Decent photos… even as a noob.

So I’ve only owned my DSLR for a little over 2 years now… I started off being a complete noob at using it.  I had to learn a bunch of terms, how to adjust settings, how to learn to operate my camera faster… etc.

So how do you go from complete noob to pro?  Don’t ask me, I’m not a pro ^^;  I can’t tell you how to be a pro… but I do feel like it’s starting to take less and less time for me to nail that great shot, especially since starting this 366 day challenge… so I’ll essentially give you tips on how to be a “better newbie.”

 

Don’t read this page before reading that one!


  • Photograph what you like!

I can’t stress this enough… In today’s world it’s honestly a bit hard because I like cute and pretty things.  To me, that generally means females when it comes to “pretty,” which can lead to all sorts of issues when it’s a male approaching one.  Anyone that knows me knows how harmless I am but that’s just the way the world is… okay enough ranting ^^;

Photograph what you like. If you’re interested in the subject, the picture is going to come out better because you’re going to compose it in a way that is more appealing to you without thinking about it.  If you ask me to take landscape photography, I might take a few shots in the course of a day that look great.  It’s just not my specialty.  I think nature is nice, but I think lolitas are pretty.  If you ask me to take pictures of lolitas all day, not only will I be more excited to do it, I’ll get many more shots to look good.  The things that please your eyes are the things you’ll be able to portray as art better.

 

  • Be ready for the shot.

Leave your lens cap off so that when you see something, you can just grab your camera and shoot it.  It’s worth it to invest in a decent UV Filter because of this, I personally use a Hoya HMC (multi-coated to reduce the chance of ghosting / flares) UV filter.

 

  • Use continuous mode and always take 2-4 shots.

This is a personal opinion but I’m sure many share it.  Especially in the lower lighting situations you may want to take at least 4 to be sure at least one of them is in focus.  There have been times where I’ve seen something really nice and then gotten home to find out that I didn’t get an in focus shot of it :(

Continuous mode is your friend. I’d leave my camera in that mode all the time if I were you.  It’s not as crucial in high light situations… you’re less likely to miss a shot then.  But in lower light, you’ll want to fire off multiple shots to make sure you get one in good focus.

 

  • Shoot in RAW (if you can).

This is going to be debated on forums and on sites hosted by professional photographers (Ken Rockwell comes to mind…) but just do it, especially if you’re not a pro.  The point you’ll see made in general is that “RAW isn’t necessary.”  This is a true point, it’s not.  If you’re a pro photographer you can probably get the white balance right 90%+ of the time… you can make adjustments faster and can nail the exposure…

But I’m not a pro, and I imagine that many of you reading this guide are in the same boat!  Shooting RAW allows you to correct the mistakes that amateurs like you and me make. Yes, the end goal is to become a better photographer, but seriously, if you only have one opportunity to take a shot of something would you want it to look crappy as a .jpg because you forgot to change your white balance?  I’d honestly rather correct my mistakes after looking at it than end up being pissed off because I ruined a chance at a good shot from a dumb mistake! With RAW, you can correct that dumb mistake!   You can also fix white balance, exposure (to an extent), change the contrast and saturation levels as well as try to correct some overexposure and underexposure through highlight and shadow settings all using Nikon’s free View NX2 software (Canon includes Digital Photo Professional with their RAW capable cameras which is similar software).  If not using RAW, you’d have to manually adjust things using a photo editing software such as Photoshop or Paint.net which I think would be a lot more of a pain.

(Edit… after doing it more myself, it’s not that difficult to adjust things in photoshop, but it’s still more of a pain for correcting white balance and it’s quicker to use the software that ships with the camera.  I’ve gone back to shooting in JPG with my PowerShot S95 but I still shoot RAW with my D40 to for the reason below…)

In addition to correcting newbie mistakes… there is a valid reason for some pros to use RAW as well.  My D40 has about 60 “hot” pixels that show up when shooting no flash with ISO 1600.  I can run my RAW files through a program called Pixel Fixer (see the recommended programs page for more info) to remove these hot pixels from my converted jpeg images.  If I shoot jpeg by default, Pixel Fixer can’t work it’s magic and I’m stuck with a very annoying and distracting hot pixel that forms a blue line to the edge of my image.  Even if I was perfect in my settings every time, I’d still shoot RAW just to correct the hardware fault that can’t be fixed by being a better photographer.

 

  • Experiment… a lot!

Don’t be afraid… this is why we shoot digital. If the picture isn’t what you want, delete it.  If the picture IS what you want, learn from it.  Seriously, find an object of interest in your room or house or outdoors… sit your camera on a still surface or tripod, then take a picture of that object with auto settings.  Then mess around with your camera’s picture control settings… try vivid, try manually adjusting the settings… learn what your camera can do and then you’ll know more about what to set for different situations.  See what you like best and you’ll find yourself being happier with your pictures!

 

Hopefully these tips help you go out there and shoot some better photos ^^

 

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Photography on the Cheap

Cameras and lenses are expensive… there’s no way around it.  But man, $30 for a studio reflector?  $150+ for a good quality studio softbox for soft lighting?  $50 for a Gary Fong Lightsphere for those times when you can’t really bounce your flash?  By the time you’re done buying things to enhance your lighting, you’ve …

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Recommended Programs

Here’s a list of programs I recommend for post processing images~ ViewNX2 for Nikon .nef RAW images, Digital Photo Professional (no download link) for Canon .cr2 RAW images.  Unfortunately Canon doesn’t provide their software for a free download… it should come with your camera if it’s RAW capable, but be sure you keep your install …

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