Confused beginner!

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by pat_harrison|2, Jul 21, 2013.

  1. I'm new to photography and camera equipment. In the past, I have only used a point and shoot type camera.
    I have wanted something other than a point and shoot camera and to attend photography classes for some time now. I was just starting to do some research, when my husband surprised me with a Canon 5D MKiii for our anniversary and an Olympus OMD E5 from my children. We are going on a long trip in October to celebrate our anniversary so a new camera was a perfect gift. They were all so excited to tell me about the cameras and why they would be the perfect for me. There is no way I would consider returning either camera. I'm so appreciative of their thoughtfulness and excited about using the cameras.
    I could really use some advice on where I should begin. I have zero knowledge and limited time prior to our trip. I don't know if I should just concentrate on one camera or learn the basic functions of both. I don't know if they have an automatic setting that I could use while learning about the different camera functions. I have the batteries charging now and I'm going to begin reading the instruction manuals now.
    Any help you can offer a true beginner would really be appreciated.
    Pat H
  2. Hi Pat. Very nice cameras! I'm relatively new to photography myself as of two years ago, so I can share what was helpful to me. Get yourself a copy of the book 'Canon 5D MK3 for Dummies'. No joke. It's got simple, concise info on your camera, and much better than the manual in my opinion. Second, YouTube has tons of video tutorials on anything you want to know related to photography. I have really enjoyed the tutorial series with Mark Wallace called 'Digital Photography 1-1'. Lastly, consider a subscription to or which have lots of great courses for beginners. It's a paid monthly fee, but it's worth it (I think it's 20$/mth). I took a few classes at my local photography school, but group learning is not my style. You might be different, but I really like learning at my own pace online. Good luck and have fun!
  3. If the Canon manuals are as dry and written to describe a button rather than how to USE it in situations, read the manual, but get something else to learn when and how to use it.
    On a general photography thought, since you have new to having all the controls, consider Bryan Peterson's " Understanding Exposure". You will learn a lot about how to take control of any camera and get the look YOU want, not what the camera hands you by being in full automatic mode.
  4. Perhaps this 2 week on-line course, "Boot Camp for New Digital SLR Owners" will be right for you. One of the course requirements is "A basic working knowledge of camera controls and some digital shooting experience from previous use of a point-and-shoot camera". You could attempt to learn both cameras at the same time, as the basic concepts are the same, although the button and control layout, and menus of the two cameras will be different. You could take the Canon or the Olympus ... or both on your trip, but you have some time to decide on what gear to take.
    There are also many other courses to consider at BetterPhoto. Reading the camera manuals is often dry and tedious. For this reason, you can seek out third party books written for your specific cameras. While you are learning, you can use either camera in Program mode, or Auto mode to just have fun and take pictures.
  5. Okay, easy peasy:
    shoot at shutter speed not less than the same fraction as the focal length of the lens e.g. 50mm 1/50s
    aperture number can be lowered to get higher shutter speed but you get a narrower zone of the picture in focus
    ISO can be raised to get higher shutter speed but that gives pictures more of a speckled look with more contrast and less saturation.
    Now read the manual to tell you where the buttons are and you're off!
    Photography should not be taxing until you get to balancing three light setups maybe.
  6. Point and shoots can produce remarkable photos when in the hands of those who understand what separates remarkable photos from the ho-hum, AND can manually adjust their settings. If you should take lessons, take them in that order. Unfortunately, many (beginners and otherwise) got bogged down with gears and techniques, and pay little or no attention to what great photography is about.
    - Did you read your point and shoot's manual, and comprehend the meaning of ISO, aperture, shutter speed, focus point, etc.?
    - Did you ever shoot in custom mode where you change ISO, aperture, shutter speed, focus point, etc.?
    If you have not, then your two new cameras may be too much for you. Their user's manuals are at least twice as along as the point and shoot's. That by itself should tell you the learning curve can be steep. Of course, you can leave them in their default Auto modes, just like you do with your point and shoot. Other than their bulk and weight, you may not get anything better from them.
    Never go on a trip with a new gear you are unfamiliar with. Take your point and shoot along, just in case.
  7. I'd start with the book suggested by John Williamson, 'Understanding Exposure'. It explains the core fundamental basics of photography, which will serve always and which will help you understand much easier what is, and what is not, important on your new cameras. It helps getting down to the meat of it, rather than getting caught up in all kind of secondary items.
    Personally, I never felt it a great idea to leap from a Point & Shoot to high-end professional DSLRs/Mirrorless, for the simple reason cameras such as your 5D and OM-D E5 assume the user to have a decent knowledge on photography already. They don't offer "help" in the way entry-level models do. That does not mean you cannot learn using this camera, but it does force you to really first grab the basics. From there on, Keep It Simple. Don't start fooling around in the menu immediately to try all features, gadgets and so on that are there. Focus on getting fluent with the camera in setting exposure quickly and effectively.
  8. Thanks to all of you for offering such great advice! I can't tell you how much I appreciate your helpfulness.
    I ordered all of the suggested books this morning. I signed up on They actually have a beginner class designed for the Canon 5D. The class on sounds like a great idea too. I will check it out just as soon as I meet the class requirements.
    The point and shoot camera that I have been using was used and didn't come with a manual, so I didn't know anything about ISO, aperture and shutter speeds until this morning while on Robert, you are absolutely correct, the learning curve will be steep. I will be taking your advice and try using the auto setting, while learning. However, it seems obscene to use the cameras as point and shoots:>)
