Bernie’s Better Beginner’s Guide to Photography for Computer Geeks Who Want to be Digital Artists

Illustrated with photos wot I ‘ave taken

This is a beginner’s guide for computer geeks who want to be digital artists. Specifically:

Venn diagram

Roll over a section of the diagram

You are a beginner: you have little experience with photography beyond point-and-shoot cameras and mobile phones. If you are not a beginner then why are you reading this? Shoo! Go outside and play with your camera.

You want to be a digital artist: you intend to make a small number of photos or illustrations that are as close to perfection as you can get them.

If you want to take large numbers of shots to document weddings or sports events for example, then you won’t want to edit them all on a computer afterwards so you have to get everything perfect when you take the shot, just like in ye olden days of film photography. This guide may well help you, but ignore the section on digital manipulation. Then practice. A lot.

On the other hand if you don’t care about making each shot perfect then save yourself a lot of money and buy a point-and-shoot camera.

You have a computer and know how to use it. If you are reading this, I’m guessing that you do. If you are not reading this then something very strange is happening right now.

You are a geek: The fact that you’re reading this article already gave you a 90% chance of being a geek, and taking the time to roll over all these little bits guarantees it. If you think Venn diagrams are interesting, you’re a geek, end of story. I like to define a geek as someone who cares enough about something that they want to get good at it for their own sake, not to impress others or earn more (though being a geek helps you with those two goals too).

Moot point – all digital artists are computer geeks

You are a computer geek: you enjoy using computers and can learn a piece of software by playing with it for a day or two. If you are not a computer geek then it may be for the best to use a digital camera as if it was a film camera: forget digital retouching and just capture the best image you can when you shoot. This article will still be useful, but ignore the section on digital manipulation.

If all of the above apply, come on in!

There is a lot of material in this article, so I suggest you have your camera with you as you read it and try out the techniques as you go along. If you don’t have a camera yet then you can still enjoy this article; however if you do intend to buy a camera sooner or later, I suggest doing so before you read. Check out the buying advice at the end of the page.


An extended apology: Most authors of photography guides are experienced professionals, and speak with the authority of the published photographer. Instead I write this beginner’s guide with the authority of a beginner. I flatter myself that I am better placed to advise the beginner geek on how to learn to use a camera than the professional photographer is: I have just been a beginner myself, so what was confusing and what was simple is fresh in my mind.

Speaking of my being a beginner, this is the first long article I’ve written. Do e-mail me and tell me what you think of it. bernie at berniecode dot com.


This is the guide I wish someone had written for me when I started 3 months ago. It’s much shorter than photography books that cover the same topics because it’s a computer geek’s guide. I skip right over the basics of using a camera because you can guess your way through the basics or even read your camera manual (wimp!). I skip any advice about composition or artistic technique because there are better guides that cover those (though I might give it a shot next month). I use terms without defining them because I assume you can use Wikipedia if you need more detail.

For further reading covering field technique and composition I unreservedly recommend John Shaw’s Nature Photography Field Guide. Also, the National Geographic field guides are said (by my sister) to be good.

If you want to be a digital artist then you’ll need to be so comfortable using your camera that the exposure controls are second nature to you, so you can focus yourself on composing the scene that you want. This guide tries to get you to that point as quickly as possible. Some otherwise excellent photography guides take ages walking through the basics of exposure before gradually eking out the advanced details. This will never do: you’re a geek and can be dropped in at the deep end.

This guide doesn’t even try and address how to create a composition that qualifies as art, but this one does, and the book Photography and the Art of Seeing goes further.


Digital SLR systems

For this article I’ll be assuming that you have an SLR camera*. The distinguishing feature of an SLR is that when you look through the viewfinder you see through the lens. This means that you can view the picture pretty much exactly as it will look when you take it. You can also change the lens mounted on the camera body to alter the look of the photo. The technical details are quite interesting, but you don’t need to know them to use the camera.

* The Point & Shoot alternative

this fascinating bonus content

Almost all professional photographers use SLR cameras, rather than point and shoot cameras. SLRs offer very high image quality, a choice of lenses that affect the look of the photo, and most importantly easy access to the exposure controls that are the subject of this article.

However, top-of-the-range point and shoot cameras are very good these days. Some of the photos in this article could have been shot with a P&S camera, others could not. If you’re willing to work within the limitations of a P&S camera, you can take beautiful photographs.

The single most limiting aspect of P&S cameras in my opinion the depth of field. It is very hard to get good background blur (“bokeh”) with a point and shoot. If you search on flickr for bokeh, you will see many beautiful photos with backgrounds blurred into such simple washes of colour that they look like they might have been taken against a studio backdrop. They were all taken with SLRs.

