too good to learn something new, or a better way. Even with all the years I've been doing it I've started using a couple of the tips. To me it paid for the books.

I usually recommend the Kelby books first to people because it gets them out shooting. And hopefully taking decent shots with the tips presented. Most newbies don't want to get laden down with details. Get them hooked first. Then get them schooled fully. Usually when it's on a one to one basis they are borrowing my books for film. From the 60s-70s. Hey, basics haven't changed.

He teaches a lot like the guy who taught me last century. And a lot like I teach others. (Seems as my family grows and people buy digitals they want lessons. For free. Contrary to popular belief I am not a non-profit organization)

Last edited by graphicgr8s; 09-03-2009 at 01:36 PM.
09-03-2009, 02:39 PM   #11
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Another vote for the book

I purchased Understanding Exposure as my first photo book and recommend it highly.
If you need to increase your iso then expect more noise. At that time I also recommend using Noise Ninja or something similar to reduce the noise in the finished product. You can download NoiseNinja as a demo with a watermark but you'll still be able to preview your results, just not print them.
09-04-2009, 01:48 AM   #12
Damn Brit
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QuoteOriginally posted by betamax Quote
I've been considering picking up Understanding Exposure for a while. Guess it is time to do so.

Also, about posting a picture in the critique section... is that okay even if the photo to be posted is less than alright? I mean, I wouldn't mind having something critiqued but I thought that section was more for more advanced users than newbies and whatnot.

The critique section is ideal for newbies. As long as you can take the critiques without being defensive, you will learn from the experience. That is assuming that you take the effort to familiarise yourself with the basics beforehand.
Another excellent way to learn (composition especially) is to 'live' in the photo posting sections Critique and Post Your Photos. Learning how to critique others photos is an excellent way to learn to take better pictures yourself.
09-04-2009, 02:40 AM   #13
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Betamax, I really want to commend you for the way you're going about this. You're taking a thorough, disciplined approach, reading, searching, asking for opinions etc. in a very methodical way, it seems to me. With such an attitude your skills will soon improve.
For my two cents' worth, don't forget your local library. If they don't have what you're looking for they can usually get it in for you from another library and once they know what your interests are librarians will often put something aside for you or make some recommendations. Also, read your camera manual many times. It's not the most exciting piece of literature, but there's a lot of really useful info that you need to know if you're going to be the master of your equipment. Haunt second-hand bookshops and pick up books of photos from earlier times and see how other people tackled the sorts of challenges you're facing. They'll inspire you. Scan some of the ones that really press your buttons and have them as wallpaper on your desktop for a few days each.
May I also suggest you set yourself small projects and excercises, the equivalent of the musician's scales and arpeggios. I borrowed an example from the painter, Cezanne. He drew and painted the same mountain near his home over and over again, exploring light, tonality, technique, composition. You can do the same. Find an interesting subject near where you live and photograph it every day, in all seasons, all weather, at all times of the day, constantly changing your aperture/shutter speed/ISO ratios and examining the results critically. You'll rapidly gain confidence.
Above all, enjoy. It's a fabulous hobby and there's no better place to enjoy it than in the warm bosom of the Pentax family!
09-04-2009, 07:22 AM   #14
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OP I think you are on the right track. Spend the money on the books if you want to speed up your learning.

Otherwise, it seems that you are learning very quickly.

You understand DOF and what the effects are, and shutterspeed and how to use it...in my opinion you are golden.

Just keep shooting and posting.

8)

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09-04-2009, 07:55 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by betamax Quote
First some context I guess. I have only a few weeks shooting with my K200D, and before that I only shot with a P&S.
Bit of a change, eh? Like moving from driving a small car to driving a medium-sized truck.


QuoteQuote:
After getting the K200D I went straight to Manual to try to figure it out...
Well, that's great, but that may also be part of your difficulty. The Pentax manuals are (in my opinion) terrible.


