So You Have a New Camera (or your resolutions include becoming a better photographer…)

Lake Huron PanoramaHappy New Year Everyone,

I hope that you had a great break and you’re now ready to learn how to use that new camera!  (Or continue to learn how to use an old camera…).  Getting a new camera is exciting and can add a lot of enthusiasm to your photography.  Whether you have a new camera or one of your new year’s resolutions are to become a better photographer, then read on!  We’ll talk about some ideas to speed up your learning curve without getting too technical.

1) What do you like to shoot?  

This is an obvious question but one that is often overlooked at first.  If you’re like me, you want to be good at all of it…but let’s not take on too much at once.  You probably won’t become an awesome portrait photographer, macro photographer, landscape photographer, sports photographer, bird photographer….(you get the point) at the same time.  On the other hand, you should take your camera everywhere and keep shooting but once you decide what you want to be good at, then focus on that topic for a while.  If you have kids and you want some good shots to frame, then study up on portrait photographers; all one has to do is google ‘portrait photographer’ and you’ll get a load of images to study, and find a lot of information that you can read up on.  Remember, scattered focus = scattered results.

2) Read your camera manual.

Read your camera manual.  Read your camera manual.  Read your camera manual.  Read your camera manual.  Read your camera manual.  Once you’re finished that then you should read your camera manual.  If you haven’t read the manual within the last 6 months, then read it again.

3) Convince yourself you don’t need more gear to get better.

This topic is a tricky one.  Camera manufacturers and electronics retailers will try to convince you that the next thing you need is to spend more money.  My response…Hogwash!  You need to spend more time figuring out what went wrong.  I’m willing to listen if someone has a better way to learn, but my path has been to shoot a lot and try to figure out why it didn’t look like you wanted it to.  Don’t just delete it in camera.  Keep it, download it and review it.  Get a good night’s sleep and review it again.  This process doesn’t require more gear or money.  It requires a willingness to be brutally honest with the image (and yourself).  Obviously there are gear intensive areas of photography like sports or birds but the first thing you need to do know is the limit of your gear and chances are, the limit right now is you.  Be patient with yourself and remember to keep this fun but this point can’t be understated…learn from your mistakes and move on!

4) See Number 2

5) A Local Photography Course

Find out where your new camera was purchased.  Its possible that if the camera was purchased at a local camera store (not big box), there could be an afternoon course that came with the purchase.  Not all stores will offer sort of value but my wife took a brief afternoon course on her new point and shoot camera when we lived in Calgary.  The course was quite helpful and definitely sped up the learning curve.  Find out about any local courses through the art community where you lived.  Even if you’ve been shooting for a while, you’ll probably come out with a few things that will help you out.  These courses are usually not very intensive (which is a good thing at first) but it introduces you to your camera, its settings and some techno Do’s and Don’ts.

6) You Can Become a Better Photographer Regardless of the Camera

There have been coffee table books published from camera phone photos.  Stop drooling over the latest thing and get out and shoot.

7) Make a commitment to get off of Auto Mode (intermediate tip)

Warning: if you haven’t taken some time with the first 6 tips, then this is the tip with the biggest payoff but it may be too much info at first.  In order to put your learning on nitro glycerine, you need to get off of the automatic mode if you truly want complete control over your camera.  Take the time to commit to learning about aperture, shutter speed and ISO.  (See Number 1 – shoot as much as you want in AutoMode but start evaluating your images and see what didn’t work and what did.)

7) Start Reading about your craft.

The best part of being in the middle of the internet explosion is the access to information is at your finger tips.  Here are some free and paid resources that can keep your photography growing.  I don’t know what you like to shoot, but anyone on this list will give you more information to read and learn more about your craft.

Photofocus – good daily tips from Scott Bourne and Rich Harrington

Rick Sammon – who can forget about the Godfather of modern photography!  Great guy, friendly approach and if you read his blog, he’ll cover the areas you’re looking for.

Google – “Photography” – this yields 1,500,000,000 hits…the info you seek is out there!

Till next time,

Jason Finner

Sometimes things just work out…

…and sometimes they don’t.  If you’re contemplating more landscape photography in your life, you better get used to early mornings or late evenings where the light just won’t cooperate or your compositions aren’t working out…or both.  I went out last night to capture the elusive Kincardine Lighthouse which I just haven’t had much luck with getting an A+ shot during the winter.  Unfortunately this night was more of the same.  I’ve been driving past the empty harbour for the last month thinking there has to be a way to shoot the harbour and get the lighthouse too in a cool composition.  The first try was from the western boat dock but I just wasn’t feeling the composition so I moved to the south east corner and shot this panorama…more of the same….a small lighthouse in the corner with very little ‘magic hour’ light at sunset wasn’t what I had in mind.

The tough part about this lighthouse is its tucked back with the houses and a brand new bridge which doesn’t add much character to the shot.  I moved to the western edge of the harbour by the picket fence and shot another panorama but by this time the wind was howling off the lake and I just couldn’t get my tripod steady in the sand. The next tripod I’ll buy will definitely have the ability to hang my backpack of the bottom of the ballhead for more stability.  I’ll be back to try this one again when its calmer.  The beauty of small apertures (i.e. f29) is the star burst of the lights which makes for a cool effect and this setup seems to hold the most promise.

The next try was to go and shoot the reflections off the sand.  The sunset wasn’t very warm, few clouds were in the sky and boy was it windy…but there’s always something to learn, especially when photo shoots don’t go well.  High wind and sand are a very difficult combination for sharp images since both will make long exposures unsteady.

As I was setting up shooting the sand reflections, a buddy dropped by to say hello!  I look down the shore to watch for interesting compositions and along comes a beaver.   Continue reading