If you decide to get a P&S camera, seriously consider the Canon G9 for its RAW image support (the importance of this is discussed later). As an absolute minimum, make sure that the camera gives you access to the three important exposure modes: aperture priority, shutter priority and full manual. Also, some P&S cameras have a “hot shoe” to which you attach an external flash. This is indispensable if you want to take photos of moving subjects at night, since on-camera flashes produce shockingly poor results.

When you take a picture with a digital SLR you allow an amount of light through a lens, focusing it onto a bit of silicon called a image sensor that contains light-sensitive cells that record an image.

The amount of light that you allow in is called the exposure. Getting the correct exposure is most of the effort of learning photography, and hence the main thrust of this article. Playing with creative effects like long exposure is much easier once you have exposure down to second nature.

Focal length

Focal length is the most obvious way in which a lens affects a photo: it controls the angle of view, and hence how much of the scene is included in your photo. The reason that it is measured in focal length rather than degrees, is that the angle of view yielded by a certain focal length depends on the size of the camera’s image sensor. This relationship is easy to see in a diagram of a pinhole camera, where the focal length is the same as the distance between the pinhole and the film:

Focal length explanation

With a drum roll to celebrate the first time in my life that trigonometry has had any practical purpose, the angle of view is given by the formula arctan((<sensor size>/2) / <focal length>) x 2, for reasons that should become obvious if you split the diagram above into right-angled triangles.

If this doesn’t sound like an intuitive way of working out the angle of view, try this: you can visualise how focal length will affect the angle of view by imagining looking through a piece of card with a rectangular hole in it the same size as your camera sensor (36mm x 24mm for a full-frame camera, 15mm x 22.5mm for an APS-C camera). If you hold the card 200mm from your eye, that’s the view through a 200mm lens. Hold the card twice as far from your face and you’ll see half as much through it.

So doubling the focal length is just like cropping the photo to half of its width and height and blowing up the result to full size, except without the loss of resolution that would occur if you did that in Photoshop. Everything else about the picture remains exactly the same.

landscape photo at 18mm
A landscape at 18mm, the white box marking 1/5 of the width and height
landscape photo at 90mm
The same landscape at 90mm: the focal length is 5 times longer so the area marked by the white box fills the whole scene

Geeky aside – camera body crop factors

this fascinating bonus content

The landscape shots above were taken with a Canon 30D digital SLR with an APS-C image sensor about 22mm wide. Traditionally, lenses are designed for film cameras with a 35mm film size, so the lens will project a 35mm wide image onto the back of the digital camera. Because of the smaller sensor size, the camera body effectively crops the image down to 0.625 of the width and height. Recall that cropping an image to 1/2 its size is exactly the same as multiplying the focal length by 2 (1/0.5 = 2), so cropping an image to 0.625 of its size is exactly the same as multiplying the focal length by 1.6 (1/0.625 = 1.6). This is why the 30D is said to be a ‘1.6x crop factor camera body’.

It is often said that these cameras multiply the focal length of a lens by 1.6. Now that you understand focal length you know that they do nothing of the sort – the focal length of the lens stays the same, but the smaller sensor size yields a narrower angle of view, equivalent to a lens 1.6 times longer on a 35mm camera.

A smaller sensor may seem bad, and it’s true that they offer slightly lower quality and resolution than full size sensor cameras like Canon’s 5D, but they are popular with photographers who use telephoto lenses a lot since they boost the effective length of their lenses for free, saving them money and weight compared to buying a lens 1.6 times longer. With the growing popularity of APS-C camera bodies, lens manufacturers have begun to make lenses that don’t cast a full 35mm image on the camera, such as Canon’s EF-S series or Sigma’s DC series. This means that they can be made smaller, lighter and cheaper for the same image quality, the only downside being that they can’t be used on cameras with full size image sensors like Canon’s 5D. You therefore save money twice: once because you can buy shorter lenses, and again because you can use cheap EF-S and DG lenses.

On the other hand however, high crop factor bodies limit your choice of wide angle lenses. For APS-C camera users there is simply no lens as wide as the Sigma 12-24 or as fast as the Canon 24mm f/1.4. If you want the highest quality wide-angle photography, especially in low light, you have little choice but to buy a full-frame camera.

Canon and Nikon offer 1.6x and 1.5x bodies respectively, while Olympus and other members of the four thirds group offer 2x bodies.