  9. Pat, trying to learn how to use both of those cameras before a trip is probably not a good idea - concentrate on one of them. I'd start with the Olympus simply because it is smaller, easier to carry around. While I am not a new photographer, I have had similar dilemmas (I buy and sell a lot of cameras, just to see what I like best). I went to Europe for two weeks earlier this year and bought two new cameras - a Fuji X20, and a Nikon P7700. I have extensive experience with both brands but was not familiar with either model and could not decide which to take, but eventually settled on the Nikon and worked with it before the trip. It all worked out fine. And, the general wisdom in the "new camera before a major trip" scenario is always to shoot with it as much as you can before you leave, and be sure to take the manual with you.
  10. ... I didn't know anything about ISO, aperture and shutter speeds until this morning while on​
    That's putting the cart before the horse. Instead, start with learning about quality of light, perspective, composition, lines, forms, shapes, etc. Once you master these, you will get interesting photos, even if you only use the Auto mode. Without these knowledge, the expert operation of a camera will only produce well exposed and sharp photos. But boy are they boring.
    However, it seems obscene to use the cameras as point and shoots:>)​
    Don't feel bad, there are many who do just that, never opening their manuals. OTOH, other travelers with measly point&shoots will think that you must be "serious" and will be blue with envy. Little do they know that everyone will end up with the same Eiffel Tower photo. Canon will thank you for your free promotion, carrying their logo on the strap around your neck while circling the Tower.
  11. +1 for Bryan Peterson, _Understanding Exposure_
    He has others on composition and basic DSLR use. I found Understanding Exposure to be the most helpful.
    While you're learning, you can always just set it on auto-everything (button around the shutter release, box with the A in it) and let 'er rip!
    You'll grow into it! Nice camera, and clearly your family loves you very much.
    When I first got my Nikon D700, I couldn't relate to the manual. I found David Busch's manual more helpful. He has one for your camera as well:
    Sometimes, all it takes is another viewpoint.
  12. I suggest that while you absorb the good advice above that you put the camera in automatic and shoot away the same way you used the P&S.... IF you have it in YOU to take good photographs you will get them .... otherwise all the technical knowledge in the world will not stop you from ending up with technically excellent garbage.
    As you progress you will find that what was wonderful yesterday has become garbage today in a manner of speaking.
  13. I second the suggestion to take the OMD on your trip. Lighter is better when traveling.
  14. Either camera has automode that allow you to use them just like a point and shoot. October is a couple of months away I think there is enough time for you to learn all you need about the cameras. Good luck
  15. Hi Pat, you have a couple of excellent cameras there! I don't have experience with the Olympus, but with regard to the Canon, here are my suggestions.
    1 - Let the camera make some decisions for you while you concentrate on taking photos.
    a. Turn the dial on the top of the camera to P.
    b. Set the White Balance to Auto.
    c. Set the ISO to Auto if it isn't there already. If this setting prompts for a minimum shutter speed, I would recommend 1/125 for general shooting.
    d. Set the focus mode to Single.
    2. I'm not sure what lens you have, but if it has an image stabilization feature, turn that on.
    3. Set Image Quality to RAW + JPEG to give you the most options later. This will create two copies of each photo, but that's okay as long as you have enough memory cards.
    4. Use Canon's software (Digital Photo Professional and Image Viewer) to view your photos when you put them onto your computer. As you grow, you might want to consider a third party raw processor such as Adobe's Lightroom program, but you don't need this right away.
    5. Take lots of photos and enjoy your new cameras!
  16. Dan's settings are probably pretty good. I don't have the Canon, but in general they sound like they would get the shots.
    The only disagreement I would have is :
    Set Image Quality to RAW + JPEG to give you the most options later. This will create two copies of each photo, but that's okay as long as you have enough memory cards
    I'm not sure I would waste the memory card space, at a beginner level, when you probably don't know what RAW is and how to work with them in post production, which ... I would guess you're wondering what THAT phrase is all about. If you go on a vacation and 2/3 of your memory cards , or more, are filled with files that you may never open, seems wasteful to me. When you know what a RAW file is and why you want one and know how to work with it, THEN, start shooting with a RAW option as a saved file type.
  17. Agreed with Dan. For the time being, use smart automatic (P or program) settings base on Dan's suggestions. After your vacation, download your photographs, edit them, understand what composition/settings worked and what flopped by studying the photographs you got and really being critical on yourself.
    Once you have some time on your hands, get to understand the three exposure settings: iso, shutter speed, and aperture.
    When learning the three exposure settings, just focus on one setting at a time and fully understand the effects of changing that one setting on a variety of different shots. Shots at night, shots of running kids, shots of the sunset, portraits, everything! Get to know what results in a darker or lighter photo.
    Keep on playing around with different settings and see what works in different situations. =)
  18. To get your mind on the right track, try this exercise over the next few weeks:
    Get to know what setting changes result in:
    -a darker or lighter photo with all settings in all situations,
    -a blurry or sharp shot of a moving thing when playing with shutter speed,
    -a noisy/fuzzy or clean photo when playing with ISO,
    -a blurry or sharp background in a portrait when playing with aperture (F-number) size.
  19. If I were you I would probably use the point and shoot settings on the trip...portrait, landscape, close up, etc. Go to the library and check out a few books that touch on subjects like composition and natural lighting. Concentrating on both of those things should get you some okay pictures on your trip. Worry about learning how to use manual settings when you get back.
  20. I would probably use the point and shoot settings on the trip...portrait, landscape, close up, etc.​

    The Olympus might have such settings, but the 5D Mark III doesn't.
  21. Oh really? I didn't know that. I just assumed that it would be simmiliar to my Rebel 2Ti.

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