One thing I would add, having been through this before myself and seeing my girlfriend going through it now as she takes up photography, is dealing with how people respond to your photos.
It can be disheartening when you take what you think is a great shot and nobody else (on Facebook, reddit/r/itookapicture, Flickr, etc.) seems to be interested. These feelings can be exaggerated when you see the photo that everybody is talking about is a simple cat photo or of some exotic location or event you're unlikely to find yourself in.
It's important not to allow yourself to feel discouraged.You have to just stick to your hobby for the original reason you picked up the camera in the first place and not to allow yourself to side-tracked by a lack of validation. It's important to seek out the opportunities leading to photos that you treasure and to remember that if others also enjoy your output that's a bonus, but not a healthy goal.
I'm not sure if Dan has experienced this (he may not have been concerned by what others think), but I believe it could be greatly beneficial to bring this mindset to the attention of readers so that if they find themselves feeling discouraged that they are aware of what's going on and how to deal with it constructively.
The point of this is that most people just don't really care about random art you did, but they care a lot if it's something personal. And it may take 1000 shots to get that right one.
I used to take a lot of macro shots of flowers as I traveled and did a lot of hiking in varying ecosystems. Playing with focal depth and framing was a great pleasure, and my shots were frequently something I was really proud of.
Then I had a roommate say in a pseudo off-hand passive aggressive way that she didn't understand nature photography - "I mean, it's not like the photographer made the flower, it was already there."
I really felt it undermined some of my best efforts, while clearly not understanding anything about photography. But then she also felt a $200 point and shoot was superior to all my oversized stuff.
I guess these days I'm too lazy to carry around more than an iPhone, and not interested in spending a lot of money on that hobby. I doubt that comment has had an impact on my passion for the hobby, but then again, I remember that comment with glaring clarity and it's been about 8 years.
Your camera takes great pictures.
Thank you. Your mouth gives great compliments.
"This dinner is excellent, you must have a nice oven."
Having said that, having worked with a photographer for a while, I don't consider what I do "real photography"... that woman thought about shots for months, planned them for weeks, made them in hours or over the course of days! Now that is actually what it says on the tin, "painting with light".
So without any bitterness, I simply cannot call what you and I do, no matter how much we enjoy it, the same thing. It would be like comparing writting a shopping list to "writing", to Kafka or something. It may seem to be the same act to the casual observer, but it really isn't. But then again, by that standard most professional photographers aren't photographers either. Hmm I'm rambling, sorry; that woman impressed me loads, what can I say. So obsessed, so good.
So I definitely do care what others think. But I think I lucked out by getting enough validation to get past the apathy. At least I've realized it's not just skill or technical merit in terms of getting noticed: much of it is just plain luck.
On a sidenote, participating in photosharing across Flickr and Tumblr has really helped destroy any solipsism I might have had...If attention/validation is something you care about, you have to work to get it like any other of the anonymous people on the Internet. This is not a mindset that most journalists realize when they try striking it on their own, without a masthead to tie their name to.
You handled this question perfectly. Not even kidding. Down to every finer point of debate, you nailed the balance and gave the best, most helpful possible answers, including visual backup to express the true differences.
Absolutely fantastic. I'll be sharing this with other photographer friends and those interested in learning more. Great work. Thanks for posting.
> and some insist that it's all in the light and any camera
> will do.
My example comes from using a point-and-shoot pocket camera, not my phone. Very little control over shutter speed and aperture and such, but I've used it with great success for landscapes in good-to-low light. I've probably sold more prints from the P&S than my SLR, all because I had it in my pocket when the light was right.
Is there a way within the site to give you some kind of renumeration (monetary or otherwise) for all the effort you've put in?
But thank you...that's extremely kind of you...I had thought it could be a side platform to sell prints but haven't gotten around to implementing that. At this point, I don't feel like it merits payment yet or that I've gotten nothing out of it, it's been a great learning lesson for me as I'd never really used Jekyll or SaSS before, and all of the photos were lying around anyway.
One thing I noticed though (and as you posted it on HN, I think it's not nitpicking for pointing it out): why are you hijacking mouse clicks?! I really, really hate it when I command-click (open in a new tab) on a link, and the site decides that, no, you really should view the content in the same tab...
(if you meant for ulterior purposes, no...I don't even explicitly load in jquery, hence the sloppy inline JS)
Be careful about night shots of the Eiffel tower though: there are some copyright issues. See http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eiffel_Tower for more info.