Focal length and perspective: OK, backpedaling time. If two photos are taken from the same position at different focal lengths, then the longer focal length photo will look like a crop from the middle of the shorter focal length photo. However, often a photographer will change position as she changes focal length. When you’re shooting a specific subject you will use a wide angle lens and get right up close to the subject, or a telephoto lens and stand back; either way, the subject fills the whole frame, but the perspective will look very different:

Focal length and perspective diagram

Using a wide angle lens means that the camera is much closer to the subject than the subject is to the background. This exaggerates perspective and makes the background seem small and distant. The reverse is true with the telephoto shot, which includes less of the background while making it appear closer to the subject. This thistle was shot with 3 different focal lengths:

10mm 20mm 40mm

Stops and exposure settings: the basics

When you take a picture you allow an amount of light through the lens, focusing it onto the image sensor. The amount of light you let in is measured in stops. Stops are a relative measure of lightness: you can’t say “there are three stops of light coming from that surface”, but you can say that one surface is three stops brighter than another. Adding one stop means doubling of the amount of light that the plate records. In fact, ‘a stop’ is really just photographic slang for a doubling. On old cameras, stops were literally dents in a dial that made it easy to stop when you reached the desired setting. We measure light like this because the human eye perceives each doubling to be an equal increase in light.

Using a relative measure makes sense because there is no such thing as a standard amount of light that equals grey. How bright grey is depends on how strongly lit the scene is; a dark granite rock in bright sunshine actually has more light reflecting off it than than snow at twilight. It is not the absolute brightness of objects in your scene that matters, but their brightness relative to each other, or how many stops apart they are. When photographing these objects you adjust the exposure settings to make sure that the twilight snow still looks white and the sunlit rock looks dark.

The amount of light you record is controlled by the camera’s exposure settings: aperture, shutter speed and sensitivity. Opening the aperture by a stop or decreasing the shutter speed by a stop or increasing the sensitivity by a stop all have the effect of doubling the brightness of your scene. However, the shutter speed and aperture have other aesthetic effects that affect how your picture looks in a way that is very hard to remove or replicate in Photoshop, so you must make a decision when you shoot.

Shutter speed

The shutter speed is considered an exposure setting because opening the shutter for twice as long lets in twice as much light which increases the exposure of the whole scene by a stop. However you can also use it aesthetically: faster shutter speeds freeze a moving subject, slower speeds record a motion blur. Neither is ‘correct’: a photo of a stream with a 1/800 second shutter would record each sharp sparkling droplet of water frozen in mid-air, whereas a 4 second exposure would render the stream as a softly flowing ethereal smoke. Either can look beautiful.

Fast shutter speed
A shutter speed of 1/800 second freezes this baseball in mid-air
Slow shutter speed
A 10 second exposure produces streaked lines of headlights and a ghost of a car that was parked for half of the exposure.

Aperture, or 1, 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, erm, what the f***?

Lenses have an aperture to control the amount of light entering them. This is an iris that can open and close to allow more or less light in. Aperture is measured in ‘f numbers’ – written f/x where x is the ratio of the focal length to the aperture width. Low f-numbers mean wide apertures letting in more light. Aperture has a reputation for being complicated so some guides suggest that you just memorize the f-number sequence and ignore the internal details. Being a geek, you’ll find it much simpler when you understand why it is measured like this.

The first supposedly confusing thing about aperture is that it is not measured as a width but as a ratio of focal length to width. This makes more sense if you consider that the scene you’re photographing is a light source. Recall that doubling the focal length will half the width and height of the bit of the scene that you project onto the camera plate. Therefore at double the focal length, only 1/4 of the scene area is providing light, so the aperture area must be 4 times as large to compensate (i.e. the aperture width must double). A constant f-number means a constant amount of light entering the aperture regardless of the focal length.

The next supposedly confusing thing about aperture is that the f-number sequence goes in stop increments: 1, 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22, 32. There is a logic to this. A 50mm lens with a 50mm aperture will have an f-number of f/1 (the ratio of the focal length to the aperture diameter: 50/50 = 1). If you want to halve the amount of light reaching the sensor you must halve the area of the aperture. To half the area of a circle you divide the diameter by 1.4 (give or take), and since diameter is the denominator in the f-number equation, this means that the f-number is increased by a factor of 1.4. Each f-number is 1.4 times the previous one and lets in half as much light. When someone says “close”, “reduce” or “step down” the aperture, they mean increase the f-number.

Like shutter speed, aperture affects the look of the photo, specifically the depth of field. At narrow apertures the whole of a scene will be in focus, whereas at wide apertures only the bit of the scene that you focus on will be on focus; as is clear in the case of these cheap fake flowers:

Narrow aperture
At f/16 the background is distracting
Wide aperture
At f/1.4 the background is reduced to a blur, but not all of the subject is in focus either.

