(Repost – first posted Aug 2009)
Sometimes its quite hard to know where to go to get help with technical things that you need to know lots of small detail about. Can involve some deeply nerdy conversations – not everyone is comfortable in that zone, or ready to dive that deep.
Here is where I went looking and what I found when I did:
1. Online Forums
Now these are all over the place but the quality can vary a lot, especially if you are a newbie looking for help. Some forums are more welcoming of noobs than others. I really recommend dpreview forums – they cover a wider range of brands than some other forums do, they have been around forever
Whatever brand of camera you have – they probably have a website and forum as well Canon Learning Station is an example
If you are not in the US and you want a forum closer to home, you might want to dig around a bit to find something, which leads me to
2. Camera/Photography Magazines
As well as articles and images these are a really useful tool for finding websites that might be useful. Buy one made in your country and check out all the ads to see if there are forums/websites etc where you can go for help.
Camera Magazines I have purchased (we have a really good magazine shop that imports lots of good mags) in no particular order:
3. Online Schools
I haven’t done any research into this area yet so can’t advise you any further than they do exist. Scott Kelby writes books and also has Online Training sessions
4. Photography Clubs
Nothing beats getting face to face with other people who have the same kind of gear as you, and are happy to discuss it. Also a possiblity for photo competitions and critiques if that is your thing. My local clubs do regular group field trips, which is handy to get to areas not always open to an individual, and going as a group can help keep costs down, and also be fun. I have found that when I was looking around all the groups I contacted were happy to have a visitor to come along to sit in and see what went on (you usually have to pay a small fee to join permanently)
Most libraries have them 🙂 Good place for researching stuff, techniques or styles without having actually buy the books. Quality can depend on the books available – look for books not much older than 2 years publishing date – things change fast in technology!
Obviously books showcasing the work of photographers can be older than that 🙂
Now you may have noticed that I am a bit obsessive (even compulsive) about doing quite a lot of research around a new hobby. And yes you would be right! With photography I have found it even more of a necessity than usual, and my weapon of choice is a good technical book.
At this point in time I need to know in detail, how my camera actually works and how to drive it
I’m lucky to have the best bookshop in town right next to where I work. Below is the list of books I will strongly recommend any camera newbie to look at getting
BlueRose’s Recommended Camera Newbie Book List
Digital Field Guide series – obviously I got the 40D one but it looks like they make them for just about every option available – Wiley is the publisher
What I liked about this book – it takes you into absolutely EVERY setting on the camera and explains what it does and how you can adjust it. And it also goes on to help you actually use the camera – talks about lenses and flashes and software, and is fantastic. And was very reasonably priced as well – $38
What I didnt like – its quite large for a “need to carry around with my camera book” but thats the compromise for it packing so much information into it.
If you only get one book for learning about your camera – get THIS book. Really.
The New Manual of Photography by John Hedgecoe (Amazon link here)
As well as the ‘how to drive my specific camera’ book above, I wanted a technical book on digital photographic techniques – ie once I know where all the controls are on my camera and how to twiddle them, now I need to know how to use them to actually take the kind of photo I want.
I absolutely ADORE this book – I have been searching for weeks, not finding a book that had everything I wanted, and this has it and more (and I found it on sale as well!)
What I like about this book – It covers ‘everything’ – film, digital, light, colour, techniques, lenses, accessories, different styles of photography. And uses LOTS of pictures to clearly demonstrate what he is meaning, and this is a really key thing for me. Not a book to carry around all the time, but a book to read over and over again for reference.
What I didn’t like about this book – its incredibly heavy for its size (my copy is hardback) and its too big and heavy to carry around. It was also quite expensive – full price $80
If you have to buy only one book on photography techniques – get THIS one. Really.
The Digital Photography Book 1 & 2 by Scott Kelby
I picked up Bk 1 because it was quite cheap ($35) for a reference book, and a quick scan indicated it looked like a useful reference book. It was useful enough I ordered Bk 2 from Amazon (and now Bk 3 has been released but I don’t have it yet)
This is a different style – the author describes it as a book full of the useful things an experienced photographer would share with a novice while they were out shooting together (I’m paraphrasing). And that’s pretty much what it is – he deals with the common photography types – Landscape, Wedding, Portrait, Urban, Sport, Macro, Architecture – as well as tips around what not to do, or clever ways to do things.
What I like about these books – they cut to the chase and tell you just what you need to know about a certain point. They are indexed very well so it makes it easy to go straight to the relevant part. Lots of good images to help clarify the point. Good price and they are not too heavy to include in your camera bag
What I didn’t like about these books – his humour is a bit annoying but there isn’t a lot of it. Slightly cheap feel about the construction – mine are already quite dogeared in the corners and I have only had them for a couple of months (a reflection of the price perhaps)
If you have extra budget left over for camera books I recommend you consider these (you can get all 3 as a boxed set at a good price)
I almost forgot to add this section in, which would have been a bit ironic. Blogs are now everywhere and a bit like forums the quality can vary – I personally think there are some on your particular wavelength and some that aren’t so its about being patient and looking around.
You will probably find various people who are in the online forums, who have their own websites, who write articles for magazines, who write books etc also now probably have their own blog. So keep an eye out and you will probably see links to blogs. Also once you find a good blog, check out their links for more ideas.
Have I missed anything obvious? Please let me know, as the above is my personal experience and I am aware that living in a little country like NZ there may be other avenues I am not aware of.