Vintage Photo Books

you are at : [Learn Photography.... Quick!]

....well, at least, be able to take better photographs!!!!

EVERY RULE or comment about photography can be unproven by at least 144 different ways!

In a retail shop where I have some very large photos on display of people in their surroundings in their distant country. People look at them and ask me "how can they take photos like that"? 

I believe some of the reasons I am able to take the photographs that I do, are as follows:-

  1. Good equipment in the form of good camera body and lenses to do the job required.

  2. Composition, a knowledge composition slowly built up over the years.

  3. Speed of camera use. Thro years of practice I am able to use the camera without real thought to the same degree as most of us can drive a car without thinking out every move.

However if I am traveling on holiday and wanting to relax I would probably a small "Point & Shoot with a 38-140 zoom lens, and I would end up taking different photos than "on Safari"!

So if a person wants to travel, to take photographs, as a prime reason for travel I offer the following advise.   This advise is also a good starting point for a person wanting to get more serious with their first SLR (Single Lens Reflex).

Let us set a six month period for this exercise.... chances are that you won't become famous in this time but it is my belief that you will be able to be better than average in this time.

The aim will be to cover the three points I have listed above :- Camera, Composition, Speed

None of what is written below can take the place of careful study and constant practice with input from your mentor to guide you on your way, but that could be the more serious "next step"

Modern Single Lens Reflex cameras today are so good you can set them on automatic - auto focus and forget that side of the equation and concentrate on composing and deciding when to take the photo.

CAMERA The first step is to purchase a Single Lens Reflex that is about two models down from the Professional model.  This will normally have enough automation to look after the mechanics of exposure. Any of the brands like Canon, Nikon or Minolta will do.... I would chose the cameras in that order.

I use my camera almost exclusively on Program and find my exposures on negative film to be probably as good as if I used manual.  In the 6000 exposures I have taken in the five Photo Safari's I have been on in the past few years and I will continue to do the same. I find it hard to recall one good picture I have lost because of exposure.

Lenses... the rule of thumb is to buy the best Zoom lenses you can afford. I often use Sigma lenses but have graduated to the Canon Image Stabilizer Zoom lenses for the extra low shutter speed this technology allows.

The lenses I carry with me overseas are 75-300 IS which I use 95% of the time and one of either a Sigma 17-35  or a Canon  28-105 IS.

The reason I use the 75-300 so much is that I like photographing people and like the combination of Candid/Portrait...Candid to catch them un-posed, Portrait buy using the long lens. I am used to using the equivalent of a 138 lens on a 35mm but use a longer lens out in the feild to get in closer without making the subjects aware and to prevent the posed look often seen with some photographs.
The wide angle lens is there for some impact shots and when I can not get bach far enough to get all of the subject in.

speed 1  I would then place that camera on Program and Auto focus and with the instruction book find out all it has to say on these two subjects.   It is important that you understand how the auto focus works and this will require a lot of shooting with a dry camera (no film) trying it out under all sorts of conditions.  (Should you choose a camera that will not work without film, get some old outdated film from a camera store and use that over & over again without processing as a means of testing your camera.

At this point of time I would not worry about any other of the multitude features found on these cameras. 

I have used Auto Focus since I purchased the 801 many years ago. I did not believe it would work nor did I believe that using it I would be able to capture photos that I would be able to get the old manual focus way.  However of the 6000 photos I mention above I do recall a number that I have lost and cried over because I did not use the auto focus the correct way.  There is one consolation that while I would like to think that if I had been that little bit more careful I would not have lost them, but in reality taking more time would have lost "That Moment"

You are better off going to study a Art History course at night school than attending a series of photography classes learning the mechanics of the camera.

COMPOSITION  The same day you buy your camera you enroll in a course in Art History..... perhaps even doing this first.  Your aim will to become top of your class so you will immerse your self in the subject with what spare time you have getting to know your camera. The aim with this course is to come up to speed with what is accepted in the art world as good composition. 