The nature of the out-of-focus blur that an aperture produces is called bokeh, a term coined by a magazine editor sick of hearing people mispronounce the Japanese word ‘boke’ (meaning blur) to rhyme with smoke. Good on him, but I’m still not sure how I’m supposed to pronounce it.

Long focal lengths and bokeh: Using a long focal length lens appears to make the background more blurred. In fact the background is just as blurred, but is larger. This is easier to see in a photo that only contains the out of focus background:

Wide angle bokeh
A blurred leafy background at 30mm, f/2.8
Telephoto bokeh
The same shot at 85mm, f/2.8.

In both shots each leaf is just as blurred relative to its own size, but in the wide angle there are more leaves and each one is smaller. In either shot you would reposition the camera so that the subject filled the whole frame. The long focal length therefore increases the size of the background relative to the subject, increasing the apparent blur. This is useful in portraits, when background detail only serves to distract from your subject.

Depth of field in greater… ahem… depth (sorry)

Depth of field is a huge topic, so I’ve written another article exclusively about it.


Historical aside

this fascinating bonus content

Film photographers had to choose a sensitivity when they loaded a new roll of film into their camera, and some professional photographers carried two camera bodies loaded with different film to give them a choice of sensitivity when shooting a scene. As a digital photographer you can change the sensitivity for each shot. Which is nice.

While we’re on the subject of choosing film, many old school photographers loved a film called Fuji Velvia which boosted the saturation in their photos. Digital SLRs usually come with a saturation setting which allows you to emulate this. I often shoot with +50% saturation on my Canon 30D, which gives a similar intense colour to scenes.

The sensitivity of the camera’s plate is measured in ISO sensitivity units which were originally used to measure the sensitivity of chemical film. Most digital SLRs offer a range from 100 to 1600, with 100 being the least sensitive. Some offer lower or higher ISOs; as of September 2007 the champion is the £3,400 Nikon D3 with a maximum ISO setting of 25,600.

Sensitivity is a very useful exposure setting, because it (almost) doesn’t affect the look of the final image, so can be used to help you achieve a combination of aperture and shutter speed that gives you the look you need. Take this shot for example:

Senitivity example
Large depth of field (click for a larger version)

The extreme depth of field required a narrow aperture of f/22, ensuring that the grass and mountains were sharp, and my camera’s meter decided that a shutter speed of 1/15 second was required to correctly expose the image. A breeze was causing the grass to sway so much that a shutter speed of 1/60 was required to freeze it. 1/60 is 4 times faster than 1/15, so the scene would be underexposed by 2 stops. I increased the sensitivity by 2 stops from 100 to 400 and the scene was correctly exposed.

There is a caveat: noise. At very high sensitivities the picture becomes noisy. This is because at higher ISOs you are making an image from a smaller amount of light, so the signal to noise ratio drops. As a last resort you can try to remove this noise in Photoshop, but this can also remove fine detail so it is better to get a clean photo in the first place.

The following set of magnified images show individual pixels from a photo of a lamp fitting at various ISOs. These results will hold true for most digital SLRs. However, top of the line professional models will have lower noise at high ISOs.

Photo at ISO 100
At ISO 100, no noise is visible
Photo at ISO 500
At ISO 400 the picture is still excellent
Photo at ISO 800
At ISO 800, noise becomes visible
Photo at ISO 1600
At ISO 1600 the image is very noisy

However, noise is less obvious in print than it is on screen, so you may well be able to get away with high sensitivities.

As a rule of thumb you should shoot in the lowest ISO that gives you the shutter speed and depth of field that you need. If you need more depth of field but don’t want to reduce the shutter speed, increase the ISO and reduce the aperture. If you need a faster shutter speed and don’t want to lose depth of field by opening up the aperture, increase the ISO and the shutter speed. If you’re shooting a still landscape on a tripod at ISO 800 and 1/100 second shutter speed, you’re just wasting image quality: reduce the ISO to 100 and the shutter speed to 1/12 second. Some SLRs and most Point and Shoot cameras have an Auto ISO setting, which selects the lowest ISO that will give you a reasonable shutter speed. What qualifies as “reasonable” is an exercise left to the manufacturer, so you may still need to set the ISO manually if your camera’s choice isn’t appropriate.

