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    Hey guys. I know this is a miscellaneous subject, but I was wondering if I could get some advice. I've acquired an interest in photography. But I don't really know where to begin. There are some classes online for starting photographers, but I'm on a short budget and I would rather save the money to buy a good camera first, then take courses. But I dont know if that's the right thing to do. Right now I have a digital Casio "Exilim" camera and my handy dandy phone. I'm a complete newb to this. Can I learn anything from the camera I have right now? Or should I save to buy a really good one? Should I go look into taking some online classes? Any cheap recommendations to learn photo editing and mastering photoshop, etc.?

    I know there's a couple guys here who are pretty good at editing, instragram and use photography as a side hobby. Which is pretty much all I want to do also. But I'm not sure where to begin. Any knowledgeable guys out there that can help me?


    With your existing Exilim, you can learn composition and some lighting, but if you're genuinely serious, you'll want to eventually upgrade to a camera that can take pictures in full manual mode. More often than not, that means a DSLR (even though there are new alternatives).

    Entry level SLR's can be found for $500 and they go up from there. There's no harm in getting something entry-level to see if it's for you, and then upgrading later. They are now making point-and-shoots with full manual modes, but they're rather inconvenient to work with since they dno't ahve the range of control knobs and buttons that an SLR will have. They also don't have the same performance and good ones cost as much as entry-level SLR's anyways.

    When you get into photography, you generally want to buy into a system. That means picking a brand and sticking to it. Nikon and Canon are the two top brands. Pretty much any after-market product is guaranteed to work with both of these brands. Sony makes very good value-proposition DSLR cameras that aren't quite as expandable, but hit the sweet spot for price. (I'm personally a Nikon user.)

    As for online classes... For the same price you can probably take a class at your local community college. I took one and it only cost me $90. The book cost more than the class, but it's a real textbook with legit usefulness. Regardless, classes won't be very useful until you obtain a camera that can function in full manual mode. It's a general requirement for classes I've seen.

    As for Photoshop... The software is ridiculously expensive. So don't bother taking a class until you're prepared to pay the hundreds of dollars to buy the software.

    My wife and I are hobbyists (though she's considering going semi-pro). You can check our work at:

    A&A Adventure Photography



      My advice would be to keep saving, and in the mean time, SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT.

      I found the best way to learn about photography is to shoot TONS of pictures. But think about what you are doing and try different things. See what you like. Also, when you see a photo you think is well taken (like on flickr or elsewhere), look closely and think about WHAT EXACTLY you like about it. Is it the light? Is it the angle? The colors? The person's eyes? Looking at and thinking about photos that catch you in this way will get you paying attention to details and give you ideas you can apply to your own photos.

      There are plenty of great photography websites with all sorts of tutorials and general guides on composition and other topics, too, just Google around.

      ^This might be a good place to start^



        I second the practicing. With digital cameras, pictures are free, and the best learning is done through practice.



          1) Get an SLR camera first.

          2) Take a course at a local CC.

          3) After that, save up for photoshop before taking any courses on it.

          Got it. Thanks Alan. I checked out your site. Its very cool. I really liked that shoot you did with that couple and their baby. My girlfriend and I have been wanting to get a shoot with a very similar concept. Love your work man. And thanks again for your advice.



            Thanks! :-)

            As kinek said, you'll find that there's a lot you can learn just by practice. The sooner you can get into a DSLR, the better, but there's no reason NOT to use what you've got while you're saving up. And kinek's link looks genuinely useful.



              @kinek. Thank you for your advice. I'm checking the link right now and there's tons of info there. It's gonna help out a lot. Thanks again.



                If you don't know how to take good, properly composed, properly lit photos now, you won't know how to do it with a DSLR.

                If you take bad pictures with what you have now, you will still take bad pictures with a DSLR.

                With that said, one of the first big boosts you'll get with a DSLR is the bokeh (blurry background) that is near difficult to achieve (practically impossible for general shooting) with a point & shoot or an iPhone. The bokeh adds almost an automatic "Wow, your camera takes good pictures," effect to it. But even that is a largely a factor of the type of lens you're shooting with (and other factors, but I'm speaking as general as possible to avoid photography-speak). And if you're unwilling to spend even $300-400 for a good lens, you'll find yourself wondering why your expensive DSLR doesn't take better pictures like you see.

