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05/05/2008 07:33:45 PM · #1
Last year I decided to make the leap from p&s so DSLR. Got a Nikon D40, and [bassman7] helpfully sent along a DVD on how to use it.

However, still tend to rely heavily on 'idiot mode' ie Aperture Priority, when I'd much rather be shooting Manual mode...settings, everything vastly different. I don't consciously avoid using D40, but my Powershot goes everywhere I go in my purse; DSLR cost $$$, so avoid exposing it to extreme weather changes etc. Which means it gets left at home a lot, and the p&s is most handy when I find a shot.

Yes it came with a manual but I want to be able to whip out cam, set everything effortlessly and just shoot...I don't want to miss shots cause I was mucking about with a flippin' manual!

So, how do I overcome this sensation of 'OMG I'll never learn this camera?!' I know shooting 2 hrs a day with cam and manual close by would help, but impractical. I really want to shoot with this cam, esp in RAW, but RAW & Manual settings, not RAW & default settings.

To those who might choose to leave snide 'Stick to p&s then, stupid' comments on this thread...please save your powers and use them to better this world, not belittle. I know there are others on this site who feel like this too.

I want actual help, please! If I want sarcasm, I'll watch House!

Thanks in advance,

Susan

Message edited by author 2008-05-05 19:34:15.
05/05/2008 07:45:40 PM · #2
Hi Susan,

I understand your frustration. I had a very hard time switching from film slr to dslr. Unfortunately, the answer to your question is time, patience, the three rules to better photography. 1) Practice, 2) Practice, and 3) Practice.

Good luck!
05/05/2008 07:46:52 PM · #3
You are probably going to get a lot of advice, and varied at that since I think everyone has a different formula for how to take the best slr pictures and how to setup a camera.

I am new to SLRs but not new to manual controls. I am thankful my G2 helped buffer me into such a world. First off, there is nothing at all wrong with shooting in Programmed Auto or Priority modes. It saves time and lets you use some of that great processing power modern SLRs have.

As for manual, what I personally try to do is if it is daytime I set my aperture to 8 and then just quickly adjust my shutter until the exposure reads mid-way. For darker shots it takes a bit more care but I usually drop the aperture, then the shutter, and if the shutter is below the mm I am shooting, I increase the ISO instead.

Of course the subject does matter, if you are close to something, having a higher aperture is better usually because it will decrease blur, however if you are taking a picture of someone setting your aperture as low as possible and focusing on their eyes works nicely.

As for protecting your camera I am sure a lot of Nikonians will tell you how well built Nikons are. However even as such why not pamper them. You can look online for a number of weather and rain covers which still allow full control and function while almost completely stopping even blowing rain, dust, and sticky ice cream fingers (if you have ever tried to photograph around kids, lol).

I hope there was something useful in this, if you have any more questions or need me to clarify just ask! :)

Message edited by author 2008-05-05 19:49:07.
05/05/2008 07:47:12 PM · #4
First, Aperture Priority mode is not the idiot mode. IMHO it is the handiest mode to use for most general shooting. It gives you pretty instant access to DOF changes in your composition. If fact, I use it almost exclusively. I would suggest that you start carrying you D40, use A mode, adjust exposure comp as needed, same with ISO. By using the camera often in this mode you will be more likely to learn the camera and then add to your knowledge base as time goes on, looking up what you need to know to shoot manual when needed (which should not be often). Todayís DSLR's have a pretty good "brain" and normally figure out the exposure properly.

Hope this helps.

Edit: As Kirbic says center focus point and I use single point focus. Also, set your metering to 3D color matrix unless the situation calls for spot point metering.

Message edited by author 2008-05-05 19:56:03.
05/05/2008 07:51:14 PM · #5
Originally posted by snaffles:

If I want sarcasm, I'll watch House!


ROFLMAO!

As Rick posted, the best teacher *is* practice. What I recommend is to set the camera up as follows:
- Aperture priority mode (Av mode)
- Only the enter focus point active
- White balance to expected shooting conditions (not auto)
Go out and shoot. Adjust aperture and experiment.
05/05/2008 07:52:11 PM · #6
Buy and read Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. This gave me the confidence I needed to move toward manual. I too shot in Aperature priority mode the majority of the time but have recently moved to Manual almost 100% of the time. It does take practice, practice, practice but it also takes some knowledge to create a comfort level to move out of your comfort zone. Besides, manual is kind of fun...it's an appreciated skill once you can do it.
05/05/2008 08:00:47 PM · #7
Originally posted by krafty1:

Buy and read Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. This gave me the confidence I needed to move toward manual. I too shot in Aperature priority mode the majority of the time but have recently moved to Manual almost 100% of the time. It does take practice, practice, practice but it also takes some knowledge to create a comfort level to move out of your comfort zone. Besides, manual is kind of fun...it's an appreciated skill once you can do it.


