A 15 Minute Lesson For The Photography Beginner - Digital Photography School

A 15 Minute Lesson For The Photography Beginner

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Copyright Nick

I was sitting in the heat and humidity of the the Amazonian rainforest inside the 1970’s designed airport at Puerto Maldonado, Peru. We had a few minutes before heading back to Lima and I had been trying to find time to help a young Norwegian traveling on the same itinerary as me.

When he saw my camera a few days earlier, he had the same comment I have head a dozen times while traveling;

“I just bought this camera before my trip and I haven’t a clue how to use it. So I just leave it on Auto.”

If you have uttered this phrase in the recent past, read on. If you have mastery of your camera this post will not likely excite you.

I then told him I’d be happy to help him get a little more out of his camera for the rest of his travels through South America. It’s always tricky making this offer, because some people just want a few tips and some can suck down half a day of sightseeing with constant questions. Unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to sit down and talk cameras until our time traveling together was almost over.

With just 15 minutes until we boarded and sat in different areas of the plane, I did my best to fill his head with quick tips to take better photos while he headed on to Brazil. Here then is what I told him.

Move off of Auto (and the reasons why)

Like a lot of people new to cameras, he was stuck on Auto or Auto with flash off. I quickly explained that his camera takes average pictures in Auto and took a few example shots to show him. Want to pick one person out of a crowd? Chances are Auto will make sure everyone is in focus, losing your friend. Standing in front of a sunset and wondering why your friend is always pitch black and the sun is not bright? Auto mode. With that in mind, I suggested….

Try P mode

Moving the dial to P(rogram), I explained that he would now be in charge of when his flash fired (and to not forget to use it at night when needed, but also in the middle of the day when there are shadows on faces). He could also control metering. As there were skylights in the airport and friends sitting across from us, with a very bright backlight, I took a shot with the friends centered. They were very dark because of the backlight. “Yeah! I’ve done that all the time!” he exclaimed. The camera was metering off the background and not the friends.

I showed him the simple trick of aiming the camera slightly down, so the friends filled the frame more than the backlight. He could then hold the shutter down halfway and it will lock the settings to that metering. Then, panning back up to center the friends, take a shot. Boom, the friends were light enough to be seen while the background got a bit blown out. I explained holding the shutter down half way locks exposure (the overall brightness of the shot) and focus.

P mode would allow him other adjustments, which we skipped over in the interest of time. I left telling him there was more to learn and his manual would explain adjustments that can be made in this mode.

When to use A Mode

A(perture) mode was next and it has one of the coolest effects on images. A mode controls how many things are in focus. Skipping over the technical aspects, I told him the lower the f/ number (shown on the bottom of his screen) the less things are in focus. The higher the number, the more things in focus. This is very important for making things standout.

Again, using a friend, I showed how at f/3.5 the person stood out from the other passengers in the waiting area (demonstrated here with a shot of a ruin wall taken at Machu Picchu shot at f/6.3).

PeterWestCarey-Peru2011-1128-1661

I then spun the front dial on the camera to increase the f/stop number to its maximum. Taking another shot, the friends quickly blended into the background (shown here by increasing the aperture number to f/40 at Machu Picchu).

PeterWestCarey-Peru2011-1128-1663

The lesson? A smaller number for aperture helps make objects stand out from their background. When you want to include everything, like a friend standing in front of a beach or monument, use a higher number.

When to use S mode

As they made the pre-boarding announcement and people started to shift, I sped up my presentation, which, at this point, was now about speed in S(hutter Priority) mode. In S mode he now had control of how much things were blurred. With limited time, I went for two highlights of S mode:

At 1/10th of a second, motion starts to blur in interesting ways if you know what’s going on.

For instance, waterfalls start to get the veil look to them. Any movement can be emphasized, such as this mechanical plow in Bhutan, churning a field.

PeterWestCarey-Bhutan2011-1024-9675

1/500th of a second is a good shutter speed to start freezing motion.

If he wants to stop something from moving, the faster the shutter speed the better. Fast moving objects typically need a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second or more. This number is also controlled with his front dial, as it will likely be on your camera. An example below of a truck speeding past a newly constructed statue of Buddha in Bhutan, shot at 1/800th of a second to stop the truck sharply.

PeterWestCarey-Bhutan2011-1018-1102

Get closer

I left him with the last bit of simple advice I leave for you. Get Closer. One of the biggest mistakes new photographers make is moving too far back and trying to get everything in focus. This approach, while sometimes effective, makes images flat and two dimensional as they lack depth. Get Closer. I showed him some examples with his camera and while I don’t have those images in the airport with me, I can show you what I mean with another set of photos.