QuoteQuote:
and lately I've been using more Aperture Priority trying to learn the ins and outs and whatnot, and here's where I require some help I guess. I am not sure if what I have learnt is correct or not to be honest, as the quality of the photos I take is far from good.

For samples I uploaded a few pics in here. None have any post processing yet.
Picasa Web Albums - the.eli.cash

Not really happy with many of them, given that I lack eye for composition. Was just wondering if anyone more knowledgeable here sees something salvageable there? hehe
Well, your first problem is NOT composition. The composition of most of the photos seems acceptable or better to me. I think you're doing okay there. Your first problem is that most of the photos are seriously not sharp. And the reason they're not sharp is that YOU ARE USING WAY TOO SLOW A SHUTTER.

At least that's true in a few of the shots: this shot of the bearded man with glasses and the next shot of the red-haired girl, or the shot of the terrier looking out a gate. I didn't check all of your photos, but those three have shutter speeds of 1/6th sec. Whoa! You can't take a picture with a shutter speed that slow, unless (a) you put the camera on a tripod and (b) your subject is really still. There are two kinds of movement that can wreck shots - subject movement and camera movement (aka "camera shake"). When you shoot at 1/6th sec you are likely going to see a bit of both. The camera's built-in shake reduction helps, but it doesn't do miracles.

So my first recommendation would be, don't use a shutter speed right now that's slower than 1/60th sec - 1/100th sec or 1/150th sec would be better for the kinds of photos you're taking. NOTE: I'm not stating "rules." I'm giving recommendations to someone who admits they're a beginner. As you get better you can ignore these recommendations because you'll know what works for you. I shoot quite a bit at speeds as low as 1/30th sec because I have to. I'm shooting wedding couples in churches, usually standing quite still, and my hand-held technique is pretty good. Even so, I would rather shoot at faster shutter speeds and do whenever I can.

Your shots were at f/2.8. I'm assuming that's the widest f/number your lens has. So if you speed up the shutter as I'm recommending, you're also going to have to increase the ISO, or deal with underexposure in post-processing - or use flash. Let's skip flash for the moment and increase the ISO. On your K200D I am pretty sure you can take very nice photos at ISO 400 with very little noise. Set your ISO to 400 and shoot there for a while.


QuoteQuote:
When I started I knew what a correct exposure was and about the 3 exposure settings, but didn't have much of an idea of what was for what. After a while from shooting and reading online this is what I think I understand.

Wider apertures give less depth of field (bokeh?) and smaller ones are better for landscapes since they need the most depth of field possible (I don't have a tripod so haven't really tried that last part). Also I read a bit about Hyperfocal distance. From what I understand one should shoot in that for wider DoF, right? And also, does the crop sensor affects the Hyperfocal distance scales on primes? Or would they still work?
My advice (possibly worth less than you're paying for it): forget about hyperfocal distance right now. If you start shooting landscapes, you will come back to it. But first things first. Forget about bokeh, too. It's a property of the lens you're using and you can't do a lot about it.

When you're shooting in available light (without flash), aperture mainly controls depth of field. Has nothing to do with the KIND of photos you're shooting; it controls depth of field whether you're shooting portraits or landscapes or sports or concerts or whatever. Sometimes you want less depth of field. For example, you want to do a headshot and have only the eyes in focus. Open up to f/2.8. Othertimes, even shooting a portrait, you might want LOTS of depth of field. Stop down to f/11 or something like that.

But it's VERY important to understand that aperture isn't the only thing determining the depth of field. Focal length matters, and so does the distance between the camera and the subject. The "closer" you get to the subject, the less depth of field you have. I put "closer" in quotes because I mean it in two senses, truly closer (that is, you've walked closer to the subject) or apparently closer (meaning you've zoomed in on the subject by increasing the focal length).

In short, setting the aperture is the sole control over depth of field only after you've set your focal length and determined how close to or far from the subject you are going to put the camera.

