Photography and I: My short but fun journey

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Photography and I: My short but fun journey

Postposted on Mon Dec 17, 2007 11:01 pm

Last March I bought my first ever digital camera.

Fujifilm FinePix S5200

I bought it refurbished on ebay (also included a carrying bag, rechargeable batteries, and a recharger) and got from another auction a 1 gig xD card to go with it. In total the whole package was less than $300 shipped. I bought this specific model because of the 10x zoom and it was given a good review on consumer reports.

I started with 0 knowledge of digital photography, so I tried to do my best. I don't have any good image editing software either, so I have left all the pictures as I have taken them. So far I have took around 2500 pictures, and quite a few have turned out "good" to me.

What do you think of these?: (I took 90% of my pictures at the highest quality, 5.1 megapixels very fine, and the rest on 5.1 fine)

http://i26.photobucket.com/albums/c112/ ... CF2655.jpg
http://i26.photobucket.com/albums/c112/ ... CF2441.jpg
http://i26.photobucket.com/albums/c112/ ... CF2401.jpg
http://i26.photobucket.com/albums/c112/ ... CF2375.jpg
http://i26.photobucket.com/albums/c112/ ... CF2349.jpg
http://i26.photobucket.com/albums/c112/ ... CF2319.jpg
http://i26.photobucket.com/albums/c112/ ... CF2127.jpg
http://i26.photobucket.com/albums/c112/ ... CF2117.jpg
http://i26.photobucket.com/albums/c112/ ... CF1278.jpg
http://i26.photobucket.com/albums/c112/ ... CF1219.jpg
http://i26.photobucket.com/albums/c112/ ... CF0689.jpg



I've noticed I only take 2 types of pictures, action and nature. Should I try to diversify what I take? Am I being amateurish by just taking those "wow" shots?

I am looking for some criticism on how I can make my photo taking ability better. Should I start exploiting the settings of my camera? I would like to eventually move up to a DSLR, but I do not know if I should practice more on this camera or just go ahead and learn with a DSLR.

If I should go with the DSLR route, how much should I be spending for an entry-level camera. Would $2,000 be enough for the body/lens/numberous accessories? (If this is so I have some saving up to do :) ) Can you recommend some sites which I can read up on and get a better idea of what I need to know?

One last question. What photo editing software would be good for myself with little experience. Do I go straight for Photoshop/Photoshop Elements, or is a generic editing program fine?
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themattman
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Re: Photography and I: My short but fun journey

Postposted on Tue Dec 18, 2007 12:15 pm

So far I have took around 2500 pictures, and quite a few have turned out "good" to me.
...
I've noticed I only take 2 types of pictures, action and nature. Should I try to diversify what I take? Am I being amateurish by just taking those "wow" shots?
...
I am looking for some criticism on how I can make my photo taking ability better.
...
Can you recommend some sites which I can read up on and get a better idea of what I need to know?
...
One last question. What photo editing software would be good for myself with little experience. Do I go straight for Photoshop/Photoshop Elements, or is a generic editing program fine?


What is your goal? to have fun? to brag? to find a job? to start your own business? to document your life? to learn things? to give to friends and family?

Here are some websites to help you on your quest.
http://photo.net/learn/
http://www.popphoto.com/
http://www.diyphotography.net/
http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech.htm
http://www.photographyjam.com/
http://digital-photography-school.com/blog/

As a general rule, if you do not have a specific goal that is important enough to have a passion that answers its own questions, spending money on equipment or software or training or whatever is not necessary or even wise.

i.e. don't spend money. don't think about equipment. -- take pictures. enjoy your pictures. use the web as a resource to learn more. take pictures. learn from what you like about your pictures and what you don't. use the web to find answers to questions. take pictures. learn from your pictures. join photography discussion groups. take pictures. enjoy your pictures. share your pictures. learn from how others enjoy your pictures. have fun. learn. probe. question. discuss. take pictures.
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Postposted on Tue Dec 18, 2007 12:38 pm

I'm going to lean towards bryanl's opinion on this one too. I'm just now, after about 8 or 9 years of digital photography about to move upt to my first DSLR.