The first images is the ‘standard’ tourist shot. “Look! It’s a pretty plant!”

PeterWestCarey-Peru2011-1201-2674

The problem is the plant gets lost in the background. Moving a bit closer, it starts to stand out a bit more.

PeterWestCarey-Peru2011-1201-2672

But we can do ever one better by getting some detail. In this last shot, I am about a foot from the plant.

PeterWestCarey-Peru2011-1201-2673

By this point, my section of the plane was being called for boarding and it was time to go.

While I will likely never see the young Norwegian again, I hope those 15 minutes helped him to take a few better photos while on his world travels. It is also my sincere hope that these few minutes can help you if you are just getting started with a new camera and want some easy advice for better photos.

Lastly, I should have added: Experiment! Photography should be fun and with practically zero cost to experiment digitally, play with your camera and see what works for you.

If you had just 15 minutes to help someone new to photography and traveling, what would you tell them?

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

Peter West Carey is a world traveling photographer who now is spending a large amount of time going back through 6 years of travel photo and processing them like he should have to start with. He is also helping others learn about photography with the free series 31+ Days Of Photography Experiments which builds off of the 31+ Days To Better Photography series on his blog.

  • Charles

    Thank You for your time in this. I just got my first DSLR and this cuts to the chase. I’ve been plowing through books and web sites. Trying to take pictures of what I want or see in my head, even with a point and shoot always had an eye for it. Now getting down and dirty with photography. Even with all the Tech books and sites this is one of the best I’ve seen at getting to the meat an taters of what to do if your new to this, and if you want to just step off the nice safe cliff of Auto.

  • Jim

    Very good article. Simple yet informative. I enjoy your web site. Problem is, I save all of your blogs in my email and my inbox is filling up! Hmmm, but keep ‘em coming.

  • http://phototipsforbeginners.com/ Mike

    This is a great article and I have linked out to it from my blog because the lessons here are so right, yet they’re not difficult for anyone to understand.

    I would definitely tell them:
    Just experiment and go do it!
    ALWAYS have the camera with you (Agreed colinoz!)
    Back up on a separate drive where possible

    Everyone has to start somewhere and we’re all able to use a camera of SOME sort now – even the mobile phone ones are not too bad as a starting point!
    I also have an article I wrote a while ago on taking care of your gear – SO important and I agree with you totally on that one Justin!
    Oh – READ the instruction book! So many of us males – tend to not do that {or is that an unkind and sexist thing to say!!! ;0) } and it makes such a difference to getting started!
    Basically – just do it and as you say, Rick – Have FUN!!

    In fact what can I REALLY add here – you guys are saying all the right things!!

    Brilliant! And thanks!

  • Jessi

    I would emphasize Get Closer! For sure. There is nothing I say more to people than this. I’m still a total neophyte with my DSLR. But one of my photog friends helped me learn how to properly frame shots when I was using my P&S and boom! Instant pro-looking photos instead of snapshots. Fill the frame, fill the frame, fill the frame. I tell this to everybody, and then they uncomfortably move toward their subject, feel awkward, take the shot and are amazed. And then they don’t back up ever again.

  • http://www.whitepetal.co.uk Paul

    Neat article, my one beginners tip would be to fill the frame, make it interesting!

  • Emilydonv

    As a beginner myself, and only in my teens, I have to admit that composition is what mainly makes or brakes my photos. I think the lighting also has a great effect on them. I love this article as while it may not have a great story, it sure does help with all the examples and the way he depicted the difference between a normal tourist photo and a photo with a little more thought and interest. Thank you so much for this article! I think it will truly help me alot in the future.

  • Leland

    Good article! I too am a firm believer of filling the frame. I would also tell the traveller to turn the flash off and practice shooting without it. Being skilled at not using a flash opens up far more opportunities to take less intrusive photos, such as in cathedrals or in other places with limited lighting or where you may want to be discreet. Plus you’ll appreciate not having the glare of flash reflection in your photos.