                One of the things with photography is learning to work within the limitations you have. Right now, you have a point and shoot camera. If it has manual controls to adjust the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, you can learn a whole lot from this thing. If not, learn the basics of composition, lighting, and exposure. You'll apply all of these things with you regardless of what camera you use. And those are some of the technical aspects of photography!

                Then you have the artistic/emotional side of it--the intangible side of photography--that also requires mastery. It gets deep man, at least it *can* get deep. I don't know what kind of photography stirs you up and what kind of pictures you're looking at that does it, but there's more to it than point and click to achieve an image like this:

                Just know that there's no replacement for constant shooting. Shoot with what you have and look at the resulting image. If you can start to understand what it is about the image that does *not* communicate or express what it is that caused you to take the picture in the first place, you'll be miles ahead of the people who get DSLRs and take higher image quality bad photos. And if that sounds all mystical, I base that on experience and what I've read from other photographers:

                And if you lament the slowness of your point and shoot, developing a sense of anticipation is something that will take you a long way in shooting candidly. You learn to anticipate, learn to "see" things before they happen so that you can position yourself in the proper place to shoot.

                If you eventually get a DSLR, might I suggest two packages:

                A mid-range Nikon D7000 or less + Nikon 35/1.8 lens

                A Canon Rebel with a Sigma 30/1.4 lens

                They'll take equally fine pictures so choose the one based on how you like how it feels in your hands. They are inexpensive enough and you're not investing a whole lot of money into the lens ($300-$400 is considered cheap for a lens) that you can switch brands later on if you decide you're really into it and you're ready to spring for the $1000 to $2000 lens.

                And you thought clothes shopping was expensive, hahaha.



                  The 35mm/f1.8 DX lens is a well-reviewed choice, but if you're getting a Nikon D7000 with built-in AF motor, you can opt for the much more affordable 50mm/1.8 FX lens. It's no longer "normal", but it's fast, light, proven, and cheap... and great for portraits on a DX camera body.

                  ... and yes, it can be VERY expensive when you get into photography. My camera gear is the most expensive stuff I own short of my truck and my house.



                    ^I'd love to hear you guys' thoughts on mirrorless cameras, specifically Sony's NEX line with full APS-C sensors. Me and my photo friends feel great about them.

                    I am just about 0% portraiture. I like scenery, landscapes, and architecture. People are rarely the full on subject of my photos, which I learned is my preference through practice and classes.

                    Personally, I have used DSLRs for years. Canon and Nikon are fantastic, and preference is really the only major difference (as far as final quality). I have used Sony and Pentax (both great, just a little less equipment behind them) a lot as well and took photography classes for 3 years. I also own Photoshop (if you sign up for a class at a college and get a student ID or email address, you quality for student pricing which means you get the Extended edition for about $200).

                    Start with a simpler editing program for a few months, then start the free 30-day trial of Photoshop and see how you like it. Photoshop was almost completely learned through practice and playing around for me, but I also recommend a class or tutorial, as the heavy features and smoothest methods are often found through those.

                    Practice a lot and pay attention to which photos you think are keepers. That will help you build techniques.

                    My photo class helped me a lot in learning terminology and basics of features that can really get you on the right path. I really recommend taking classes. If you can find a class that allows you to use a point and shoot like you have, start there. Then you can practice and upgrade to a higher end camera when ready.

                    My next camera, however, will be mirrorless.

                    Mirrorless cameras are basically a system that offers a compact body, but use interchangeable lenses that are in the low to mid SLR range for comparison (meaning, unless you are going pro, they get the job done well) and offer all the customization features and manual settings of a full size DSLR body. They also accept adaptors for the other major camera brands, allowing other Sony, Canon, Nikon, Leica, Pentax, and more lenses to work on the cameras. Currently, the Sony NEX line of mirrorless cameras are leading the class and the NEX 7 has one of the highest rated sensor performances of any camera in any class. The NEX line (The NEX-3 is seen in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo [2011]) is partly the leader due to their use of the full-size Sony Alpha DSLR sensors. They basically have the same foundation that Sony's full size DSLRs have, and in many users' experiences, are high enough quality to replace their DSLRs.