Granted, I've wanted to move up for a long time, but also for the longest time I couldn't tell you why. I think I'll chalk some of it up to the "upgrade gerbil mentality" that seems to go along with being a computer enthusiast. :D

But in all honesty, buying my first digital camera was great. I realized how much more fun I had taking photos, and I took a lot. Looking back I found the process kind of went like this for me:

1. take a lot of pictures.
2. After a long time, start to get annoyed at what I could not do with the camera.
3. from being annoyed learned more about what my camera could not do (well... as well as learn what my camera could do well).
4. Want a new camera
4b. Break my current camera (not on purpose)
5. Buy a new camera.

From here, I expect 1 - 5 can repeat themselves a lot. I've gotten some pretty good life out of 2 point and shoots. Dont sell yourself short just because you have a P&S. I've taken some good photos, and I'm pretty crappy compared to everyone else.

In fact, I think it was only after sitting down, and looking through the photos I had taken, and thinking about the kind of photos I want to take (And after my current P&S started chewing up memory cards) did I realize it may be a good time to step up to DSLR. Namely:


6. I realized some of the photos I wanted to take more of, matched the strengths of DSLRs.

7. I became comfortable with the idea of (heck, I wanted to) change out lenses for different situations (mind you I still want small, mobile lenses)

8. I felt ready to invest in some basic photography classes to actually learn some of the things I had been guessing at through the basics.

9. My girlfriend got her first P&S digital camera, so I'm less concerned about not carrying one of those around :)
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Postposted on Tue Dec 18, 2007 12:46 pm

LOL, I ramble too much for the poor advice I'm giving, but I just thought I'd share some of my mindset since I'm just about to "transition up"

But while I was cycling through 1-5 above, the P&S proved more than fine for my needs, and I was slowly learning things without even knowing it. Of course, I always wanted better, but it wasn't until I really decided to start doing something different than my normal photography pattern could I come up with reasons to go DSLR.


Oh, and #9, all joking aside is actually quite important to me. At least currently, I'm still a big "document my experience" kind of photo shooter as opposed to a "compose and create" kind of photo shooter...and especially since the events I already want to shoot pictures at are at gatherings, parties and crowded pubs *s* Much handier to have a compact P&S in your pocket for that kind of work than a DSLR.


As for pricing, having looked at the cameras I wanted, if you were to hop on to DSLRs today, I'd say $2000 is way to expensive (as a base price). You can easily get an XTi or D40x (two, good 10 MP entry level cameras) in a two lens kit for roughly $750~850. If you wanted to go with a similar, but 6MP D40, you can knock another 100, to $150 off that price.

At this point, personally, I'd put any extra money beyond that into lessons and accessories.
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Re: Photography and I: My short but fun journey

Postposted on Tue Dec 18, 2007 1:11 pm

themattman wrote:I've noticed I only take 2 types of pictures, action and nature. Should I try to diversify what I take? Am I being amateurish by just taking those "wow" shots?
It's likely that your best photos will always be those you take of something you are interested in. Don't diversify for its own sake. If you want to, do it. If not, don't. Some people extol the virtues of mastering a particular style/subject/piece of equipment/focal length/etc. as a path to the best photos possible, others are more interested in variety as a stimulus for broad based knowledge, creativity, or enjoyment. It's really an individual choice. Make photos of stuff you like photographing, make photographs to get better at photographing, make photographs to make good photographs - just do whatever suits your goals/desires.

themattman wrote:I am looking for some criticism on how I can make my photo taking ability better. Should I start exploiting the settings of my camera? I would like to eventually move up to a DSLR, but I do not know if I should practice more on this camera or just go ahead and learn with a DSLR.
To get better (in general), you need to develop both your technical and compositional skills as well as any skills peripherially related to your photography (i.e. woodcraft and patience for nature photography, working with models/people if you want to photograph them, etc.). The balance of what you need to develop depends a lot on what you want to shoot, what tools you have/want/can acquire, and what your current strengths and weaknesses are. The skills you use when shooting different types of photos, shooting with different equipment, and shooting with different styles are all different. The compositional part is often the hardest to develop and the most difficult to communicate except by non-ironclad rules of thumb.