LOL did get that book out from library and read it...maybe I should try to buy it off of them...

Thanks to everyone for (so far!:-) being kind and helpful! Very much appreciated!
05/05/2008 08:47:36 PM · #8
I had the same problem at first when getting into DSLR photography.

I always felt a bit guilty for staying on aperture or, even worse, a pre-programed mode.

But one Saturday day I had a whole morning to spend on photography. I decided to force myself to photograph only on Manual mode. This required me to pretty quickly get familiar with the variables of Aperture, Shutter speed and ISO. Like riding a bike, once I forced myself to learn how and get familiar with how they all interact, it became pretty easy.

Now I almost always shoot in manual mode. I force myself to take my DSLR with me almost everyday so that I'll be ready for any shot.

You will be surprised at how quickly you will become familiar with your camera's Manual mode if you simply set a date and force yourself to go only manual on that date. You'll have it down in no time - I promise.

For me it was mostly a mental hurdle that seemed so large until I chose to jump over. Now, looking back, it seems rather small.

Now if I could just score well in the challenges!!!



05/05/2008 08:57:18 PM · #9
Originally posted by snaffles:

Yes it came with a manual but I want to be able to whip out cam, set everything effortlessly and just shoot...I don't want to miss shots cause I was mucking about with a flippin' manual!

So, how do I overcome this sensation of 'OMG I'll never learn this camera?!'
Susan


Ok, to overcome this sensation of "OMG..." is easy. READ THE MANUAL! It really does not take that long and if you have the camera on one side and manual in hand, going through the motions as you read provides experience as well as understanding of what your camera is capable of. It is worth the time and will provide you with valuable insight. What are you doing on any given evening that could be more important than sitting with camera on one side and manual on the other if photography is a passion on any level? It takes no more than ONE evening and a desire to use your equipment to its fullest.
05/05/2008 09:04:01 PM · #10
I think it comes down to how you learn. When I was learning my camera I read through my manuals several times, long trips on planes or whenever I had spare time. I now can get to everything on my D50 very quickly and probably 85-90% of my D200. I sat down and used the menu's and functions to see what they could do and that I could do them. The function I use the most is Aperture priority mode and the exposure lock function. Often I will use spot metering to find what I want exposed properly and lock that down and then shoot. Hours a day shooting would get you the most comfortable with your camera obviously but that as you said isn't always feasible. But I bet you could take twenty minutes a day and focus on one function. Find some nice light and shoot only with the matrix meter, aim the camera at the sky and lock exposure and recompose and see how the photo looks. Then meter half sky half/land recompose see what the meter does. Point the camera at the foreground lock exposure and recompose. Shoot towards the sun, with the sun at your back and see how the details of the image change. Next day or when you have time do the same with the spot meter on. Then you can try spot metering subjects. I find this builds confidence in what the meter is telling you. Once I got comfortable with this I started shooting in manual and did the same kind of exercises. I learned to cheat the meter so to speak. For example if shooting in tough light, I would may slightly overexpose the sky to save more details in the foreground. Its a process, and may not work for you but its how I learned to work my camera. Maybe it will help.
I wouldn't feel guilty about using the modes if you are getting images you are happy with. I think as long as you can feel comfortable or able to manipulate one of the modes really well you will be a happy photog. :)
05/05/2008 09:33:17 PM · #11
Snaffles is my twin. I'm glad SHE asked, because I need exactly the same advice for the same camera :D
*takes notes*

Eta; And don't you love her profile shot? *breathes on nails and buffs them on shirt*