                    Sony NEX line:


                    Best of luck.

                    My research and testing over the last few months has led me to conclude mirrorless is the way to go for me. DSLRs are great if you find certain benefits that really are necessary, but for what I do revolving around manual settings and a few staple lenses, the NEX line has me covered in a modern package and full APS-C sensor. For those who just like a go-to mid (or low depending on the model) range SLR that they use to keep on them so they don't miss shots and do a bit of tripod work for the special scenes, these do the job well. For those who set up full on shoots or vary between athletic gallery shots to astronomy photography, I am sure you have a couple DSLRs hanging from your neck anyways, so the mirrorless is more of your out-to-lunch-walk camera.



                      I agree on a lot of the points.. D7000 can get a little pricey if you're just starting out, so I might recommend snagging a used D90 for ~$600, and then adding the $200 35mm f/1.8 lens. Yes, the 50mm is cheaper, but I have both and if I could only choose one I would pick the 35. It's MUCH more versatile.. I think I have it on my camera about 95% of the time. It is a "prime" lens however, and does not zoom so you'll need to get used to that. What you sacrifice in zoom you make up for in quality 5x.

                      Lenses tend to have good resale value so you can always just sell them used as you learn what kind of interests you have.. i.e. if it's landscapes you'll probably want to add on an ultra wide angle, whereas with portraits you should probably add on a 50mm or a 85mm for headshots. You can choose to spend it on a flash or tripod, which also have a lot of benefits.

                      You're probably going to start out with it on Auto, but I'd recommend switching to A(aperture priority) immediately. Eventually you can play with manual settings and that's where you really get to learn things.

                      Also here's a quick run-through of an important camera topic, exposure.

                      Three things determine the brightness of your photo:

                      1. Aperture

                      2. Shutter speed

                      3. ISO (sensitivity)

                      Aperture is how wide your lens opening is.. bigger (smaller #) = more light, more blurry background (smaller depth of field). If you're aiming for fancy photos with blurred backgrounds make sure your aperture is set to the widest (smallest #) (ex: f/1.8 on a fast lens). "Speed" of a lens is the most important factor determining lens price, because it's very important to achieving the look of professional photos.

                      Shutter speed.. longer the shutter (1/60th of a second vs 1/2000th) = more light, but also more likely to get motion blur with a slower shutter. Typically want the denominator to be at least twice as big as your focal length (i.e. shooting with a 35mm = use a 1/80 shutter). Also, you can use tricks to help get a nice sharp shot, including taking photos inbetween your breaths, and holding the shutter to take multiple shots and picking the sharpest of those. Thus, you can typically get more light with wider focal lengths, since you can have a longer shutter and maintain sharpness.

                      ISO.. bigger = more light, but also more grain (noise, which is bad) The nicer cameras can handle higher ISO's with less grain, which lets you take photos in dark rooms (with a short enough shutter that there won't be motion blur) without a flash, and still have awesome photos.

                      Hope that helps!



                        Not sure if the pic-snobs like him, but I sure got a lot of info off ken rockwell's site.



                          Maybe I'm a pic snob, but I can't stand Ken Rockwell. I like his lens reviews, but that's about it.

                          Also, no shame in picking up used equipment on craigslist.

                          And yes, a 35mm lens is technically more versatile than a 50mm on a DX body for everyday shots, but every entry level Nikon and Canon comes with a zoom lens that covers that range. You could say the same for the 50mm, but at least it has price advantage and portrait advantage (assuming you got the D90 or D7000).

                          Its hard to make a serious mistake with any Nikon or Canon body or lens, though. If you buy something that you don't like, there's ALWAYS a market for selling it. Especially if you bought it for cheap on Craigslist.



                            What did everyone here start with? And what does everyone shoot now? Just curious. I started with a Nikon D60 with a 18-55mm VR kit lens.



                              I started with a chisel, hammer, and stone tablet. THAT'S HOW I ROLL, OLD SCHOOL!!

                              Right, so...Nikon d40 (still my only body), and the Nikon 18-200 lens....which I loved, but I love my tiny, fast fixed 50 lens maybe even more.