Learn with a Digital camera


How to Ask for advise... tips

Links  Photo Seminars many free!

My thanks to the late Richard Poole M. Photog. who read thro these words and pulled them to pieces and made me rethink what I was saying and how I was saying it.


SPEED 2   Once you are happy using a dry camera then start putting some film thro it putting into practice what you are learning about composition in your art course. 

Round this time it would do no harm to join the best Camera club in your area to observe what people do and getting some of the senior members to critique your results. 
Do not bore them with the rubbish but pick out your best shots for the critique.  

You, of course, should be your own biggest critic and you should never be satisfied with your best results but be continuing to strive to be the best in your street, your suburb, your town, your province, NZ and why not the World, once you have conquered NZ!!  if you are wondering about what photos to take refer below to "camera clubs competitions".

There is only one way to learn to take photos and that is by taking photos

You will soon find people who's comments you respect and let them earn that respect rather that give it to them because of their reputation.

I would recommend you using Negative film for this practice and while it does have some problems that I will mention later it does allow you to lay out all the photos you have taken in a row and turn over the bad ones.  It does allow you to have some with you at all time and it is much easier to sit down and discuss a hand full of prints than it is to look at the same number of slides on a street corner or in a café.  

The one problem with Negative is that off one negative it is possible to get a unlimited number of colors and the range of densities are incredible.  This mean that you are at the mercy of your colour lab as to the results you get and what you think you have messed up on may be the labs problem for some of the following reasons.

  1. you have used a cheap volume lab and the prints go out without inspection.
  2. The operator was not able to read you mind as to the effect you were trying to achieve.
  3. The lab operator was having a rotten day.
  4.  You have chosen a bad lab

I would suggest a some time you get, what we call a ring round set of prints, from perhaps one of your best scenic photos and ask for one each of the following:-
Normal, +1, +2, +3, +4, +5, -1, -2, -3, -4, Normal -1Y, -2Y, -3Y, -4Y and the same range in M, C, R, B, G that by my reckoning a set of 34 prints.  I would expect your lab to do this for you, their customer, for less that $25.00

With this set of prints you will see just how versatile Negative film is and the total range of densities and colours that can be obtained. It will also aid you in working out just what changes you want to that print that does not come up to scratch.

I have found the Kodak Gold 200 to be a very versatile film for my use and have been able to obtain enlargements to 102x61cm.  I would expect to obtain this size enlargement with this film over 50% of the time.

I replace the standard "focusing" screen with a architectural screen as I find it easy for composing on the thirds and keeping the horizons level in iffy circumstances. 

You will find the six months we have allocated for this project just fly.   I would expect you to shoot at least one film (36 exp) per week and by three months period to be pleased with your results.

Other useful resources are "How to books" from the library and Camera magazines the latter are varied in content and you will find as you learn more you will move from one to another. I am still buying at least three of four every month to keep pace with technology and thinking. 

Also check out the online photo school Photo Seminars  They have many free seminars & only charge $US35 for one year for the paid section...let me know if you feel these are worth while.Write Contacts  There are other workshops listed here

A great photo is usually great because of its content, not because the photographer could see the light change by a quarter of a stop, or knew the relationship between Din & ASA and could repeat the hyperfocal distances of every lens... Backwards! 

Entering your camera club competitions give you a subject and a objective to pursue and a measure of your efforts in the judging. Be aware that not all of the judges you meet will be top line but, all will have something to contribute to towards your education.

Apogee Photo Magazine.  The Internet's Photography Magazine: designed to inform and entertain photographers of all ages and levels everywhere in the world teaches photographers how to make better photos. The site features great tips to improve photographic technique, camera comparisons, photo contests, a useful Q&A, free email newsletters and workshops, and expert help with digital imaging.

From the position I am at I have possibly overlooked something simple or not amplified a comment adequately, should you find any hint of this please email me at with your question or comment. 

On a long term basis you do need a complete understanding of all of the elements in this craft.

Should you take up Photography as a Career 

Ivan's Cameras