I find that far more of my shots are ruined by motion blur caused by slow shutter speeds than by noise so don’t hesitate to crank up the sensitivity if you need to. In addition, it is often possible to remove much of the noise on in processing. The following crop is from a picture that had to be taken at my camera’s highest sensitivity, then processed to remove noise:

Noise reduction example
The top half of this image is processed with the Photoshop plugin Noise Ninja


Digital SLRs have built-in light meters that calculate the required exposure settings to expose the object you’re pointing the camera at as a medium tone. However, the camera doesn’t know what you’re pointing at, and will happily expose a white subject as grey unless you correct the exposure settings. You use the exposure dial to tell the camera to render the object that you are pointing at as a lighter or darker tone.

There are around 5 stops between apparent black and white in a typical photo, so black is 2.5 stops below mid-toned and white is 2.5 stops above mid-toned (take this as read for now, I cover it in more detail in the next section). Strangely, my Canon 30D’s exposure dial only covers 2 stops, so I have to use manual mode if I need absolute whites or blacks.

Metering dial image
The dial at the default setting: the metered object will be mid-toned
Metering dial image
The metered object will be near-white
Metering dial image
The metered object will be near-black

You can set your camera to spot metering which meters a small area in the centre of the scene, centre-weighted metering which meters the whole scene but pays more attention to the middle, or evaluative metering which meters the whole scene. Especially for evaluative metering, check the histogram (see the next section) right after shooting to make sure that the exposure came out correctly.

The metering lock button lets you meter a specific object, lock the exposure settings for that meter reading, and then point the camera somewhere else to take the picture. This is how you meter an object that is not right in the middle of your composition.

Waterfall image
This waterfall looked white, so I spot-metered it and dialed in 2 stops of overexposure to make sure that it looked like it appeared in real life
Cloud image
You can also change the suggested exposure values for creative effect. This moody nebulous image was actually a bright cloudy sky. I metered the cloud at the bottom, used the metering lock button to record that reading, then dialed in 2 stops of underexposure to render it near-black

Digital SLRs have four useful exposure modes that work with metering. Program mode chooses an aperture and shutter speed for you, leaving you free to think about composition. Aperture priority mode lets you choose an aperture, and the camera will set the shutter speed to correctly expose the scene; this is the most useful mode because it makes it easy to get the best depth of field possible (set to minimum aperture) or the fastest available shutter speed for the current lighting (set to maximum aperture). Shutter priority mode lets you pick a shutter speed and the camera will set the aperture. In all of these automatic modes, you point the camera at an object and then use the exposure dial to tell the camera how light or dark that object should be.

Metering dial image
The exposure dial indicating that with the current settings, the metered object will be 2/3 of a stop above mid-toned

In manual mode the exposure dial works the other way round: you choose an aperture and shutter speed, and the metering system will set the exposure dial to tell you how light or dark the object you’re pointing at is:

When I’m taking time to work a subject, carefully setting up shots with specific effects in mind, I like to use manual mode since it forces me to think about the exposure settings. When I’m walking around looking for interesting moments to take snap shots of, I stick to the automatic modes.


Digital SLRs come with a histogram display so that you can tell how an image is exposed. Set your camera to show you an RGB histogram of each shot after you take it so you can tell if it is correctly exposed and retake the shot if necessary. Later in this guide I show you how to correct a poor exposure on a computer, but you’ll get better results and a smug feeling of competency if you get it right in the field.

Incorrectly exposed images produce histograms with large spikes at either end; correctly exposed images look like smooth bell curves. There is an example of each in the next section.

Looking at the histogram after each shot is the fastest way to get a feel for correct exposure.

Stops and exposure: advanced stuff

Recommended article:

Notes on the Resolution and Other Details of the Human Eye.

A fascinatingly geeky comparison of the dynamic range and other optical properties of the human eye those of a camera.

Every device for capturing light has a dynamic range – the number of stops between the darkest black and the lightest white that can be captured. Shades outside this range will be clipped, appearing featureless black or white. This is why, when somebody shines a torch at you at night, you can’t see their face – the human eye can perceive 15 stops of dynamic range, and the torch bulb is more than 15 stops lighter than their face.

On a film camera there are 5 stops between the darkest black and the lightest white. This is a much smaller dynamic range than the human eye can detect. This means that if you have a scene with say a bright cloudy sky and a dark shaded valley, you can see both in detail at the same time but a camera can not. If the shadows in the valley are more than 5 stops darker than the white of the clouds, then either the clouds will be a wash of overexposed white or the shadows will be a mass of underexposed black.

