October 5, 2006


“What general words of advice do you have for new photographers ?”

I would say that 90% of emails that I get where people are unhappy with their cameras, have to do with not understanding the basics of exposure metering. This is especially true for newcomers to digital photography.

So you used to get great results with your F5, but the D200 gives you poor results?  Well, if you’ve been shooting slide film, then you might be onto something here, but most photographers used color negative film before trying digital.  And here’s the thing that you weren’t aware of – your lab has been correcting for all your errors in exposure all this time. But with digital, you get to see exactly what you’re doing. Your photographs come out too dark? Then it is something *you* are doing, or not doing. Trust me on this one.

So my general words of advice would be:
understand how to use your camera’s light-meter more effectively.
– use manual exposure metering all of the time,
– get to understand exposure metering, but also
– know why centering the needle is quite often not the ‘correct exposure’,
– read up on the Zone System and adapt it for yourself,
understand the histogram and how to interpret it,
– use the blinking highlights feature and when to interpret it.

All of which often leads to the next point …


“I’ve read the manual, but what do these buttons and dials actually DO ?”

Questions that come up all too often pertain to basic operations of a camera, such as apertures and shutter speeds.

So if you …

– need to know what an aperture is,
– and why changing the aperture affects depth of field,
– and what depth of field is,
– and why a slow shutter speed causes blur,

… then it is important that you stop dawdling! Get yourself a good general book on photography with lots of photos to illustrate these concepts to you.

Without grasping these basic tenets of photographic technique, your results will always remain hit-and-miss.

Think about it this way, if you have just bought an expensive D-SLR, with more money invested in lenses and a flashgun as well .. then it makes good sense to invest another $40 on a good book to help you actually make good use of your new toys.

And now a bit of tough love for those photographers who rationalize not wanting to read a book, by saying they learn best from being shown … well, you are reading this aren’t you?  Stop indulging yourself.  Without grasping the basics of photographic technique, you will only keep yourself back as a photographer.


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{ 4 comments. } Add a Comment

1 Craig Maresch October 23, 2007 at 3:58 pm

I have been reading your web for a few days now and WOW, I have been taking photo’s for a couple of years now (most in Auto) and in hit or miss. I want to first say that you have given me invaluable insight into flash photography and inspired me to look at my subjects (which by the way are the Knights of Columbus) in a new way. (also I don’t get paid)
That being said would you concider doing some instructional DVD’s?
BTW in case I didn’t say I think your photo’s are FANTASTIC!


2 David in Canada September 18, 2008 at 8:31 pm

A a recent convert to DSLR, and relatively new to photography, are there any particular books that you would recommend for a beginner?

By the way, great web site.


3 Neil September 24, 2008 at 2:08 pm

Hi there David …

There are so many books coming in on the market, that it is near impossible to keep an updated list of relevant books. The best would be to peruse the shelves at your local bookstore.

Neil vN


4 trevor campbell June 7, 2012 at 2:10 am

hi,im new to photography and browsing for information, just discovered your website and i am very impressed, straight forward, clear to read and professional. if only more were like it,

many thanks

trevor c


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