A few overriding technical differences between something like your camera and something like a DSLR are worth mentioning right now. The biggest advantages a DSLR or similar platform have over something like you have are going to be related to speed of operation and size of sensor. Depending on what and how you like to shoot, the availability of various lenses can matter a lot or not a ton. The biggest disadvantages are going to be cost and weight. My SLR kit probably includes 15 items that all have a retail cost that's as much or (significantly) more than the majority of point and shoot cameras. Most of them cost significantly more than your current camera. Packed into my camera backpack they weigh something like 35 pounds.

Returning to the fundamental advantages of speed and sensor size, these come into play in a few main ways:
Manual control of an SLR is both easier and more effective. At worst you press a button and spin a knob/dial. Most of the time you just spin a dial. That's infinitely better than the alternative button-mashing of point and shoot type cameras.
DSLRs tend to put out better-quality images, especially at higher ISO sensitivities due to their larger sensor.
Due to the difference in sensor size, changing the aperture on DSLRs has strong effectson the image while for anything other than extreme closeups it doesn't really do anything on compacts other than make you change shutter speeds. On an SLR changing the aperture dramatically changes how much of the shot is in focus. This can be used to blur backgrounds or draw attention to specific details. You can't really do this with compacts. If you do mostly landscapes or otherwise want everything in focus this isn't a significant advantage. For other stuff it's often huge.
themattman wrote:If I should go with the DSLR route, how much should I be spending for an entry-level camera. Would $2,000 be enough for the body/lens/numberous accessories? (If this is so I have some saving up to do :) )
That price can certainly get you an SLR setup. The extent of what constitutes a relatively complete system differs from person to person depending on needs and budget. If your goal is high-level wildlife or sports photography that budget wouldn't even accommodate many lenses you'd probably want by themselves. For less equipment-intensive photography it could be stretched a pretty decent distance. Don't buy lenses/accessories/bodies to have them, buy them to fit specific needs. The price differences between bodies are strongly tied to features, not image quality. Features are great and often necessary, but be aware of what you're paying for and list out as much of what you want to be able to do with your budget as possible before trying to spend it. Spend money on equipment if you need to do so to solve a problem, not just to get equipment you perceive as nebulously better.
themattman wrote:One last question. What photo editing software would be good for myself with little experience. Do I go straight for Photoshop/Photoshop Elements, or is a generic editing program fine?
Photoshop is great. It does a ton, packs a lot of power, and is smooth to learn when you know it. It's not necessarily newbie-friendly though. Lightroom incorporates an awful lot of what photoshop can do for photographers, short of retouching and similar. The most fundamental tools to have are the ability to adjust levels and curves, preferably in a manner that you can undo easily. Minor adjustments with those two tools are going to give you by far the most "bang for your buck" in terms of making images "better" without doing much to them.
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Postposted on Tue Dec 18, 2007 1:22 pm

gbcrush wrote:As for pricing, having looked at the cameras I wanted, if you were to hop on to DSLRs today, I'd say $2000 is way to expensive (as a base price). You can easily get an XTi or D40x (two, good 10 MP entry level cameras) in a two lens kit for roughly $750~850. If you wanted to go with a similar, but 6MP D40, you can knock another 100, to $150 off that price.

At this point, personally, I'd put any extra money beyond that into lessons and accessories.
Depending on needs and future plans, the D80 or higher are often much better choices than the D40 series. If you plan to buy all new lenses and stick to zooms the d40 is fine. The d80's ability to autofocus with a lot more lenses (plus its better AF in general) plus having 2 control dials rather than one are huge gains. If long-term plans involve buying much more than a couple of kit lenses I'd be reluctant to select the d40. I'd be pretty reluctant to hitch my horse purely to kit lenses for the most part too (depending on how serious you are of course). Their lack of nice wide apertures and often dubious quality (things that hurt double for the telephotos) can get annoying. Some are nice and especially useful as tools to help you know what you want they're not always long-term solutions.
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Re: Photography and I: My short but fun journey

