Learning photography with the Nikon D50
April 13, 2006 2:07 PM   Subscribe

Learning photography with the Nikon D50. While it is a great camera and I am not a camera/techno-phobe by any means, the amount of features and possibilities of this camera overwhelm me from time to time. I would like to learn about all the features and tricks and tips and subject shooting scenarios that would help me understand aperture, shutter-speed and other photography elements better. In a click-and-learn sort of a way, almost. Naturally, this means that I find the manual and the (quite excellent) Nikon phototutor not up to the mark.
posted by cusecase to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
When it comes to practical guides about learning about Nikons, Thom Hogan's Nikon Field Guides are fantastic. It helped me get up and running with my D70 faster than anything else I've tried.
posted by antiform at 2:31 PM on April 13, 2006

I heartily recommend Thom Hogan's Complete Guide to the Nikon D50. It goes from very basic explanations of fundamental SLR concepts all the way to expert tips and tricks specific to maximizing the performance from your D50 under different situations. Thom's guides are considered the authorative Bibles for their respective cameras over in Nikonland; as a Canon shooter myself, I can tell you that it's our loss not to have a similar guru for on our side of the divide.
posted by DaShiv at 2:31 PM on April 13, 2006

While it is tempting to try and understand everything your camera has to offer before learning about basic photography, it would be best to stay in manual mode for at least a few months worth of shooting until you feel comfortable with the aperture and shutter speeds. When you know those it will help you to better understand the different priority modes.
posted by JJ86 at 2:45 PM on April 13, 2006

I would also read Photo.net's Photography Tutorial. The things it talks about are relevant to both film and digital photography, and it's important that you understand the basics.
posted by bshort at 2:58 PM on April 13, 2006

On the trick side of things, it's fun to play around with trap focus. (blatently ripped from Splatta's delicious stream)
posted by nomad at 3:05 PM on April 13, 2006

Another recommendation for Thom Hogan's Field Guides. They are technically comphrehensive, and unlike the manual that came with your camera, will tell you WHY to do things, not just how.

Also, Understanding Exposure is a great book on getting aperture, shutter speed, etc, correctly.
posted by voidcontext at 3:15 PM on April 13, 2006

to the OP: I have a Nikon D70, and agree with the Thom Hogan guides. Also find a book called 'Learning to See Creatively' by Bryan Peterson.

>> nomad << thank you ever so much for the trap focus link, you get a cookie for that. that is unholy cool!! I'm new to SLR photog. and had no idea this was possible... I also shoot bike races. trap focus is exactly the solution I'm looking for to capture tight shots of racers cornering at 30+ mph.
posted by lonefrontranger at 3:31 PM on April 13, 2006

FWIW, the single biggest thing that helped me go from a bad photographer to a good photographer was to understand the relationship between shutter speed, aperture, and film speed. Once you understand this, you can start shooting reliably without a flash, and suddenly your pictures get significantly better. If I were you, I'd start with the "Understanding Exposure" linked above.
posted by davejay at 3:38 PM on April 13, 2006

Read the part in the manual about changing the white balance. There are pre-programmed white balance settings that you can quickly switch between, and they make a big difference in indoor settings.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 4:09 PM on April 13, 2006

Some great advice so far, but I would encourage you to take a class at your local community college. Community college classes are, in general, inexpensive while providing an excellent introduction to the fundamentals of photography. While you may not get exact technical instruction on the d50, you will find yourself in the company of other shutterbugs, and they'll usually be eager to help you learn the craft. The instructors I've had in the past have always been passionate about the subject, willing to answer questions after class (or via e-mail), and really seem to care about helping others learn to make better photos.

Listen to the good advice here, but also consider taking an introductory photography class.
posted by jdroth at 4:21 PM on April 13, 2006

Most of the settings on any modern DSLR just apply varying levels of automation to things which 30-40 years ago, film photographers would have done largely by hand with, if they were lucky, nothing more than a through-the-viewfinder exposure meter and a focusing screen.

Or, looking at it another way, the settings are just a way to progressively disable the layers of automation built into the camera, siezing more and more control over the fundamental settings of focus, aperture and shutter speed.

Since you don't seem to content to put yourself in Nikon's hands and use the "point-and-shoot" modes, you probably don't need a Nikon specific resource at this point. Instead, you're best off learning about the basics and going out and trying them (digital is great for experimentation). As you learn the basics it will become easier to understand when the various automated modes will be useful. You'll know when you want to use the shutter priority mode, and whether you want a slow or a fast shutter speed.
posted by Good Brain at 4:47 PM on April 13, 2006

I second the Bryan Peterson recommendation. Both "Learning to See Creatively" and (probably more apropos for your needs) "Understanding Exposure" are great intro books. The writing is a little touchy-feely, but he does a fantastic job of explaining how you can use exposure times/f-stops/ISO in your creative favor.

Read the part in the manual about changing the white balance.

I disagree. You're putting the cart before the horse. Moreover, white balance is possible to correct in Photoshop, even if you shoot JPEG; a blurry photo on the other hand is not.
posted by alidarbac at 6:38 AM on April 14, 2006

If you haven't got there yet don't worry about it, but when you do own a copy of Adobe CS2, this book is an absolute must: Scott Kelby - CS2
posted by DrtyBlvd at 12:41 PM on April 15, 2006

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