View Full Version : DSLR Intro - Any Recommended Books?

11-06-2007, 03:00 PM
It always tickles me that I find some of my best non-automotive information on auto-related sites. This photography forum is one of my favorite daily stops and I hope to achieve a fraction of talent I've seen here.

Amy and I are looking at stepping up into the world of more photo control and creativity, but being avid readers, we want to have some good printed resources in hand before we spend the money. We both have cheap P&S digitals right now, and while we play with some of the manual settings now and then, we would like a more comprehensive knowledge of digital photography in general, and what DSLR can bring to our photography.

Any recommendations for books that can get us pointed in the right direction would be greatly appreciated.


11-06-2007, 03:26 PM
While I'm sure there are myriad books to choose from, I don't know of any offhand. But if you are really interested in learning all the basics, it might be worth your time and effort to take a step back in time and spend $100 or so on a good old-fashioned all manual film camera, like a Pentax K1000, Olympus OM-1, Nikon FM-2 or ????.

No auto settings and it really gives you a good sense of how aperture and shutter speed work together, and the results from each. They slow you down so you concentrate on composition, you focus on what is important to you instead of having the camera pick everything.

This can certainly be done with a DSLR, but depending upon the model, manual control is a little more difficult, and you don't have the tactile feedback an older camera has (you dial knobs on the old manual cameras, which help you understand the relationships mentioned above, at least that's what I think). With modern cameras, you turn dials and stuff and I don't believe you learn the same way with these.

As someone who does this professionally, I find myself being lazier with digital than I was with film. Which is why I think a manual camera is a good place to start, you don't just burn through electrons looking for the right picture, you concentrate on the art by producing pictures in smaller quantities.

To me, it is a lot like vehicles. A Land Rover Series truck teaches you the fine art, and skill, of driving on trails. An LR3 takes all that and automates it so you can get you through the rough without knowing anything (but to be really good, and minimize damage to the vehicle and trail, you still need to learn the basics).

11-06-2007, 04:04 PM
I had a former photography student give me a nice textbook that really helped me understand what the hell lens focal lengths and f/# meant -- the technical side of things. I didn't know 50mm from my elbow when I bought my first camera and it was slow going even with the book.

If you want a book, I'd be happy to send you the one that that former student gave to me. Otherwise, you could browse the photography section at your neighborhood B&N, but I found that quite intimidating because there are so many books.

Above all, 10 minutes with an experienced photographer who's kind enough to point out the dials and doo-dads on a SLR is worth far more than a $30 textbook. See if you can find one of those. :)

11-06-2007, 04:57 PM
Goofiefoot-going through the same thing that you are now, trying to learn my new Digitial camera, while relearning the basics of old school photography. I have been haunting the local library and book stores, the best ones that I have found, written for some one like me is the National Geographic Series.

National Geographic: The Ultimate Field Guide to Photography (Paperback)

National Geographic Photography Field Guide: Secrets to Making Great Pictures, Second Edition

I bought these used at Amazon, they are still a little pricey but generally good introductory books.

11-06-2007, 05:35 PM
I must agree with Mark & Jeffry,
Time spent with a basic camera, and someone to help you learn it, is priceless.

Sign up for a class, at the local Community College. Not a darkroom class; but a photography class. It could be portrait or landscape, or ??? Most CC classes are not portrait type classes; but the things you learn about lighting in a portrait class, really help with the landscape work.

The books I would recommend are by John Shaw (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_b/104-3574653-7343151?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=John+Shaw). There are many excellent books out there; but these seem to cut right to the core of photographing nature. He covers the gear, how & why to use it, light, etc, etc. These books are also used by instructors for photography classes.

Jeffry is correct about becoming more lazy about the photography, with the digital camera. I have become more lazy also. It takes work to make good photographs. It is not a fast process. Artistic nature photographs are not created like photojournalisic photos. You don't "spray & pray", you create. You don't "snap" a shot, you think about what you want, and position your camera to capturte it. And on, and on.

You need to learn to see what your camera sees, and how to read the light. This has to be done to make the correct settings in the camera, prior to squeezing the trigger. The use of a manual, film camera, and slide film, can help with this. If you get a little frustrated with everything going so slow, you can always whip out your digital P&S, and snap away for a while.

When you go looking for a digital SLR, make sure it is easy for you to use. You don't want to use menus for your normal adjustments, like: ISO, white balance, shutter speed, aperture, +/- exposure. When you are out practicing and learning, try turning off the rear display. Pay attention to your light meter, and composition. Then don't look at the images until you get them loaded onto the computer. Then don't be afraid to delete them.

In the end, you will be able to drive those P&S to their very limits, and get excellent images with them also.

Enjoy your new adventure.:wings: :safari-rig:

11-07-2007, 02:27 AM
The National Geographic books are excellent, and from time to time, they offer training classes that are really fun. I got on a list somehow through B&H photo (.com) and get email announcements from time to time.

One of the biggest differences between DSLR and PNS (point and shoot) cameras is in the impact on workflow.

When I first went DSLR, I took thousands of shots and cranked through them with PhotoShop Elements 2.0. Then I realized that it was really tedious hard work to process all those photos, and I went through a phase of barely even wanting to use the camera.

I took a digital workflow class, and upgraded my software suites (to Adobe PhotoShop 7, then CS2, and now CS3), and I use a host of other helper applications to make it far more efficent and productive. Fortunately, now that 500GB hard drives are cheap, backup and archiving is much easier too.

So my advice is yes, learn some of the flexibilities of DSLR, but really give thought tot he hardware/software costs on the computer end and how that will effect your workflow. That is a very important, and seldom discussed topic.

Here is a link to some other related info:
- http://ngtravelerseminars.com/digital.cfm
- http://www.d-65.com/workshops.html
- http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/shop/1080/For_the_Cameras_User_Introduction_to_Digital_Photo graphy_Imaging.html

And I highly recommend pretty much anything Scott Kelby writes or says regarding PhotoShop use: http://www.scottkelby.com/

This one looks particularly promising for you:

11-07-2007, 04:39 PM
This is truly great advice, folks. I actually have (completely forgot) my grandfathers manual Vivitar VX-2. From a little digging online, it's probably not the perfect option, but I already have it and it looks like it would clean up ok. It already has two separate lens assemblies, several filters, flash, and manuals.

To nwoods point, luckily I am a graphic designer with extensive photoshop experience and a kick-butt Apple laptop I use for work and play. Obviously, I will be learning new skills as I work with my own photos, instead of our photographers', who I can use as a resource as well.

I'll look into the Kelby and National Geographic books, since I love to have resources on hand. I hope to be able to pick you guys' brains as well as I explore this further.

Thanks again!