  • Mollymado

    Wow, this was so helpful to me! I’ve really been getting into photography in the last year, but I only have a point-and-shoot to work with. While it’s better than nothing, I’m planning on getting a DSLR sometime in the future, but I have no idea how I’d take photos completely on manuel. Every time I try to research the subject, there’s too much professional lingo involved, and I never understand what they’re talking about. This article really came in handy by bringing the terms down to earth and explaining it very simply to a beginner like myself. Thanks so much for posting! :)

  • Jo

    Thank you for this article, I have printed it for future reference. As a beginner with a new DSLR I never seem to be able to remember when to use A or S, I have taken classes and read as much as I can but my 60 year old brain just doesn’t seem to make it stick.
    I have decided to read this article every day for a few weeks and hope that I can retain it :-)

  • insh

    Very usefull tips thank you

  • Emma

    I think your aperture tips really help! I still have to refer to a piece of paper to remember, but now all I need is “low is less, high is more”…… Sorted!

  • https://www.facebook.com/elizabeth.finger3 Elizabeth Finger

    Hey , What I just read was really awesome..
    I’m 13 and I am going on a photo shoot next Wednesday (:! ( I got a friend to model for me while I take photos)
    and I hardly knew ANY of this.
    And now , I know much more(:!
    Thank you very much for these tips and now I shall read more! :D !
    Once again , Thank you!

  • adrian

    Great post ! When – got my new DSLR I was shooting also automatic. The big guys arround be stated: automatic mode must be forgotten. It made me feel so small….but no one explaned WHY !!
    This is why I really liked this post. It has examples. It is simple and non-sofisticated !
    Bravos !

  • Nishant

    Hey Peter,

    Thanx for posting this….As the title says this article took only 15 minutes to clear my doubts of P,A and S modes….m applying ur points since i read this….and m sure it will enhance knowledge as well as interest of a begineer like me…..eagerly waiting for ur next 15 mins……:)

  • Moose

    Yes aperture easy big number big picture(in focus) small number(small focus)

  • Mary Sue

    How could you have possibly shown him the pictures after shooting them if you did it in the 1970′s?

    Ex: I took a shot with the friends centered. They were very dark because of the backlight. “Yeah! I’ve done that all the time!”

    Ex: Then, panning back up to center the friends, take a shot. Boom, the friends were light enough to be seen while the background got a bit blown out.

    Don’t get me wrong… I do agree with your advice, I just wonder how you could have shown him the pictures in the 70′s since there wasn’t digital at that time.

  • Leland

    Mary Sue, Ed and others doubting the authenticity of this story: Reread the first sentence VERY SLOWLY. It does not say this took place in the seventies.

  • khalid

    Digital photography is becoming the most popular hobby of the world today. The recent developments of smartphones, iphone/ipad has changed the way, how we think of photography. To give professional touch to your photographs, now it is not necessary to consult some professional. One may use various tools and apps to make one’s photographs masterpieces instantly with a few taps, particularly those taken on graduation/wedding ceremony, honeymoon trip or New Year celebrations. I have used many such apps in recent past. One of such app is Photo Splash FX on iPhone/iPad that provides following unique features that you can’t find in any other app altogether. I noticed following notable features:

    · Make your shots awesome, no matter if they are old vintage, black and white or new high resolution colorful photos, by applying a plethora of special effects.

    · Use selective colors, variety of brush sizes (adjust manually or automatically), gestures like Pan/Zoom/Splash, unlimited Undos, Colorize, Tintalize, Recolor, blend brush to create custom effects and text blending on your photo.

    · It supports both landscape or portrait mode and options like loading/importing photo from Cloud, instead of just from the camera or photo library.

    · Choice of 135+ built-in effects on different parts of the same photo and still have the option of creating your own custom effects.

    · Option to make favorite list of built-in effects to choose them easily for future.

    · Share your masterpiece with your friends through Email, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Picassa, Dropbox or post it in form of the post card, to anywhere in the world.

  • Lee Ryall

    Just wanted to leave a comment to say that this is the most beginner friendly guide to using camera functions that I have seen. Thank you very much.

  • Ohdile

    Very well explained. It helped me a lot. Thank you!

Some older comments

  • khalid

    January 8, 2013 12:11 am

    Digital photography is becoming the most popular hobby of the world today. The recent developments of smartphones, iphone/ipad has changed the way, how we think of photography. To give professional touch to your photographs, now it is not necessary to consult some professional. One may use various tools and apps to make one’s photographs masterpieces instantly with a few taps, particularly those taken on graduation/wedding ceremony, honeymoon trip or New Year celebrations. I have used many such apps in recent past. One of such app is Photo Splash FX on iPhone/iPad that provides following unique features that you can’t find in any other app altogether. I noticed following notable features:

    · Make your shots awesome, no matter if they are old vintage, black and white or new high resolution colorful photos, by applying a plethora of special effects.