Message edited by author 2008-05-05 21:35:37.
05/05/2008 09:41:05 PM · #12
For sure Susan, don't feel dumb.
It took me over a year of shooting almost every day with my first DSLR, a Fuji S3 Pro, before I became at home and comfortable with the settings, menus, and all the other bells and whistles that are packed into the camera and software in it. I found it helpful to read about one setting at a time in the manual, and experiment with one thing at a time, for about 3 or 4 days for each item. I now feel quite confident that I can capture almost any scene that I find interesting, and get at least one good image from the group of images. There are still things in the menus and settings that I have not used yet, because I can get what I want using what I have learned already, and it has been over 2 years, and now I have two S3 Pro's.
Don't feel overwhelmed, just venture into one setting or mode change at a time, and build on each new bit of knowlege. You will soon be taking both cameras everywhere.
While you learn, don't underrate your P&S. I still carry a little Fuji A830, an 8 Mp P&S, on my belt, for when I shots happen, and I would not have the S3 handy. The P&S is also nicer for shooting without making people nervous, as most have seen the little shooters everywhere now. I also use it often at work for copying name plate information and paper work, for machinery that I work on. It keeps all the info handy for me while on the run.
05/05/2008 10:03:42 PM · #13
Well, if Aperture Priority is the idiot's mode, count me in on Team Idiots :)

Just one thing that I'd like to add to what has been said so far - worked wonders for me. When you go out shooting, quantity does not always make up for quality. Whenever I came back with 200+ shots, I was hard to go through them, see what worked, what didn't, and I realized I was not learning but just eating up hard disk space.

So now, when I'm not sure what settings to use, instead of taking 20 pictures on all possible settings, I stop for a minute, think about what settings might work and why, and try to take just one or two. I get back with 20 photos but I am happier with those.

As for shooting fast and "capturing the moment", my feel is that will happen consistently only after your dSLR has become second nature...
05/06/2008 03:13:13 AM · #14
My 350D is about to go to one of my friends as I take custody of my new 30D. I've made sure to warn her that her photos are going to get worse before they get better, as there's so much information to take in and so much to learn. I was worried she was expecting instantly beautiful photos.

It hasn't been that long since I was in the same position - once I completely understood the concept of aperture I was away, and I still predominantly use Aperture Priority as a shooting mode.
05/06/2008 04:53:06 AM · #15
Just a quick one from me. Check your ISO before you start shooting. This is the one thing that has caused me the most grief.

Great shots taken at ISO 800 when they could have been taken at 200. Yes, I should have know this by how fast the speed was for the shot but some times the bell in my head just doesn't ring loud enough for me to take notice (and the 30d doesn't display the ISO on the screens).

The other tip would be to get Bryan Peterson's book as advised above. This book finally made it all make sense for me and I'm sure others have found it excellent.

05/06/2008 06:20:25 AM · #16
What's your reason for wanting to use manual mode? Manual mode is about control. It's not something you do because the photos come out better if you shoot manual. When a lot of people shoot manual, they set the aperture they want, and then adjust the shutter speed so the light meter reads the right value. This is no different to shooting Aperture priority, setting the aperture and pressing the button. Exactly the same result. If you think of a scene and want to overexpose by 1 stop, then again, you do this in aperture priority mode and set the EV to +1, and click.

Some people (really good photographers) prefer manual mode because the light meter in their head is better than the one in the camera. Great, go for it, but if you aren't shooting 8 hours a day, then this is not relevant. For normal people in normal everyday shooting, Aperture and shutter modes are just as good, and faster/easier to use.

Manual mode has it's place though. Shooting with studio lights or off-camera manual flash? Yes, I'd use manual. Shooting to meter off the background or spot-meter off-centred subjects, yes, I'd use manual. But these are specific situations. As everyone is saying, even most of the pros use Aperture mode most of the time.

If you want to learn about manual mode, you can practice it on everyday subjects, and that's a great way to understand your camera and the metering system a little better, but don't expect any real benefit over the Aperture and Shutter priority modes. Expect to get it wrong more often than right, expect to miss shots from taking longer, and expect to practice a lot before you understand what you are doing. :)

Once you've had a bit of practice you'll find you go back to using Av mode most of the time again.