(tl:dr the lighting apparatus of the Eiffel Tower, not the Tower itself, has been upheld as a copyrightable image by France's highest court)
On the other hand, I dig that you include lens and focal length. Both are nice to know when viewing photos.
So in the section on under exposure the exposure compensation gives an idea by how much the image was under exposed.
Which IMHO is useful to know.
It would be pretty easy to generate histiograms with Imagemagick...that is probably more useful
The photos are huge too and somehow make me completely lose place and orientation. I have no idea how to fix it though. It could work on wide screens (would work on 1680x1050 already) if you placed images and text side by side.
My challenge has been that I want to keep the paragraphs of text short, which makes it difficult to place floating-elements since there isn't much text to float them against.
The images I've wanted to keep large. I like the aesthetic of the Big Picture type of blogs, but you may still be right that it's not appropriate for what's supposed to be a learning guide.
1) The sequence feels right. Everyone can start with photography, you don't need the fancy equipment, and you can start with what you have.
2) The text starts people on the road to manual settings, i.e. learning the camera. The mechanics are not what photography as art is all about, that's composition and creativity. But, without practice and understanding the mechanics until they are second nature it's very hard to realize your composition and vision efficiently.
3) This is a starting point with some help to novices. If this helps someone take a slightly better vacation or family photograph, great. The text straight off the about page sums it up.
There are concerns:
1) "Wow" is what teaches?
There seem to be two major paths to learning from experts:
If they are dead there are books. Review: The Camera, The Negative, and The Print by Ansel Adams. Highly technical from a master who had a nervous breakdown after putting everything into his art to for a showing. Still not a great starting point for the novice. They are fantastic books for someone who's more advanced and ready to get into the minutia. This is contrary to the message that people should just go look at compositions and dive in.
Expert workshops: If wow is what teaches, than there are many expert photographers who conduct workshops. For the majority of novice to curious photographers my advice has always been to save the money and go out with a photo club or some photo friends. None of the people in these clubs are probably "wow" experts, but it's a bit like learning a sport by matching up with someone of equal skill rather than paying to be taught by a pro before you know what you are getting into.
2) Technical Details: These are common practice. The body of the site directs people to learn their own settings and exposure. I'd read more into the text and intent than the photo details.
3) Photography is art? Not to the majority of people who just want to take photos on vacation or of the family. The most common questions I get are: What camera to buy (well addressed here), what do those settings on my camera dial mean (addressed fairly well here), and how do I take better pictures (good starting points to think about composition).
4) Go look at good photos. Agree. Fair? No. The big investment for most people is time. From point #1, there are a lot of good books at the library... if you are of the willing.
As for disclaimer about skill, &c: People have paid for my photos as well. I have an art degree. Look, I'm not great but I'm handy with a camera.
Disclaimer: I'm a pro photographer (as in I get paid for taking photos), and I had a few exhibitions.
A few important points, if you want to become a good photographer:
1) My philosophy with most art teachers/book writers is - unless your art makes me say "wow", you can't teach me much. There are many truly great photographers out there. Dan Nguyen is not one of them.
I look at his photos, and most of them are properly exposed, somewhat properly framed, sometimes they have something interesting, but most of the time they are mind-numbingly boring and mediocre.
2) His idea of posting technical details next to a photo is not new, but, most importantly, it's completely useless. I remember when I just got into photography, I was looking at all the cool photos and I really wanted to know the f-stop, the exposure, the ISO that the author used. It took me about a year to figure out it didn't matter. Main reason being - you will never encounter that exact scene with that exact lighting.
Even if you magically come to that same exact spot, same time, same date of the year, magically frame the shot the same way, set all the exact settings, you will NOT end up with the same picture.
3) Photography is art - don't be a fucking robot. Play with the camera settings, they are really trivial. It shouldn't take you more than a day to figure out how aperture, exposure and ISO work.
4) Trying to replicate some cool photo online is a good learning technique, but you don't simply do it by replicating the camera settings.
5) Now the most important point of learning how to photograph well: STOP READING TECHNICAL GARBAGE. Sites like dpreview are full of "photographers" who endlessly discuss their gear, their camera settings, and then you look at their photographs, and they are fucking boring and lack any taste (just to be fair, there are good photographers on dpreview).
Stop it, and look at photos instead. You should look at hundreds of photos a day, that's the only way to develop your photographic taste. And try not to get stuck on user-submitted websites like photo.net or flickr, there's a ton of crap there. Instead seek the best photographers in whatever area interests you - street, portraiture, landscape, etc.