    · Use selective colors, variety of brush sizes (adjust manually or automatically), gestures like Pan/Zoom/Splash, unlimited Undos, Colorize, Tintalize, Recolor, blend brush to create custom effects and text blending on your photo.

    · It supports both landscape or portrait mode and options like loading/importing photo from Cloud, instead of just from the camera or photo library.

    · Choice of 135+ built-in effects on different parts of the same photo and still have the option of creating your own custom effects.

    · Option to make favorite list of built-in effects to choose them easily for future.

    · Share your masterpiece with your friends through Email, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Picassa, Dropbox or post it in form of the post card, to anywhere in the world.

  • Leland

    March 22, 2012 03:43 am

    Mary Sue, Ed and others doubting the authenticity of this story: Reread the first sentence VERY SLOWLY. It does not say this took place in the seventies.

  • Mary Sue

    March 21, 2012 02:31 pm

    How could you have possibly shown him the pictures after shooting them if you did it in the 1970's?

    Ex: I took a shot with the friends centered. They were very dark because of the backlight. “Yeah! I’ve done that all the time!”

    Ex: Then, panning back up to center the friends, take a shot. Boom, the friends were light enough to be seen while the background got a bit blown out.

    Don't get me wrong... I do agree with your advice, I just wonder how you could have shown him the pictures in the 70's since there wasn't digital at that time.

  • Moose

    January 29, 2012 04:37 am

    Yes aperture easy big number big picture(in focus) small number(small focus)

  • Nishant

    December 18, 2011 07:53 am

    Hey Peter,

    Thanx for posting this....As the title says this article took only 15 minutes to clear my doubts of P,A and S modes....m applying ur points since i read this....and m sure it will enhance knowledge as well as interest of a begineer like me.....eagerly waiting for ur next 15 mins......:)

  • adrian

    December 17, 2011 08:02 am

    Great post ! When - got my new DSLR I was shooting also automatic. The big guys arround be stated: automatic mode must be forgotten. It made me feel so small....but no one explaned WHY !!
    This is why I really liked this post. It has examples. It is simple and non-sofisticated !
    Bravos !

  • Elizabeth Finger

    December 16, 2011 05:56 am

    Hey , What I just read was really awesome..
    I'm 13 and I am going on a photo shoot next Wednesday (:! ( I got a friend to model for me while I take photos)
    and I hardly knew ANY of this.
    And now , I know much more(:!
    Thank you very much for these tips and now I shall read more! :D !
    Once again , Thank you!

  • Emma

    December 13, 2011 11:17 pm

    I think your aperture tips really help! I still have to refer to a piece of paper to remember, but now all I need is "low is less, high is more"...... Sorted!

  • insh

    December 11, 2011 10:08 pm

    Very usefull tips thank you

  • Jo

    December 11, 2011 07:00 pm

    Thank you for this article, I have printed it for future reference. As a beginner with a new DSLR I never seem to be able to remember when to use A or S, I have taken classes and read as much as I can but my 60 year old brain just doesn't seem to make it stick.
    I have decided to read this article every day for a few weeks and hope that I can retain it :-)

  • Mollymado

    December 11, 2011 07:55 am

    Wow, this was so helpful to me! I've really been getting into photography in the last year, but I only have a point-and-shoot to work with. While it's better than nothing, I'm planning on getting a DSLR sometime in the future, but I have no idea how I'd take photos completely on manuel. Every time I try to research the subject, there's too much professional lingo involved, and I never understand what they're talking about. This article really came in handy by bringing the terms down to earth and explaining it very simply to a beginner like myself. Thanks so much for posting! :)

  • Leland

    December 10, 2011 04:59 pm

    Good article! I too am a firm believer of filling the frame. I would also tell the traveller to turn the flash off and practice shooting without it. Being skilled at not using a flash opens up far more opportunities to take less intrusive photos, such as in cathedrals or in other places with limited lighting or where you may want to be discreet. Plus you'll appreciate not having the glare of flash reflection in your photos.

  • Emilydonv

    December 10, 2011 11:30 am

    As a beginner myself, and only in my teens, I have to admit that composition is what mainly makes or brakes my photos. I think the lighting also has a great effect on them. I love this article as while it may not have a great story, it sure does help with all the examples and the way he depicted the difference between a normal tourist photo and a photo with a little more thought and interest. Thank you so much for this article! I think it will truly help me alot in the future.

