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Old Jan 31, 2009, 6:28 PM   #1
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This may seem like a dumb question, but bear with me. I'm one of those people who leaves their camera on automatic for nearly all their photos. I think I'm getting better at taking photos, because I actually stop and think about what I'm doing before I take a photo, but I've got to the stage, however, where interest, and thoughtfulness need to be supported by some actual knowledge about how to take better photos.

Do you guys have any suggestions about how I can do that? Can you learn about all this photography gubbins in your late 30s? I don't expect to become the next David Bailey, but I'd kind of like to go beyond decent holiday style snaps.

Incidentally I kind of know what all the different P, S, A etc dials do on the camera, it's a matter of turning book knowlege into practice to some extent I think.
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Old Jan 31, 2009, 8:10 PM   #2
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There are numerous on-line tutorials that can help with general subjects and for more specific areas of photography that you might want to pursue. You might be better off, exploring the website ofthe manufacturer of your camera, for a start. I know that Canon, Nikon and Sony have good tutorials on their websites, and they aren't necessarily product specific.
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Old Jan 31, 2009, 8:18 PM   #3
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I'm not going to recommend any specific books, websites, etc. Just offer some really general commentary.

There are books available for specific cameras that go into far greater detail than the owners manual. Usually these are only written for DSLR's, but if you have a point & shoot, there's probably a more generic treatment for this class in some book or other.

What's helpful to know -- and you sound like you might be at about this point -- is not only what your camera does when you engage a certain function or a particular shooting mode, but why this particular function or shooting mode is available. Knowing that a certain mode or button does a certain thing is just academic knowledge. Sometimes the why is fairly obvious, but I've found that many times it isn't. You need the two things together to really make the function or mode make sense.

The next time you whip out your camera, ask yourself -- as you say you've started doing -- what you want to achieve with this picture. Do you want to freeze fast motion? Achieve selective focus? Balance the background exposure with the foreground? Get a reasonably sharp moving subject with a motion-blurred background?

If you find that you don't know how to get the result you want through the partnership of your camera and editing software, that's something you need to study. There are huge free resources on the internet waiting for you to put the right words into a google search field and lots of books, new and used.

If you fill the gaps in your knowledge in this way, before long you'll have a fairly inexpensive library of information that's custom-fitted to your interests.

Of course, this doesn't mean that you shouldn't pick up random books to look at. Many times you find things that you didn't know existed. Some of that will be of no interest, but, like panning for gold, there are nuggets to be found among the slag.

The only downside, if you want to call it that, to increasing your knowledge is that it might end up decreasing the contents of your wallet if you find too many things that you want to do that require better equipment than you presently own!

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Old Jan 31, 2009, 8:39 PM   #4
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JimBowen1 wrote:
... I actually stop and think about what I'm doing before I take a photo. ...
You have taken the most important step.

Beyond the technical stuff, spending time in art galleries looking at photos and trying to figure out how they were made is worth your time. Whenever you see a photo that strikes you, spend some time to figure out how it was lit. How the background was dealt with. What the photographer was trying to do. Why/how did it strike you? ...
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Old Jan 31, 2009, 11:29 PM   #5
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Can you learn about photography in your 30's? Absolutely! It could end up that you'll be looking around for additional hints and suggestions well into your 60s and beyond - it can provide you a fun life-long pursuit for improvement.

Besides the numerous websites around that are filled with photo talk, there are old and new books about photography in your local library. The principles of photography haven't changed all that much from film days - just the way you go about it all is a bit different. And "better photos" are really a combination of the technical and the artistic. Besides reading and looking at other people's pictures, go out and take lots of your own. Try new things. Experiment with things you don't know whether they will work or not. Expect to throw out many of those experiments while you figure out what works and what doesn't. It ends up being great fun and you get better as you find out what works for you.
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Old Feb 1, 2009, 11:36 AM   #6
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Welcome to the digital age! Where I am going with this is that experimenting with digital cameras is essentially free - no film to buy or develop, etc.

In addition to everything that has been posted here, take your camera and go down to a street corner and try slowing down the shutter speed on successive steps.

Go out at night and open up the aperature and slow down the shutter speed taking pictures - setting the camera on something so as to eliminate vibration, etc. Also, try increasing the iso speed.

Find something that is interesting and large - taking pictures of it in sections and then stitch the images together, using free (or trial) software available out on the web.

Experiment with depth of field - focusing on something in front of you with the background blurred or the background in focus with the object in front blurred.

Take multiple images of something with different settings (aperature and shutter speed) and then combine the images together (HDR)

Find something small and take pictures of it (macro photography).

Set your camera some place and take successive pictures of the sun going down, 1 frame every minute or so, making a mini movie.

Try black and white photography or take a series of photos with ever increasing iso speeds and see what happens, and what it looks like.....

Use the equipment you have, and think out of the box on how to use it.

Figure out what appeals to you, what your interests are, and experiment with it.

Hope that helps...
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Old Feb 4, 2009, 6:48 AM   #7
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JimBowen1 wrote:
... Can you learn about all this photography gubbins in your late 30s? ...
Take heart. I'm stilll learning about photography, and I'm in my ... um ... older than that.
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Old Feb 4, 2009, 10:56 AM   #8
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I would recommend finding a "project".

For instance, you may want to take photos of sports for a local team.

Or you may want to take photos for the local newspaper or for a charity website.

Once you have a "project", you can get lots of advice regarding how to improve your technique.
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