Digital SLR camera sensors actually capture much more information that just the 5 stops that you see on your screen. My Canon 30D captures 9 stops in total: 2 stops on each side of the 5 stops you can see. It uses this information internally to adjust white balance, but in order to reproduce the rich, high-contrast look of traditional film the 9 stops are clipped down to 5 to produce a JPEG file that looks like a traditional film print.

Traditional film photographers got around the 5-stop limit by using graduated neutral density filters – attachments for the front of a lens that shaded the sky, decreasing its brightness so that the sky and shadows could both be properly exposed. Don’t bother: the digital artist has two tools not available to the film photographer that are far more flexible. By using RAW image adjustment and combining multiple shots in Photoshop, you can create your perfect exposure back in the office, leaving you free in the field to focus on choices that can’t be changed later like motion blur and depth of field.

this fascinating bonus content


Your camera may come with image editing software, but really you need something more powerful. Personally I can’t live without Photoshop; I hear good things about other programs, but after 10 years of learning Photoshop I’m not interested.

Photoshop has had RAW import options since Photoshop CS released in 2003, but Photoshop CS3 has by far the best RAW support to date. If you balk at the cost, save 50% by purchasing an old copy of Photoshop on Ebay, transferring the license to you and upgrading. It saves you so much money that you almost feel it must be dodgy, but it’s perfectly legal. Make sure that it is a legally owned copy and that the seller is willing to transfer the license to you.

If you still balk at the cost, try downloading The GIMP and then the RAW conversion plugin UFRaw. Both are free.

Another useful bit of software is Genuine Fractals. Photos from an 8 megapixel camera will print at A4 or even A3 size without modification. However, if you need to crop an image to centre on a small area, you can find yourself with a much smaller image that will become pixelated if you print it large. Genuine Fractals has a scaling algorithm that detects hard edges and preserves them in the scaled-up version. The following crops are from a picture resized in photoshop, and with Genuine Fractals:

Bicubic interpolation example

Genuine Fractals example

Click for larger versions.

RAW image adjustment

Digital cameras actually capture 9 stops of dynamic range and then clip it down to 5 stops when the image is converted to JPEG. However, if you set your camera to shoot in RAW, all the clipped information will be saved so you can change your mind about how you want it to be clipped later.

Here’s an example of a tree that I shot against a bright sky on a sunny day:

Underexposed tree
The foreground is underexposed but the sky is correct

The camera’s automatic metering set the aperture to f/10 and shutter speed to 1/250 second which recorded the sky correctly as a light blue with bright white clouds. However when I looked at the scene in person the tree was a brilliantly backlit bright green, but here it is a dark silhouette – around 2 stops too dark compared to how my eyes saw it. This histogram of all individual red, green and blue pixel values shows the problem clearly; the spike to the left is caused by all the detail darker than the lowest of the 5 stops being clipped to plain black:

Incorrectly exposed histogram

If I manually increased the exposure of the whole scene by 2 stops, say by decreasing the shutter speed to 1/60, the sky would have lost all detail and become a wash of white. The solution is to use a RAW adjustment program to selectively lighten the underexposed shadows without lightening the correctly exposed highlights. Your camera should come with a program that does this, but if Canon’s program is anything to go by it won’t be nearly as usable as Photoshop’s RAW file import dialogue. Canon’s program is said to produce a higher image quality; personally I can’t tell the difference.

Photoshop gives you a ‘Fill light’ slider that increases the brightness of the shadows selectively:

Underexposed tree
The underexposure is corrected without overexposing the sky

And as you can see from the new histogram, the spike at the left is gone and replaced with a nice smooth bell curve:

Correctly exposed histogram

Of course there is a cost – loss of contrast in the highlights, which had to be compressed to make room for the shadow detail. Compare the second histogram to the first. The three peaks for red green and blue to the right of the graph correspond the gradient across the sky. They exist in both histograms, but in the second one they are narrower: the difference between the lightest and darkest bit of sky is smaller than in the first exposure, and hence the gradient across the sky is less dramatic. In this case, the trade-off is easily worthwhile.

Combining multiple shots

RAW image adjustment works well when you have no more than a couple of stops underexposure or overexposure, because if you go more than 2 stops past the 5 stop limit of a scene’s dynamic range, you exceed the 9 stop dynamic range of your camera’s sensor and any detail in the poorly exposed areas is lost for ever.

