Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Camera thanks!

An enourmous thank you to everyone who offered advice on what camera to get.

I ended up with a Canon Rebel after heading to a local camera store and having a chance to play with the stabilization features. It may end up on ebay, but I’m confident I’ll get high quality pictures. If they’re great, of course, depends on my skills.

I hesitate to even ask, but what one book have you seen most help someone learn how to take great pictures? I want something that’s focused on how to orient & frame shots, not something on the technical side. The camera knows more about that than I ever plan to. So what one book would you suggest?

I’m thinking about the Rebel for Dummies book, since it covers both technical and artistic aspects. What book have you seen help others more?

10 comments on "Camera thanks!"

  • CJ says:

    FWIW, you can’t go wrong by stopping in and asking these guys for advice:
    I’ve found them to be exceptionally helpful in the past.

  • Phil says:

    Welcome to the expensive hobby of photography 🙂
    Rather than a book, I highly recommend The articles on the site are good, but the forum invaluable. It is very active with old hands more than willing to dispense advice and criticism. Especially useful is the “Critique My Shot” section in which people will look at a photo of yours and offer up critiques on everything from composition to your exposure settings to your post processing.
    As for books, I would suggest the books by Bryan Peterson. While the two books Understanding Exposure and Understanding Shutter Speed are must haves for any photogs library, his Design, Color & Composition in Photography is also highly regarded. As you get into more serious photography, you may want to consider picking up Ansel Adams’ books (esp. The Negative and The Camera)
    Last bit of advice: you can get all the books you want, but the key to getting great shots is to actually go out and shoot, and then shoot some more. Don’t be discouraged by all the “bad” shots. When I go out I’ll maybe take 200-300 photos and keep maybe 15-20 of them.

  • Here is my advice for taking excellent pictures:
    1. Buy the largest SD card you can find.
    2. Take a lot of pictures.
    Statistics and, eventually, feedback/experience will work in your favor. 🙂

  • deb says:

    Understanding Exposure:
    Learning to see creatively
    There are others (many, many others), but those are two I’d start with for sure.

  • Patrick Florer says:

    Not a book, but a website: – just go look at the images posted and be educated and inspired. Also check out the forums.
    Another website is – he uses Nikon, but some of his newletters offer advice that’s good for any type of gear.
    Amazingly good stuff – best way to learn is to imitate and practice – pretty much the same as anything else.
    Also, you will spend as much time or more in post-processing workflow – I use a variety of software: Photoshop, Lightroom, Photo Mechanic, and the Nikon software. I think that Microsoft has something, too, but don’t know much about it – you should have an inside track there.

  • Mirko says:

    If you’re a beginner I can warmly recommend two books by Scott Kelby. His humor can be annoying at times but the material is presented as if you were shooting with a friend. No-nonsense practical lessons with no unnecessary details. A very informative read that covers a lot of ground.
    The Digital Photography Book
    The Digital Photography Book, Volume 2

  • Brian Burns says:

    I second the vote for ‘Learning Exposure’. I still pic that book up and reread sctons now and then.
    Learn what exposure is and how the three components – ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed – interact, and you can dominate any camera.
    Shoot shoot ahoot. Seek out criticism.

  • PHB says:

    Good choice! (Would have been better if you had gone with Nikon of course). There is a major difference in quality between compacts and DSLRs. In comparison the difference in quality between DSLRs are minor. And at any given price point they are almost non-existent. You really can’t go wrong with Nikon or Canon.
    Since you are going on a trip, one other tip. Get an R-Strap, I paid $54 for mine from, make sure you get the fastener2 version. The standard camera strap that goes round your neck gets awful heavy during a full day. An off the shoulder strap like the R-strap causes you to carry the weight at your hip. But you still have the camera ready when you need it.
    I second the suggestion to get a LOT of flash cards. Costco are currently selling four 2Gb cards for something like $30.
    Books on composition are pretty hard to find in my experience. One reason is that very few people seem to have much they can say about it. This is particularly true of digital photography books which are often just confused.
    Ansel Adams wrote a series of three books on photography that are still classics. Oddly enough they are probably better than many books on digital.
    Composition wise, there is the 2/3rds rule. Symmetric photos tend to look artificial, putting a scene of interest at 2/3rds of the frame often makes for a better shot.
    Technique wise, you will get a sharper picture if you stop down the lens. So at f/16 all your image will be in focus (beyond 16 it will be limited by diffraction).
    Composition wise, you don’t want all your picture in focus. Only the things that you want people to be looking at. That is why people pay big bucks for fast prime lenses, they get a very shallow depth of field. So with my 50mm lens at f/1.4 I can frame a shot so only the face of the subject is in focus, it removes distracting detail. So don’t automatically assume you want everything in focus.
    The other major composition tip is dynamic range. Your monitor has 256 steps of intensity. You will usually get a better picture if you use all of them. Ansel Adams developed an exceptionally complex method of developing and printing to make use of all of them. Digital cameras make it much easier. A photograph can be perfectly exposed and only use half or a quarter of the potential dynamic range of the output medium. Better photos usually have a wider dynamic range.
    After that it just comes down to looking through books and magazines on photography where they give info on how the shots were composed. Just remember that for every shot that makes it into print, the photographer will have taken a hundred or more.
    Some of the best books on photography are actually books on lighting. Photography is a craft that is all about making use of light.

  • Mordaxus says:

    I just got a Minox DSC which is a different beast entirely. It should be here in a couple of days.

  • Incredible site!

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