Several people the last few months have approached me for photography related advice, whether it be what camera to buy, how to take better shots and even how to begin shooting with their first digital SLR.
Most recently, Mike and his wife got a new Canon Rebel XTi and wanted some basic camera operation and composition “lessons”. I spent a little over an hour with them and hopefully it was as fun for them as it was for me.
I wouldn’t consider myself an expert photographer (far from it) but I have learned quite a few things in the past few years I’ve been shooting, especially in the last 12 months since getting more hardcore about this stuff.
Here are 5 tips that I would have found useful for someone to tell me right out of the gates:
- Don’t sweat over the Nikon vs. Canon decision. If you don’t have to worry about compatibility with existing lenses you might have (many people have lenses sitting around from old film cameras), then just buy based on comfort in your hand and your price range. Everyone’s got an opinion on what’s better, but fact is, the differences will be barely noticeable to you when you are starting out as a beginner. Note: I use a Canon 30D.
- Don’t buy the most expensive gear to start out with. Start with a entry level SLR like the Canon Rebel XTi, or even snag an older Canon Rebel XT for quite a few bucks cheaper. For lenses, stick to the lens that came with your camera and after a few months of shooting, re-evaluate your lens needs. Look at the types of shots you have been shooting to gauge the type of lens you’ll need. I initially started off with a Canon Rebel XT with teh 18-55 Kit lens and realized that I really wanted to shoot on the longer telephoto end. I ended up picking up a 28-135 lens used off Craig’s list which is the only lens I took with me traveling 5 weeks through Europe. If you look at my portfolio you’ll see that some of those shots I took with that lens are better than some of the shots I’ve taken recently with lenses that are 5 times more expensive (ahem, Canon 70-200 2.8 IS).
- Shoot, shoot, shoot. It’s digital so you can go crazy with the number of shots you can take without suffering the monetary costs of photo finishing. You’re only going to learn by shooting a lot of pictures, so if you don’t have the stomach for that already, you might want to take up a new hobby like knitting 🙂
- Experiment with your settings. I’d recommend shooting in “automatic” mode first, then looking at the EXIF data to see what settings were used. I’d then move onto shooting in Aperture Priority mode so you are only dealing with one variable to adjust. For completeness, then work in Shutter Priority. This is the easiest way to learn the relationship between aperture, shutterspeed, focal length and ISO.
- Keep your camera with you. You never know when a good shot will come up. Some of my best shots have come from my point-and-shoot camera since I had it on-hand to capture the moment at just the right time.