Outside the window of my Norwegian holiday cabin where my wife is sunbathing it is a bright day; inside where I am hunched over a laptop it is much darker:

Partially overexposed window
In order to get a good exposure of the inside, I needed a shutter speed of 1/3 second at f/4
Partially underexposed window
Exposing the outside correctly required 1/80 second at the same aperture

This 5 stop difference is far more than we can hope to recover with RAW image adjustment. If you shoot both exposures, you can combine them in Photoshop using a layer mask to create an image that would be impossible using a film camera:

Photoshop mask
Using a mask used to combine the 2 exposures …
Photoshop UI
… in Photoshop …
Combined image
… Yields an image that looks more like what my eyes saw at the time.

I created the layer mask by inverting the dark image, blurring it, increasing the contrast and retouching a few areas with the brush tool.

Make sure you shoot with a tripod so that the two exposures overlay accurately (unlike in my hurried attempt, where blurring from hand-holding shows up in the interior shot and rotating / resizing was necessary to realign the images). Then take both photos into Photoshop as layers, add a layer mask, and use the brush tool on the layer mask to literally paint detail into the shadows. It’s surprising how well it works.

White balance

Artificial light is much warmer than sunlight, with more red and less blue in it. Your eyes adjust to the current light temperature and after a while you won’t notice it. Cameras do not automatically adjust however:

Incorrect white balance
This portrait was taken under sodium street lighting, rendering it unusable without correction
Correct white balance
Adjusting the white balance to the lowest temperature that Photoshop’s RAW import dialogue supports was enough to correct this extreme lighting

Cameras have a setting to correct white balance as you take the shot, but I find it easier to leave the camera alone and correct the white balance on my computer.

For a detailed technical explanation of what’s actually happening, check out this article: Understanding White Balance.

Buying kit

this fascinating bonus content

This box used to contain a guide to choosing kit, but I deleted it: there are already plenty of places on the net that will tell you how to spend your money (like the flickr Canon and Nikon groups, and and this page is not going to become another one. Instead I want to share a philosophy for buying kit:

Firstly, there are people in the world who are taking better photos than you or I will ever take, with worse gear than you or I will ever own.

Secondly, digital camera technology moves quickly: the cheapest digital SLR camera you can buy today produces better images than the £5000 professional cameras of a few years ago, and the point-and-shoot cameras of 5 years time will probably match the SLRs of today.

Finally, while expensive gear is a pleasure to own, it will not improve the artistic value of your photos. In fact, plenty of artists would agree that having to work within the limitations of a small amount of kit produces better results than owning the ‘dream bag’ of every lens you want.

Here are two ways of spending three grand:

• Spend all £3000 on a 300mm f/2.8 IS lens: an object of beauty and arguably the finest lens Canon have ever made.

• Spend £300 on a 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 IS zoom: not as glamorous, but very sharp, 1/10 the price and only 2 stops slower. Spend the remainder on a month-long holiday to an exotic location taking pictures and learning how to use your equipment well.

Guess which one will yield better photos?

With this in mind, I recommend this path:

The body

First, choose Canon or Nikon. If you have friends who are into photography, choose the same as them so you can swap lenses. If not then choose Canon because nobody ever got fired for picking the market leader.

Buy a body with a high crop factor (see previous sidebar) because the body and the lenses will be cheaper. If you’re on a tight budget this means (as of early 2008) the Canon 450D or Nikon D40 / D40x. If you want to spend a bit more on a larger, sturdier camera with big controls that you can use with gloves on – the image quality is essentially the same – then go for a Canon 40D or Nikon D300.

The lenses

Buying the lenses is harder because there is so much choice, so start with the cheap kit lens that comes with the camera and use it for a month or so until you notice its limitations.

As you grow your kit, only ever buy a new lens when you have a specific kind of photography that you can’t do with your current lenses. Don’t try and anticipate what this might be, or you might end up with expensive lenses that you hardly use.

The most expensive lenses are ones with large apertures for shooting in low light. Before you buy these, buy a good tripod and an off-camera flash unit (or two), and learn how to use them.

My kit

I bought a Canon 30D with the standard kit lens.

I covered the focal length range that I use by buying another two middle of the range, light-weight zooms:

  • Sigma 10-20mm (£220)
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 IS DO (£650)

Then for low-light photography I purchased a couple of wide-aperture prime lenses:

  • Sigma 30mm f/1.4 (£250, and actually my big sister bought it for me, thanks Freddie)
  • Canon 85mm f/1.8 (£225)

The latter is also an excellent portrait lens because of the wide aperture / long focal length combination’s effect on bokeh.

Finally I replaced the kit lens with a Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS (£345), because the kit lens produces some artifacts like chromatic aberration that were tedious to remove in Photoshop.

Your mileage may vary: start with the kit lens and buy new ones only when you feel the limitations of your current kit.