  • Paul

    December 10, 2011 04:10 am

    Neat article, my one beginners tip would be to fill the frame, make it interesting!

  • Jessi

    December 10, 2011 02:22 am

    I would emphasize Get Closer! For sure. There is nothing I say more to people than this. I'm still a total neophyte with my DSLR. But one of my photog friends helped me learn how to properly frame shots when I was using my P&S and boom! Instant pro-looking photos instead of snapshots. Fill the frame, fill the frame, fill the frame. I tell this to everybody, and then they uncomfortably move toward their subject, feel awkward, take the shot and are amazed. And then they don't back up ever again.

  • Mike

    December 10, 2011 02:17 am

    This is a great article and I have linked out to it from my blog because the lessons here are so right, yet they're not difficult for anyone to understand.

    I would definitely tell them:
    Just experiment and go do it!
    ALWAYS have the camera with you (Agreed colinoz!)
    Back up on a separate drive where possible

    Everyone has to start somewhere and we're all able to use a camera of SOME sort now - even the mobile phone ones are not too bad as a starting point!
    I also have an article I wrote a while ago on taking care of your gear - SO important and I agree with you totally on that one Justin!
    Oh - READ the instruction book! So many of us males - tend to not do that {or is that an unkind and sexist thing to say!!! ;0) } and it makes such a difference to getting started!
    Basically - just do it and as you say, Rick - Have FUN!!

    In fact what can I REALLY add here - you guys are saying all the right things!!

    Brilliant! And thanks!

  • Jim

    December 10, 2011 12:51 am

    Very good article. Simple yet informative. I enjoy your web site. Problem is, I save all of your blogs in my email and my inbox is filling up! Hmmm, but keep 'em coming.

  • Charles

    December 10, 2011 12:01 am

    Thank You for your time in this. I just got my first DSLR and this cuts to the chase. I've been plowing through books and web sites. Trying to take pictures of what I want or see in my head, even with a point and shoot always had an eye for it. Now getting down and dirty with photography. Even with all the Tech books and sites this is one of the best I've seen at getting to the meat an taters of what to do if your new to this, and if you want to just step off the nice safe cliff of Auto.

  • Tom Hill

    December 9, 2011 10:08 pm

    Buy a spare battery and remember your charger!

  • Marjoke

    December 9, 2011 10:00 pm

    Thank you, this is what I need. Short, easy to frame in my head.

    "To Ed, read the story better, English is not my native tongue, but even I understood that the year 70 is about the time of the design of the airport.

  • palmshore

    December 9, 2011 09:37 pm

    those tips and analogies simplified the basics and made it easier to remember (like less people lower the f-stop). Brilliant. Do you have any more simple easy to remember phrases like this to make it easy. Especially how to choose the right f stop in different lighting conditions. Sunny 16 requires too much metal maths when you are trying to capture somenthing quickly. Thanks

  • Mika

    December 9, 2011 08:04 pm

    I like this lesson. I was also stuck on Auto mode, like any other begginer. Tnahks.

  • Ger kirwam

    December 9, 2011 07:52 pm

    A very informative article and in simple terms. Thank you!

  • Gary55Wands

    December 9, 2011 06:51 pm

    How brilliantly succinct!!!!!!!!!! And useful, well done.

  • chris g

    December 9, 2011 06:12 pm

    my advice would be simple and has been for many a year now. come here to DPS read everything try everything and see what works with your equipment.

  • qasim

    December 9, 2011 05:38 pm

    Hi all of you
    Have good day

    Suppose if u have a simple digital camera then which things are u should keep in mind while taking snaps.

    whats the position of a subject in portrait?
    whats the main things to keep in mind during close up.
    Also tell me the way of taking nature snap.

    Thanks

  • Justin Donie

    December 9, 2011 05:16 pm

    On the one hand, I'd have to say that what I tell people in a 15 minute (or similarly short) photo improvement session always seems to depend on who I'm talking to. While tips like "get closer" sound like they'd always be applicable, even this very helpful tip can go by the boards when you're talking to someone who wants to take sweeping landscapes. I think the real key to giving great photo-improvement advice is to first do your best to understand the person, their experience level, their goals, and their intended subject(s) before you start firing off pointers. What's gold to one is useless to another. Be relevant.