Putting it another way: f/2.8 does NOT mean "narrow depth of field." Let's say focal length = 55mm and aperture = f/2.8. If you're 3 ft away from the subject, you have about an inch of depth of field. Now, don't change ANYTHING on the camera, and step back until you're 50 ft from the subject: now you've got 30 ft of depth of field. Of course, with every step backwards you're also changing the field of view in the photo. But it's important to keep in mind that the aperture's effect on depth of field is a complicated thing that works in cooperation with a couple other factors (distance from subject and focal length).



QuoteQuote:
For low light you need a really wide lens (got the FA 50mm f1.4 as my first non-kit lens for that)
The word you want here isn't wide, it's "fast." A lens is usually considered "fast" if it has a max aperture of f/2.8 or better (f/2, f/1.8, f/1.4 etc). I shoot in low light a lot with a focal length of 100mm or higher. But I shoot at f/2.8.

However, I would not try to remember this as if it were some sort of rule or principle. If the light is low, you can deal with it in several different ways. The best way, often, is to INCREASE THE LIGHT, by turning on more lights, or opening the blinds, by moving the shoot to some place that is better lit, or by staying where you are and using flash. More light means more options. I pull out my fast lenses when I have to shoot in a church where flash is not allowed. When I can use my flash, I am able to go back to my slower but more versatile lenses (like the Pentax 16-45 f/4 or the Sigma 17-70 f/2.8-4.5).


QuoteQuote:
Also, the fastest the shutter speed the best to capture motion with blur. I read today in here that the aperture should be at least 1 divded by your aperture x 1.6, I wasn't aware of this rule, but going back to the exif data of my photos I sort of did that without realizing it.
I think you're thinking of the minimum shutter speed rule of thumb for freezing action. Remember the simple version of the rule: shutter speed should not be less than your focal length. If you want to be pedantic about it, the shutter speed should not be less than the reciprocal of the focal length, but this is a mnemonic so I recommend the easy version. The idea is, if you're shooting at 100mm focal length, don't use a shutter speed slower than 1/100th sec. You can complicate this rule of thumb further by trying to adjust for the fact that you're using a crop-factor camera with an APS-C sensor, but never mind that. You've got shake reduction working for you, too. The rule of thumb was designed for old 135 format (35mm film) cameras. Just remember the simple version and you'll be in the ball park.

Anyway, this takes us back to my very first point. If you're shooting somebody with a focal length of 40mm, don't use a shutter speed of 1/6th sec! Keep it at least at 1/40th sec - and as I said earlier, even faster is better.


QuoteQuote:
I was just wondering if those assumptions were correct, and also if there's some good reading that goes in further detail about aperture and in which circumstances certain aperture would be the best option? Also, is composition something learnt the hard way? The only "compositional" rule I am aware of is the rule of 3. Are there any books worth getting that could serve as an intro for composition?
There's a ton of stuff you can read. Peterson's Understanding Exposure (already recommended by several folks here) is a terrific first book. Scott Kelby's first book on digital photography is decent, although I think that Kelby is rather cute and wastes a lot of time joking around in order to make his books easy to read. Kelby's books are like fast food: tasty, but perhaps not the most nourishing meal around.

I can recommend both Chris Weston's Mastering Your Digital SLR and David Busch's Mastering Digital SLR Photography as excellent books that will cover just about everything. Weston's book has more photos and less text, and Busch's book has more text and fewer photos. Both excellent in their way.

But let me add two final points.

First, there's a ton of info available to you for free. The internet has all kinds of photography tutorials available. Some are highly technical but many aren't. You can always ask questions here. And I second the Wombat's suggestion that you check out your local library and used bookstores.

The other point I want to make is that you should mix reading and actual practice in some proportion where you are spending more time actually practicing with your camera. The only way this stuff will ever "click" is if you spend time shooting and thinking while you shoot, reviewing your shots, etc.

Good luck.

Will
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