Postposted on Tue Dec 18, 2007 1:49 pm

mattsteg wrote:Photoshop is great. It does a ton, packs a lot of power, and is smooth to learn when you know it. It's not necessarily newbie-friendly though. Lightroom incorporates an awful lot of what photoshop can do for photographers, short of retouching and similar. The most fundamental tools to have are the ability to adjust levels and curves, preferably in a manner that you can undo easily. Minor adjustments with those two tools are going to give you by far the most "bang for your buck" in terms of making images "better" without doing much to them.

What do you think of PSElements? It seems to do about 80% of what Photoshop can do at around $80-$100, but I don't know what is missing in that 20%.
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Re: Photography and I: My short but fun journey

Postposted on Tue Dec 18, 2007 2:14 pm

derFunkenstein wrote:
mattsteg wrote:Photoshop is great. It does a ton, packs a lot of power, and is smooth to learn when you know it. It's not necessarily newbie-friendly though. Lightroom incorporates an awful lot of what photoshop can do for photographers, short of retouching and similar. The most fundamental tools to have are the ability to adjust levels and curves, preferably in a manner that you can undo easily. Minor adjustments with those two tools are going to give you by far the most "bang for your buck" in terms of making images "better" without doing much to them.

What do you think of PSElements? It seems to do about 80% of what Photoshop can do at around $80-$100, but I don't know what is missing in that 20%.
It's a decent deal in some ways, but some of what it omits is pretty important to me. A lot of that can probably be added back in via hacks or third-party stuff, but some of it can't. It's probably easier to use for someone new to that sort of product. Lightroom includes far more of what I'd otherwise want to use photoshop for than elements does (at a correspondingly greater price).

It's silly because the differences that matter most to me are pretty simple features. Things like a curves dialog plus being able to apply it as an adjustment layer or convert between color profiles ( http://www.earthboundlight.com/phototip ... ement.html ) are either missing or neutered for the most part. Same with support for 16-bit images. It's all annoying little piddly crap that matters far in excess of its complexity but they do a very good job of differentiating between it and full photoshop. Lightroom offers functionality very suitable to photography, but it's fairly expensive plus runs like poo.
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Where did all of my money go?

Postposted on Tue Dec 18, 2007 6:46 pm

Two months after buying a DSLR camera, I'm convinced that you can spend from $600 up to whatever you have on DSLR equipment.

The Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi (400D) kit starts below $600, for example, but things can go up rapidly from there. Lens quality varies from "cheap" to "consumer" to "prosumer" to "luxury", and the prices double or triple at each level. :o
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Postposted on Tue Dec 18, 2007 6:52 pm

From what I know, it can be a very expensive hobby. And you can't expect to buy a DSLR and a kit lens and expect to get far better shots than a typical point and shoot.
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Postposted on Tue Dec 18, 2007 11:13 pm

Does your camera have any manual settings? I don't have the time to hunt it up myself, if so i would suggest that you learn those first before getting into a dslr, because i personally think it silly to invest so much into a system until you at least have the hang of manual settings. I also agree with the earlier statement of it not mattering what camera you use, because a great photo can be taken using anything. the important part is the composition etc in the photo. :D
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Postposted on Wed Dec 19, 2007 5:33 pm

jobodaho wrote:From what I know, it can be a very expensive hobby. And you can't expect to buy a DSLR and a kit lens and expect to get far better shots than a typical point and shoot.


Yeap, it can get expensive. :)

You can get good shots with a P&S for day shots. Once it gets dark, focusing deteriorates. Image quality also deteriorates for action shots as you jack up ISO to get the shutter speed, but for landscape, a tripod will fix that issue.

If you pixel peep, even the kit lenses on DSLRs provide more detail than the built in lenses of the P&S cameras.

If you want to be cheap, GIMP is good for editing images (free).

If you want to spend a bit, Adobe Lightroom is really a good program for 90% of your editing needs.
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