DSLR n00b looking for advice about getting started


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GingerMagician
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I know there are a lot of amateur photgraphers on here, so I thought I'd post for a bit of advice.

Just bought myself a Nikon D40 kit (have always wanted a decent Nikon camera, for some unknown reason - so avoid the "shoulda bought a Canon 350D/400D comments if you can!) and have been playing around with it for the last week or so.

Will probably be using it mainly for family stuff - the way I "sold" the purchase to the missus was to get better photos of our 6 week old daughter - but also for some landscape and may be a bit of nature stuff when we're out for walks, etc.

Basically, I'm after two things - decent recommendations for books to teach me the basics (have read that "Understanding Exposure" is a good place to start) and any recommendations for kit that I should be looking at adding to (thinking about the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 for decent indoor pics and/or either of the new 18/55-200mm VR zoom lenses).

Not looking at spending silly money, but would like to get to a stage where I can take some nice shots of all the things mentioned above.

Thanks in advance all you would-be photo journalists!

#1 at 16:30:09 - 10/04/2007
Cuchulainn
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Well done on getting into the SLR world! in terms of lenses, something that goes out to 200-300mm is always useful, but be prepared to have to use it on a tripod or somesuch in anything but bright daylight.

To really improve your photography though, get a decent prime (non-zoom) lens. A lot of people like 50mm as an interim focal lenght. Find out how the aperture priority and shutter-priority modes of the camera work. Then shoot a lot of pictures; expect to throw away 90% of them. See what happens when you overexpose and tweak in post-processing, likewise for underexposure. Play around with different compositions, take randome shots of things around the house just to see how to balance different light conditions. The prime is a good lens for this both because you'll be able to get one with a low f-number (and so can work in lower light) and because not being able to zoom will force you to think more carefully about what you want to shoot.

Oh, and don't be afraid to shoot RAW and google RAW processing!
#2 at 17:13:40 - 10/04/2007
GingerMagician
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Cuchulainn said:......Oh, and don't be afraid to shoot RAW and google RAW processing!

Ah, that was another question I wanted to ask actually.

Have been shooting on the highest quality jpeg setting so far. Does RAW only really come into it's own if you're getting into the post-processing side of things?
#3 at 17:24:48 - 10/04/2007
WOPR
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RAW is for real men. But then we use Canon too.

;)

Seriously, welcome to the DSLR club, I expect you to sign up to the OU course now to keep me company :)
#4 at 17:33:26 - 10/04/2007
Cuchulainn
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GingerMagician said:
Have been shooting on the highest quality jpeg setting so far. Does RAW only really come into it's own if you're getting into the post-processing side of things?

You'll lose a bit of burst-mode speed if you shoot RAW; the larger file sizes will take that little bit longer to write to the memory card. And if you want to send the photo to a friend you'll have to convert it to a JPEG (unless they're already a photo buff). But with those two provisos, I really can't see any reason not to shoot RAW as default. One of the big things that it allows is the ability to tweak both the white balance and exposure after shooting. Some noise-reduction tools also work well on the raw images. For me, having to look at all my photos again and decide about contrast, saturation, exposure etc has really opened my eyes to some of the things I was doing wrong. And if you do want to just fire off some shots and send them to someone, most RAW convertors have auto convert settings that'll do a decent default job on most images you give them.
#5 at 17:33:50 - 10/04/2007
WOPR
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See if your D40 can shoot RAW and high quality JPEG at the same time, this is a feature I love about my 350D.
#6 at 17:34:56 - 10/04/2007
Harry
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I've just joined the DSLR club too and am having lots of fun. I've no idea what I'm doing, but that's part of what makes starting out on a new hobby like this so entertaining.

I've ordered a prime lens for my camera, a 50mm 1.8, it's cheap as chips but very well regarded. That'll do me for camera stuff for a while as my credit card is now maxed.

I've been messing around with white balance today and having read a few articles have mostly ditched auto WB and have started using cloudy (and even shade) settings to get lovely warm saturated shots.
#7 at 17:42:19 - 10/04/2007
GingerMagician
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WOPR said:See if your D40 can shoot RAW and high quality JPEG at the same time, this is a feature I love about my 350D.

I know it can shoot RAW + JPEG, but don't know what quality level the JPEG is at.

Will have a look tonight.