P.S. I'm no big fan of RAW mode either. Again, it has specific situations where is useful, such as mixed lighting sources where you'll get a little better quality out of adjusting it later in software. But if the exposure is basically right in the camera, and you aren't going to be doing major editing on the final image, JPG is just as good, and does have many benefits (smaller files, many more images on a card, faster shooting, doesn't fill your computer up, you don't have to learn how to use conversion software and spend hours converting EVERY image on the computer). Sure, there are small benefits, but don't believe the hype about RAW. It won't let you fix gross errors in exposure. It won't make the files look significantly different straight out of the camera/conversion. If the convenience of your P&S is enough to outweight the possibility of dragging along your DSLR, then the comparatively insignificant quality difference in RAW is definitely not worth the effort of using RAW. :)

Hmm, rereading this, I am very opinionated and negative about your questions. In an effort to counteract this, I will encourage you to take your camera with you more often. Everyone else says practice, and yes, it is sometimes inconvenient to take the DSLR. But, get yourself a really good bag to make it easier. I took my full backpack on a family picnic the other day and didn't take one photo. A slight inconvenience, but a good bag makes it possible to do this without worrying too much. :)


Message edited by author 2008-05-06 06:33:57.
05/06/2008 10:10:07 AM · #17
I'm not really sure what the fuss is about. It's a dial on your camera: if you're having trouble working efficiently in one mode you can switch to another. Manual mode is useful if you want consistent exposures, or you're finding the exposure compensation on A-priority a little fiddly, or you enjoy it.

Try it and see what you like, it's not something you have to plan extensively in advance.
05/06/2008 10:55:18 AM · #18
If you are leaving your camera at home because you're afraid of damaging it, get insurance on it that covers accidental damage. It's not that expensive and well worth the peace of mind. It's also important to have a good bag that you are comfortable carrying. I managed to find one that looks more like a purse than a camera bag, which is good for times when you don't want it to be obvious you're carrying a camera. I also have a backpack for when I'm walking around a lot.

Av mode is very handy for general shooting and a great jumping off point if you want to learn manual. You can adjust the exposure in Av mode, and observe how the shutter speed changes. Practice definitely helps...believe me, shoot for an hour every day with something particular in mind to practice, and it will be second nature in no time.
05/06/2008 10:55:54 AM · #19
Originally posted by zarniwoop:

I'm not really sure what the fuss is about. It's a dial on your camera: if you're having trouble working efficiently in one mode you can switch to another. Manual mode is useful if you want consistent exposures, or you're finding the exposure compensation on A-priority a little fiddly, or you enjoy it.


This is pretty much my own approach. Like many here have said, I pretty much live in Aperture Priority mode, since that is usually the factor that matters most to me. If I'm more concerned about capturing or stopping movement in the shot, I'll switch over to Shutter Priority mode. I use Manual rarely, but it is good to be familiar and comfortable with its use in case you run into tricky lighting situations or want to get a consistent exposure across multiple images. I can imagine, though, that Manual mode would be quite helpful and perhaps preferable if you were mostly doing studio or artificial light shooting.

Stop worrying so much about choosing the "right" process and figure our the process that's right for you.

edit to add: I should note that when shooting in either of the Priority modes I do made heavy use of the exposure compensation dial.

Message edited by author 2008-05-06 10:58:29.
05/06/2008 11:29:45 AM · #20
Make your camera part of your body. You go somewhere, your camera goes with you! If you find you have spare time whilst out and about, bust out the camera and snap some photos. Find a flower or something and just snap off a bunch of shots, changing shutterspeed, aperture and ISO, and check the differences when you get home. Learn how to read a histogram - it's the lightmeter of the 21st century, and your best friend when it comes to judging exposure.

I wouldn't worry too much about damaging it, SLRs (even cheap ones) are pretty robust machines; it'll take alot of abuse to knock em out of the game. If you're worried about the elements, get a clear plastic bag or a legit camera cover and you'll be good to go in the gnarliest of weather.
06/03/2008 10:34:17 AM · #21
Thanks to everyone who contributed to this thread, I know I'm not the only dpcer who has this trepidation about the 1st DSLR. Much appreciated!

Susan
06/03/2008 10:38:16 AM · #22
Shoot - chimp, Shoot - chimp, Shoot - chimp, Shoot - chimp, Shoot - chimp, Shoot - chimp, Shoot - chimp, Shoot - chimp, Shoot - chimp, Shoot - chimp, Shoot - chimp, Shoot - chimp, Shoot - chimp, Shoot - chimp, Shoot - chimp, Shoot - chimp, Shoot - chimp, Shoot - chimp, Shoot - chimp, Shoot - chimp, Shoot - chimp, Shoot - chimp, Shoot - chimp, Shoot - chimp, repeat.

:-)
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