Helpful things for the photography noob

50mm f/1.8 Series E

First off, I just want to clarify that I’m a beginner. Total n00b. I bought my first dSLR last April and I only sort of know how to use it.

This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list of the best stuff in existence. This is just what I came across that I found helpful. I’ll add to this list periodically.

In no particular order:

Books

1. Anything by Bryan Peterson. I’m not going to lie, I’m kind of obsessed with him. His hair is weird and he’s super cheesy but his videos want me to run out and try all of his tutorials immediately. My favorite books by him are Understanding Exposure, Understanding Close-up Photography, and Understanding Digital Photography. There are a slew of other books depending on your particular interests but Understanding Exposure and Understanding Digital Photography are probably the most useful for someone staring blankly at their new dSLR.

2. Nikon D7000: From Snapshots to Great Shots by John Batdorff. I love this book. While I still recommend reading your user manual, this book is basically a more readable version of a manual. He explains all of the basics of what goes into taking a photograph, but specific to the features of the Nikon D7000. He then goes on to explain several different types of photography (action, portraits, landscapes, black/whites, etc) and how to achieve great shots with this particular camera. There are other versions of this book tailored to other cameras (e.g. Nikon D5100: From Snapshots to Great Shots by Rob Sylvan), but I’ve only read the one for the D7000 and skimmed the D5100.

3. The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby. This book is pretty awesome but to be honest, I borrowed like seven photography books from the library and started reading this one the night before it was due and then haven’t renewed it since. It’s definitely less basic (he doesn’t explain where are all the buttons are and what they do) but super helpful. Plus, I think there are three or four volumes.

New camera!

Videos

1. The Perfect Shot by Bryan Peterson. Basically a compilation of a bunch of tutorial videos he’s shot. A lot of them can be found on Youtube just by searching “Bryan Peterson tutorials“.

Websites

The Photo Forum. I spent hours and hours poring over this site when I first starting looking into what camera to get and how to learn to use it. There are tons of threads on almost anything you can think of, so definitely look around and do some searches because chances are what you want to know has already been discussed.

The SLR Camera Simulator. This site is super cool just for explaining in very visual and basic terms what aperture, shutter speed, and ISO do. Plus it’s really fun to play with.

Ken Rockwell. Suuuper in depth reviews and descriptions of basically any equipment you can think of. Some people say to take his advice with a grain of salt though.

Close up filters

Do I need a _____ ?

1. Tripod. This depends on what kinds of photos you’re going to taking, and where. Low light means longer exposures are needed, which means no shaky hands. Actually being in your photograph is also made easier by having a piece of equipment that holds your camera for you (shocking, I know). Good tripods are expensive, but most people will tell you that $200 is nothing compared to the $500-$209348023 you’ll have to spend replacing your camera or lens when your crappy tripod gets blown over by the wind. With that in mind, and with no extra money in my budget, I bought a ~$20 tripod specifically for indoor use. So far it does what I need it to and I haven’t had any issues with it.

2. UV filter. I’ve read about a hundred articles and forum posts about why a UV filter is or isn’t necessary and I still haven’t a clue.  Some people say it blocks distortion from UV rays on bright days. Other people say that this is only necessary on film cameras. The first group usually retorts that even if it’s not doing anything at least it protects your lens if it falls. The other group comes back saying that having the glass of the UV filter shatter on the lens can do more damage than the actual fall would have. I have no idea. I don’t use one.

3. Flash. I want one but I don’t have one. I’ve read good things about the SB-700.

4. Remote. I love the idea of this, especially for self-portraits, but get a wireless one. My first dSLR was a Nikon D3100, which lacks the sensor required to work with the wireless one, so I had to use a wired one. Which meant that every time I wanted to use it to take a photo of myself, I had to be three feet from the camera, tops, and there would inevitably be a bit of black wire sticking somewhere in the frame. Not fun. For my new camera, I’m getting this one. There’s also the Nikon version. And if you have a D3100, try something like this, which has two pieces to it.

5. Reflector. These are pretty helpful, particularly for indoor photos where you’re standing next to a window with light coming from only one side. You can get one of these pretty cheap off Amazon, but you can also make your own. I took a giant piece of cardboard and glued wrinkled aluminum foil on one side and sheets of white paper on the other. Super easy!

PS I’m not getting paid for any of this. These are my own opinions.

PPS If anyone has any other suggestions for useful photography resources, feel free to leave a comment!

6 thoughts on “Helpful things for the photography noob”

    1. Ooh exciting!! I love prime lenses. Up until about two weeks ago I was only using the kit lens (18-55mm). Since then I’ve been shooting exclusively with my vintage 50mm prime lens. It’s got zero autofocus and is super old but I love it to bits. I also love that it was $30 on eBay ;]

      How do you like your 85mm?

      1. I like it, but my bf owns a 35mm, I don’t think that 85mm is a good option if you don’t have a shorter lens. But if you have one it;s a great addition. I also have my kitlens, which is ok, but if I shoot with my primes, wow, what a difference!

        1. Yeah that’s definitely a good point. Luckily my boyfriend has a 35mm also so I’ve been having fun playing around with different focal lengths. I know what you mean though, once you get used to not having a zoom feature, prime lenses are awesome!

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