What RAW software do you all use - Capture? I take it Photoshop Elements would also allow you to work with RAW?
#8 at 17:44:51 - 10/04/2007
GingerMagician
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Thanks for all the replies, btw - really helpful stuff
#9 at 17:45:53 - 10/04/2007
WOPR
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Harry said:I've just joined the DSLR club too and am having lots of fun. I've no idea what I'm doing, but that's part of what makes starting out on a new hobby like this so entertaining.

I've ordered a prime lens for my camera, a 50mm 1.8, it's cheap as chips but very well regarded. That'll do me for camera stuff for a while as my credit card is now maxed.

I've been messing around with white balance today and having read a few articles have mostly ditched auto WB and have started using cloudy (and even shade) settings to get lovely warm saturated shots.

That lens is awesome Harry, I assume it's the £70-ish one?
#10 at 17:47:52 - 10/04/2007
WOPR
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GingerMagician said:
WOPR said:See if your D40 can shoot RAW and high quality JPEG at the same time, this is a feature I love about my 350D.

I know it can shoot RAW + JPEG, but don't know what quality level the JPEG is at.

Will have a look tonight.

What RAW software do you all use - Capture? I take it Photoshop Elements would also allow you to work with RAW?

I use the Adobe raw to dng converter app then use Photoshop CS1 to open the dng files.
#11 at 17:48:31 - 10/04/2007
Harry
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WOPR said:
That lens is awesome Harry, I assume it's the £70-ish one?


Yep that's the one. It'll also force me to compose shots without using a zoom. I'm really looking forward to having a play with it.

Not a single photo shop in Chelmsford had one on Saturday so I've ended up ordering it through an Amazon seller. It's due to arrive later this week.
#12 at 17:51:07 - 10/04/2007
WOPR
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Got mine from cameraking via Amazon, came next day.
#13 at 18:25:37 - 10/04/2007
Harry
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WOPR said:Got mine from cameraking via Amazon, came next day.


Yep me too, ordered it over the holiday weekend though. Hopefully it'll arrive tomorrow.
#14 at 18:34:10 - 10/04/2007
GingerMagician
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Harry said:
WOPR said:Got mine from cameraking via Amazon, came next day.


Yep me too, ordered it over the holiday weekend though. Hopefully it'll arrive tomorrow.

Don't think that one's any good for me - needs to have the motor built in for the D40.

Knew that when I chose this model, so you pays yer money I guess. I'm sure the AP-S lenses will start to come down in price soon though.

Quite fancy the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 anyway!

:)
#15 at 18:57:15 - 10/04/2007
Harry
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I've found myself constantly taking pictures, mostly of tat around the house. But it's giving me more practice framing and exposing shots in interesting ways. I've just taken a few just now, if you fancy a look.
#16 at 19:29:32 - 10/04/2007
GingerMagician
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Harry said:I've found myself constantly taking pictures, mostly of tat around the house. But it's giving me more practice framing and exposing shots in interesting ways. I've just taken a few just now, if you fancy a look.

Interesting stuff Harry - particularly like that last one.

Are you playing with the settings and shooting these in one of the camera presets or full manual?
#17 at 19:42:56 - 10/04/2007
Harry
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Those were all taken in Aperture Priority mode, which seems the best for still life stuff. I'd probably go Shutter Priority for fast moving stuff. That's how I've been doing things so far.
#18 at 19:45:34 - 10/04/2007
GingerMagician
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Harry said:Those were all taken in Aperture Priority mode, which seems the best for still life stuff. I'd probably go Shutter Priority for fast moving stuff. That's how I've been doing things so far.

Yeah, you need loads of light for Shutter priority mode from what I can see - at least that's how it seemed when I was playing around indoors the other day.

Would probably help if I read the manual a bit more thoroughly........