    On the other hand, there are some tips that are always helpful, frequently forgotten, and can be covered quickly yet with great emphasis. Regardless of your acumen, what you're shooting, what gear you have or the conditions of your shoot, (A) ALWAYS take the very greatest care of your gear ... for amateurs and seasoned pro's alike, it's all too easy to let this tip slip your mind just long enough to destroy a favorite lens, (done it) trash a memory card (seen it), nuke a new pocket shooter (done it) or introduce the inside of your digital toys to the horrible effects of salt-water (done it and seen it). (B) Duplicate your images as quickly and securely as possible. Again, amateurs and pro's alike who've let this rule slide have paid a dear price in images we can never get back. Back up quickly and securely! (C) Shoot what you care about ... passion for your subject shows in the images you create at ANY level of experience and with any mix of kit. The best skill and toys in the world can't erase a lack of emotional connection with your subject. Get involved, get connected, FEEL your subject before you fire ... or find one that gets your heart going. It makes all the difference in the world.

  • H

    December 9, 2011 03:52 pm

    Thank you so much! Pleaseeee, post lots of things like this!
    I'm quite new at this, but have a love of taking photos, and this has helped a great deal!
    Thank you, I love receiving your updates!

  • Rick Wyatt

    December 9, 2011 03:15 pm

    Kudos on this article, and for you taking the time to help out. I think you gave some great advice! (I was listening).
    For those who talk of composition before a wee bit of technical stuff ... well, the very best of composition might not serve well if focus, exposure and balance aren't there.
    Chicken-egg, horse-cart ... best advice I have is have fun!
    But re-read the excellent tips given!
    Thanks again!

  • Smita

    December 9, 2011 03:11 pm

    Peter ,

    thanks for putting things in the way you have here. This one is for beginners and the way you have explained is really helpful. I keep reading such stuff but this one is the most easy n well put .....m sure your other writes would also teach a lot ..will keep track ... n growing ..

    i got Fujifilm HS10 was actually not getting the Apperture settings right ....cant wait to try out what i just read .....:)

  • Mario Castanon

    December 9, 2011 01:50 pm

    My epexerience taught me not to be afraid of looking for the best shot, I mean, get to the floor, climb a bit, get wet! I love to search for the best spot to get a nice picture even if I sometimes end up looking a bit like a fool.

  • Jennifer Nilsen

    December 9, 2011 12:59 pm

    This was a great article. I'm always confused about the f stop settings ect. this was very helpful --Thanks so much. I just got this new camera & I'm trying to figure out what all the settings mean so I don't have to use auto. I'm never happy how the pictures come out when it's on auto & I know the camera can do so much more! Thanks again for the great tips!!

  • SL

    December 9, 2011 10:32 am

    I would tell them about the WHITE BALANCE button (to stop getting blue or orange tinged photos), the ISO button (to get brighter photos in darker enviroments) and making sure they are set to SPOT FOCUS rather than overall focus - plus the option to press the shutter button halfway down on the spot you want to focus on, then reframing your shot before you push the shutter button the whole way.

  • ColininOz

    December 9, 2011 09:23 am

    The single most vital tip is the 'American Express card' tip concerning your camera - " Dont Leave Home Wihout it " !

    You may carry it for weeks and not use it but the day you leave it at home is the day that you will find yourself in the right position at the right moment for that shot of a lifetime. Doesn't have to be your biggest and best camera with a bag full of lenses and accessories , the most convenient compromise bridge camera wiill do. I carry my Pentax X70 which is not a bad little beast, light in a belt pouch, and out up and ready in seconds .

  • sumitd

    December 9, 2011 09:20 am

    I've always advised folks to start with thinking about their shots before they click the shutter. Most of my friends, use basic digicams, which rules out a lot of features that a dslr offers. In such cases, I find it helps people to guide them into viewing things in a way which would make their shots stand out e.g. moving in closer

  • B

    December 9, 2011 08:08 am

    If you had just 15 minutes to help someone new to photography and traveling, what would you tell them?

    Point the camera at things you find interesting.

    You can figure out the details later.

  • Marty Reinders

    December 9, 2011 07:40 am

    Your tip that will forever stick with me... Small f-stop number less items in focus, large f-stop large number of items in focus! Great analogy!

  • Paul

    December 9, 2011 04:05 am

    Erik - I loved your advice that "Photographers can and should look like crazy Folks!" That is the best advice for getting great shots. Don't be embarrassed about how you look when you take the picture or you might miss out on making a nice photograph.

  • Marco

    December 9, 2011 04:01 am

    This all sounds great but at the end I would almost always give them a card to get to my website and tell them to use the links page for great websites like this one to learn more!!!! DPS is the first link on my links page with a few other choice ones as well. With only 15 minutes this is a good start that will only stick partially, so they need a few good resources to follow up with.