Go to your local store and look at the photo books (not the technical ones, art ones). You will be pleasantly surprised with the quality of photos.
1) I disagree with your first statement, just because some work that really "wows" me is so beyond my comprehension that it's difficult to learn from it; sometimes, that's a core element of being "wowed": the astonished person doesn't quite know why he's astonished. How can he learn from example?
As far as my photos being boring, not going to contest that. You just have to remember that, at this point, expediency is the main factor. I rigged up a system to pull selected files from my public Flickr account, which consist almost entirely of photos I do in my own time...which means there's a high proportion of wide lenses, as opposed to shots at 200mm...because I don't casually carry around the 200mm.
2) Also no contest...the technical details are trivial to include or exclude (once you've written a script that gathers photos from Flickr and reads the metadata). For now, I find them more useful than writing out as narrative, "For this photo, I used my f2.8 lens wide open"...More can be done with the data design but I want readers to know at a glance what's going on before they read the caption of the photo. I'm hoping this leads to more active reading, because the reader has to ask himself "This photo is shot at f8.0 and yet the background is so blurred, how is that?"
> I was looking at all the cool photos and I really wanted to know the f-stop, the exposure, the ISO that the author used. It took me about a year to figure out it didn't matter. Main reason being - you will never encounter that exact scene with that exact lighting.
I say that exact sentiment: don't worry about the numbers or the math. Maybe I didn't say it strong enough but I'm happy that someone on HN agrees and I'm not just dumbing down the math. I think memorization of numbers is silly.
What I want readers to be able to do is approach each photographic situation with a problem-solving mindset:
"This scene is dark. I want the photo to show my friend's face clearly, how do I balance the three settings and which flaw am I most willing to introduce into my photo to prevent other more critical flaws?"
3 and 4) Yep, no argument. And nowhere do I say, "copy these numbers down"
5) Now the most important point of learning how to photograph well: STOP READING TECHNICAL GARBAGE.
I agree, that's why I wrote this book in the first place. Obviously I haven't done it in the same way that you would but I don't think we disagree at all.
But generally, maybe you can swap out "mediocre photos" with "better" ones either by yourself, or by others who gave you permission? Not because your photos are so bad, but because there are sweeet photos out there, from photographers who would love to help / show off - and photos that "say something" would help drawing people in, and keeping them reading.
I'm thinking of the Luminous Landscape (google it, explore it, wear it like a funny hat) here, which tends to have articles that explain something, and then a photo that illustrates the technique -- but without talking a whole lot about that specific photo. Maybe you can draw some inspiration from that, and try to "decouple" the photos and the articles if you will?
I'm saying this because I LOVE the general idea of the site, and that it's without clutter (though personally I think the font sizes are a bit huge). It's bookmarked to help out newbies when I run into them; now if you kindly could turn it into the best there could possibly be? Thanks :) I like what you're trying to do, and wish you all the best doing it.
Oh, and I think the whole point about art is a bit, uhm, besides the point. Yes, if you want to make great photos you don't read about shutter speed -- at the same time, if you want to learn about shutter speed a book of art photographs is perfectly useless, too :P
As for using others' photos...there's a couple reasons, and they don't have to deal with personal pride. 1) Distribution /copyright issues, 2) I would spend waaaay too long if I felt I had to pick the best of the best out there (even among just the Wikicommons material)...plus, I'd have almost no expertise to share about them, so I'd feel a little guilty about using them mostly as eye candy.
I think my direction will be to improve the quality of the photos, but more importantly, improve the relevance of the photos to the topic at hand...I don't think I'll ever satisfy everyone's idea of what a great picture is, but at least I can put up educational ones.
Instead, I think LL tends to pander more to the pixelpeeping crowd. Just my opinion. There are much better sources to learn to take better pictures.
But I will point out that, back in the film age -- and more so in the pre-automated-settings age -- being able to manually set them and get them right was much more important.
- You had (stock 35 mm film rolls) 12, 24, or 36 shots to a roll of film. Particularly as a amateur photographer, developing and printing that film was a significant expense.
- Unless you had a dark room -- or, more recently, "quickie" development shops and kiosks -- you typically had at least a day between the shot and visual feedback of what you'd accomplished with it. (In "yea olden days", perhaps more like a week if you didn't want to pay "rush" fees.)
And... I guess much instruction has carried forward with a lot of inertia from those earlier times.