Manuals bore me!
#19 at 19:48:05 - 10/04/2007
WOPR
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Love that sofa Harry. Next up you need a decent tripod too :)
#20 at 20:14:47 - 10/04/2007
Harry
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WOPR said:Love that sofa Harry. Next up you need a decent tripod too :)


It'll have to wait until my credit card is less chocked. Have been looking at some mini-tripods, which might suit me more than a full height jobby.
#21 at 20:18:40 - 10/04/2007
WOPR
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My Gorillapod SLR is pretty cool, and my Manfrotto tripod was only £60 I think.
#22 at 20:43:46 - 10/04/2007
Legion
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Welcome to the wonderful world of DSLR GM, and 'grats on buying a piece of quality, non-canon kit. :P

As for lenses, I don't know what the D40 supports but I'd seriously recommend chucking some cash at the sigma 50mm macro. It's a prime so portrait shots are VERY sharp, and it's got macro capability too. Ok you may not want to take pictures of blades of insects but you have got a 6 week old and if you don't get a macro you'll regret it. I say that because a good rule of photography is "fill the frame" and you'll have difficulty doing that with a non-macro lens. I know I struggled when trying to focus on my newborn son using only the kit lens. Now I've got a macro I've got no problem at all. It's f2/8 too so sucks in more than enough light for indoor shots. If you start using f1/4 you'll struggle to get everything in sharp focus unless you use a long exposure time (which isn't at all practical when shooting babies, trust me!).

Oh, and either get a diffuser or better a replacement flash stat. If you take pics of your nipper using the onboard flash then she'll come out looking whiter than Jacko.

HTH.
#23 at 21:19:10 - 10/04/2007
Harry
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Woohoo, my 50mm 1.8 has shipped. It's set for delivery tomorrow.
#24 at 21:59:25 - 10/04/2007
GingerMagician
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Legion said:Welcome to the wonderful world of DSLR GM, and 'grats on buying a piece of quality, non-canon kit. :P

As for lenses, I don't know what the D40 supports but I'd seriously recommend chucking some cash at the sigma 50mm macro. It's a prime so portrait shots are VERY sharp, and it's got macro capability too. Ok you may not want to take pictures of blades of insects but you have got a 6 week old and if you don't get a macro you'll regret it. I say that because a good rule of photography is "fill the frame" and you'll have difficulty doing that with a non-macro lens. I know I struggled when trying to focus on my newborn son using only the kit lens. Now I've got a macro I've got no problem at all. It's f2/8 too so sucks in more than enough light for indoor shots. If you start using f1/4 you'll struggle to get everything in sharp focus unless you use a long exposure time (which isn't at all practical when shooting babies, trust me!).

Oh, and either get a diffuser or better a replacement flash stat. If you take pics of your nipper using the onboard flash then she'll come out looking whiter than Jacko.

HTH.

Cheers mate - as I said, have always wanted a Nikon so a Canon never really came into the, er, picture (boom boom). Will probably regret going for the D40 over the D80, but the budget was what it was (plus I can always upgrade later, while the missus isn't watching - heh heh).

From looking at this it doesn't look as if that 50mm is compatible. I'm guessing I could always reduce the aperture on the 30mm?
#25 at 23:42:56 - 10/04/2007
Legion
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Oh yeah, you can certainly tweak the apature my point was that I don't think you'll need to go to 1/4 all that often and that you'll find macro ability more useful when shooting babies. If the sigma isn't compatible it might be worth checking out what macros are compatible and seeing if they're worth it over the 1/4.
#26 at 00:17:41 - 11/04/2007
deem
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I have to say, personally, when it comes to portraits, I'd much rather a regular prime to a macro. I don't really like the super sharpness of a macro when it comes to focusing, and the shallow depth of field that f1.8 offers over f2.8, is much more suitable and flattering for portraits.
#27 at 00:31:49 - 11/04/2007
WOPR
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Having tried and failed to use my Sigma macro as a decent prime I'd agree with deem on this (like Pat the auto-focus on my Sigma is crap, although it's a great macro lens).

I love my 50mm prime, it makes me move around and think about the shot a lot more than with a zoom.
#28 at 00:58:50 - 11/04/2007
Rhythm
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Another +1 to Deem. Plus the f1.8 can be used at lower light levels meaning flashes are needed less often
#29 at 07:14:27 - 11/04/2007
Legion
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WOPR said:Having tried and failed to use my Sigma macro as a decent prime I'd agree with deem on this (like Pat the auto-focus on my Sigma is crap, although it's a great macro lens).

I love my 50mm prime, it makes me move around and think about the shot a lot more than with a zoom.

Hey, just because you've got a faulty one doesn't mean they're all like that. :P

And my point about not being able to get in close with a normal kit lens still stands. I wasn't able to get any proper baby shots until I got out the macro.


#30 at 11:36:18 - 11/04/2007

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