  • Ar

    December 9, 2011 03:48 am

    Honestly, I started with a Canon AE-1 over 35 years ago and then went on to Canon Rebel in film then into several digitals with the Canon EOS line and now that I've retired I have a Canon 7D. I FINALLY took the time and another workshop and have taken my camera off of Automatic permanently. But all those years of struggling to get good pictures and sometimes getting winners enabled me to SEE things -- but now, I see them so beautifully out of the Automatic setting. I feel so foolish for not doing it sooner! Now I look at anyone's camera I can glance at and try to share the same info you did in 15 minutes. I know it helps and they'll be pleased with new results.

  • Dianne

    December 9, 2011 03:45 am

    Great article! Helpful tips - good advice on getting started, but not too much that will overwhelm.

  • Marie

    December 9, 2011 03:23 am

    I flipped through my manual but it was no where NEAR as effective as you posting photos to emphasize your point! I think I'll be able to remember this stuff now...I think I might be a visual learner! lol
    (p.s. I've ALWAYS wondered how to get the veil look from waterfalls and I'm SO GLAD someone finally explained it! :) )

  • KSW

    December 9, 2011 03:21 am

    Fabulous. I am now 'married to manual' but it is nice to be reminded of these these things, too. Thank you for taking the time to share these jewels with us.

  • Teresa

    December 9, 2011 03:06 am

    This is great. Thank you! I've only had my camera for about a month. I've never taken photography, but I'm on a quest to learn all I can. My kids inspire me & have been taking pics of them for years with point & shoot cameras.

    I have gotten out of using auto mode, but I've only used manual, never any of the others. I'll have to try. Thanks for this great website & comments from everyone!

  • Jeet

    December 8, 2011 05:43 pm

    @ ed: the airport is designed in the 70's , not the story.

    "... inside the 1970’s designed airport ..."

  • Shahidah

    December 8, 2011 02:45 pm

    Great tips for first time user of DSLR or beginner. Thats exactly how I started, first on auto, then on Program followed by Aperture priority mostly of the time and Shutter speed priority some time. Currently learning to master the manual mode......

  • ccting

    December 8, 2011 12:44 pm

    great article.. learning photography in the first 15 minutes.. :D

  • photogrl2020

    December 8, 2011 11:11 am

    You know, I think this is the 1st time I've heard/read an explanation of how f-stop works that actually "clicks" for me. The larger the number, the more is in focus; the smaller the number, the less is in focus. Simple! Makes sense that way too. I think I may actually be able to remember that one now! Thanks!!

  • Christy

    December 8, 2011 03:40 am

    I think it is great you helped this guy out instead of snubbing him, like many others probably would have.

    I love it when people ask me questions although I'm still learning. I share what I know, tell them I'm still learning, and encourage them to experiment. The fundamentals will eventually click, as it did for me. Don't stress because you don't know everything. That's my best advice.

  • Robin

    December 8, 2011 02:58 am

    Having had a DSLR for over four years, and just now going M. . .I totally get Chris with the "learning composition" comment. I do know what I like, and don't feel like I am struggling with that angle in addition to figuring the rest out.

    However. . .Four years??? LOL! I would say, You are NEVER really going to feel "ready" so just do it already! Don't be intimidated by your camera! It isn't ever going to take the photos you see in your head, unless you tell it what you want it to do.

  • Ed

    December 7, 2011 10:55 pm

    Strange story. It was the 70's and you were able to show him directly the results of changing the settings? Those were the dark ages of film!
    The tips are OK, but make up a better story....

  • Jeet

    December 7, 2011 10:09 pm

    Some of the things I would recommend for a beginner (apart from what Peter has already mentioned):
    1. Get the subject off centre.
    2. How to use the burst mode.
    2. What does ISO do

  • Chris

    December 7, 2011 05:07 pm

    This is a great article. Anyone using a tool should know how to use it. And these are simple explanations. Anyone overwhelmed by these is perhaps having a willing mental block (as many do against abstract things!). This is all very simple, and is an excellent explanation which I believe could help many begin then journey beyond snapshots...

  • Scottc

    December 7, 2011 10:37 am

    I would tell them to pay close attention to the available light, it's angle, etc., and explain (breifly) the affect of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO on the exposure. Light is the most important aspect of photography, and the rest is just enough to lead them in the right direction to learn more.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/4258810942/

  • Clay

    December 7, 2011 10:29 am

    We live life at eye-level, and so much of photography is about taking ordinary things and making them look extraordinary. To give an extraordinary look, take an extraordinary approach. Get up high, down low, at an angle, anything other than the ordinary, eye-level approach.