It seems a lot like much computer and programming instruction, when I think about it. Starting off with a lot of minutia that can be very offsetting and demotivating to many attempting to learn the art (and thereby, but for them -- thinking again of photographers -- actually secondary, the craft).
The digital age has changed this significantly. In my own circle of friends, I've observed at least two people develop from "average" snapshooters (well, one had from the start a very good natural eye) into very good amateur photographers. I don't think they would have done so starting from the perspective of shutter speed, f-stops, and tweaking exposure. But as they've learned to see and frame, they've added some of this in order to further accomplish and replicate aspects of their successes.
In the digital age, they can first "accomplish shots" and then "learn to refine". One could do that pre-digital (optionally including digital metering and exposure control), but the feedback loop was a lot slower and perhaps more circumspect.
While knowing your technical side is nice, it is completely unnecessary to take good photos. I know of a brilliant wedding photographer who shoots with cheap disposable cameras from your local gas station. He is booked months ahead.
Some dig into the "technical" details like it was a computer, forgetting It's about making an image that looks good and people like.
I'd recommend 1x.com instead for tutorials.
I don't even consider myself great. I have a couple of shots that I've made in the last 10 years that I think are OK.
Most of this advice doesn't really come from me, it's mostly passed generation-to-generation. I was told pretty much this when I started learning photography, and it got reiterated by a few professionals that I respect.
"It shouldn't take you more than a day to figure out how aperture, exposure and ISO work."
I disagree with this from the perspective of teaching this stuff to teenagers (some decades ago now I admit). Probably easier with digital cameras.
Sure, almost all of the work will be boring, derivative, and pedestrian, but the teacher's job (and how they will be judged) then becomes one of improving the quality of the artwork.
Also, what do you think of Vivian Maier?
I wouldn't say she is my favorite, but pretty solid.
There are truly many photographers that I like (and many that I only remember by the images, I'm horrible at remembering names).
Classic street photographers: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Elliott Erwitt
Modern street photographers: Joseph Koudelka
There are tons of good ones at magnumphotos.com
The section in aperture starts out with a photo that's hard to look at its so badly exposed.
The section on metering is just plain wrong, true only for spot metering, which most of the people who read this beginners guide are not going to be using. For the people it actually targets its misleading to talk about which spot the camera is metering on.
There are many many better books than this which will give beginners a grounding in the mechanics of photography.
That section was for people who were using camera phones with on screen touch focusing (the iPhone camera app also adjusts the exposure for the area where focus was selected). The section on dSLR spot focusing was to explain how to do that with dSLR's if you wanted to.
The next chapter on frame exposure settings goes over using exposure compensation.
Your only valid criticism is that the Aperture chapter's photo is poorly exposed.
There's one good photo in the whole book, and that was taken with a p&s (s90) - something you claim cannot resolve more than 15' in front if the lens and takes a second to shoot. Both point are of course are completely wrong and misleading.
The 'book' (quoted because its really just a few dozen paragraphs) looses any credibility when it's accompanied by photos that are so awfully made.
I don't disagree with you on how those particular photos are blown out, but those were candid shots in irregular lighting. To make a conventional shot, you would set up lights and possibly do significant post processing. I chose to emphasize as much of the area that I wanted even as details are lost at the other end.
The main point of the book is that there are options in the first place and it's important to be aware of them to properly adjust...rather than just snapping a photo and wondering why it turned out so off.
It's difficult for me to show what the choices were, granted, because I didn't shoot those scenes with thhe intention of demonstrating a decision tree for the final shot. Being able to show more direct comparisons, between the exposure options, is my intention as I add new examples to the book
As far as the metering section, I think you're right that it's confusing...I decided to split off the chapter with doing touchscreen exposure and never fully fleshed out standard metering. That is something I'll work on
For instance, I dived in the technical basics of my old SLR with this book I found at my parent's house: Photography - the guide to technique by Andrew Hawkins, Dennis Avon .
This is probably an outdated and now useless guide, but answered me many questions I had when I started.
But, if pressed, I would suggest this book.
Most colleges have continuing education classes in photography. Stanford for example, I know does.
Obviously, photos I take on my own are loosened up but I lean towards realism. Not using a flash is a deliberate decision to preserve as much of the lighting in a dark scene, even at the risk of underexposure or excess ambient light from a slow shutter speed. Anyway, the book you recommend is not a bad one, but on a brief skim, it's more about the history and place of photography than snapshot technique. I don't disagree that that has worth, it's just not what I'm aiming for in my admittedly brief guide.