  • Ed van Loon

    December 7, 2011 10:07 am

    Know your camera blind, learn the basic between the exposure, iso, aperture. Choose the subject you like, take the time, and look before you shoot. Don't shoot to much in a time. Try to make the right composition while you're shooting.

  • Riff Renton

    December 7, 2011 08:53 am

    Great tips. I have only recenty began using a dslr and have enjoyed overwhelming myself with info. Generally I will pick a mode and go shoot with it for a couple of hours.
    I, like alot of the experienced photographers have mentioned, am really trying to "see" my shots before snapping. I think without composition no amount of cropping or settings changes will make the shot.
    Cheers

  • Saif Afridi

    December 7, 2011 07:41 am

    love it.simple and nice way for beginners to learn the basics.

  • John

    December 7, 2011 07:36 am

    I tend to agree with Chris, although, it really depends on how willing to learn the would be photographer is. Learning the basics of P,A, and S mode are good, but composition is what truly makes a unique photo.

    Learning to see a scene however, is something, that is learned over years of experience and in my opinion can not be taught, especially in 15 minutes. So I suppose explaining the various modes and how they work in practical and useful terms is the best case scenario.

  • Jim

    December 7, 2011 06:18 am

    Read the manual! From front to back and refer to it often. Many people who buy a DSLR for the first time leave it in auto mode and never read the manual.

  • Donna

    December 7, 2011 05:35 am

    These are great tips! I think the basics of composition is where I would start (e.g., rule of thirds, leading lines).

  • Leslie F.

    December 7, 2011 05:03 am

    Thank you so much for this article. My husband just bought me my first DSLR and I have only used it once (on Auto). I am in the process of teaching myself to get more out of my camera and this has really given me a starting point!

  • Chris

    December 7, 2011 05:02 am

    Actually, I'd take a different approach. Someone new to photography needs to develop their eye, not be overwhelmed with massive amounts of information.

    My personal approach would be to leave it in auto and learn to compose, learn to really SEE the shots.

    Once people start seeing what they want in their head, they will start learning other bits to grow their technical understanding. When they know they want less of the background in focus, they'll soon figure out that switching to aperture priority and selecting a wider aperture will do what they want. The bonus then, is that they actually have a reason to learn. It's not just useless information.

    I will admit that doing it that way won't suit everyone though.

  • Stephen Siteman

    December 7, 2011 05:00 am

    Hey Peter,

    I like this. I would recommend getting out of Auto and going full manual. I liken it to riding a bike. Once you know the basics, the only way to learn how to balance on a bike is to ride. Yeah you may fall (create images which make you think,"What the heck was I doing here?"), but you have to get out there and do it. Otherwise you will never learn how to ride a bike/create good photographs. I would also touch on being creative with exposure.

    After telling them to read this article, of course.

  • Mridula

    December 7, 2011 04:53 am

    This is one of the first shots I put on my blog.

    http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/2005/06/markha-valley-trek-ladakh-india.html

    And then I just kept taking pictures. Along came DPS quite sometime later, but if you keep at it, you do learn new tricks!

    But I agree with Kaishon sometimes we just need to enjoy!

  • Jason St. Petersburg Photographer

    December 7, 2011 04:31 am

    That was very cool of you to do giving 15 minutes to help that person out. In fact, many of the things you mentioned are what I mention during my first 15 minutes of the DSLR photography lessons I teach. I write about each lesson I teach and the approach I took with each individual person, though a lot overlaps especially on the first lesson:

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com/blog/category/photography-lessons

    I have always wondered why to use P mode at all, but I guess for the flash still coming on automatically is the point of it mostly.

    1/500th of a second is also the speed I teach to start freezing motion at.

  • Erik Kerstenbeck

    December 7, 2011 04:17 am

    Hi

    Aside from Camera Controls, try unusual positions! Here, on Brooklyn Bridge in NYC, I flopped onto my belly, looking like a fool to grab this shot. I have found that Photographers can and should look like crazy Folks. What the Heck!

    http://kerstenbeckphotoart.wordpress.com/2011/11/25/on-the-deck/

  • Life with Kaishon

    December 7, 2011 03:55 am

    I would tell them to have fun : )
    To look for beauty.
    To ask questions when they need to.
    To find joy.
    That is what I would tell them!

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