If you have multiple lenses, buy polarising and ND filters for the largest lens and then a set of step-up rings to fit them onto your smaller lenses. You won’t be able to attach lens hoods, but this doesn’t really matter if you’re using a tripod since you can shade the lens with a hand or a hat. If you must shoot with filters and a lens hood then you have to buy filters for each lens size.

Where to buy

I buy my kit from Ebay, which despite its reputation for dodgy sellers is quite safe if you’re careful. Use a specialist camera shop with high feedback and Paypal buyer protection (a guarantee that if the item does not arrive, Paypal will arrange a refund up to £500). If you buy anything that costs more than £500, test them with some purchases under £500 first. Choose a seller from your country to avoid being stung by import duties.


Filters were an important part of the prehistoric photographer’s equipment. Coloured filters could enhance a scene, warming or cooling it to compensate for different kinds of lighting. Graduated neutral density filters decreased contrast within a scene, allowing a bright sky and dark land to be captured in one exposure.

The digital artist doesn’t need most of the filters because the effects can be applied digitally – white balance settings on your camera or in Photoshop affect the scene warmth, and the advanced exposure techniques covered above are much more flexible than graduated neutral density filters.

There are a 2 filters that are very useful however, because they change the image in ways that can’t be reproduced by a computer:

Polarising filters

If you take any photos outdoors, you need one of these.

Light scattered through the upper atmosphere becomes polarised by ice particles, or something like that, I forget the details. This polarisation survives being reflected off shiny surfaces like sweaty foreheads. However, when light is absorbed and re-emitted from a surface as coloured light, it loses its polarisation. Because of this a polarising filter can do two things: remove white haze from the sky rendering it a deep blue, and remove white reflections from surfaces revealing their true colour. Alternatively, if it is the reflections you are trying to photograph, you can rotate the filter 90 degrees to increase their brightness.

Photography on sunny days can sometimes be disappointing because the scene never looks as colourful as it seemed to when you were there. Polarising filters help capture bright scenes as they appear to the human eye.

No polarising filter
Photo taken without a polarising filter
Polarising filter
The same shot with a polarising filter. The sky is darkened, and the reflections from the petals are removed.

Neutral Density filters

Neutral density (ND) filters are dark filters that reduce the brightness of a scene. You may need them if you like to play with long exposures for artistic effect. Even at the narrowest aperture, a 5 minute exposure will overexpose anything but the darkest night scene. Adding a strong ND filter can allow you to use these extreme settings. An ND filter can also allow you to take photos of very bright subjects without hurting your eyes.

Photo taken with ND filter
An ND filter allowed me to get the 30 second exposure I needed to render this babbling brook as a serene glassy flow
Photo taken with an ND filter
Taking a photo directly into the sun would have hurt my eyes without an ND filter

ND filters are just another way of affecting exposure, so it should come as no surprise by now that they’re measured in stops. How strong a filter you need depends on your requirements. I just metered a daylight scene at my camera’s minimum sensitivity of ISO 100 and minimum aperture of f/32 and was told that I needed a shutter speed of 1/50 to expose it properly. That is therefore the longest shutter speed I could achieve without an ND filter. If I wanted to take a 5 second exposure, I would need an 8 stop ND filter (1/50 doubled 8 times = 5). If I wanted to do a 5 minute exposure, I’d need a 14 stop filter.

Some filters are sold as, e.g. “8x” filters, which reduce brightness by a factor of eight. This is equivalent to three halving of the brightness, so it is actually a 3 stop filter.

ND filters can be stacked together and their stop values add together.

A warning about filters

With digital cameras it is especially important to buy filters with non-reflective coating, because otherwise light reflected from the sensor can bounce back onto it, causing ghosting. If you spend a lot of money on lenses, the best way to ruin their quality is to put a cheap filter in front of them. I use the Hoya PRO1 super-hard multi-coated range (over £50 for a polarising filter) and have no issues with them.



You can hand-hold a photograph at a shutter speed of around 1/focal length, i.e. with my Sigma 30mm lens on my 1.6x crop factor body, I must have a shutter speed of at least 1/50 second to reliably hand hold it, and even then the occasional shot may have noticeable blurring from camera shake. Buying an image stabilised lens (and they aren’t cheap) can let you hand-hold a photo at 2 or 3 stops slower than usual. For shots that require slower shutter speeds, you’ll require a tripod and a remote shutter release button to avoid shaking the tripod as you press the shutter (though you can use the camera’s self timer for this).

Monopods are one-legged tripods (unless tripods are three-legged monopods) that offer less stability but greater freedom of movement that makes them more suitable for action and event photography.

Another benefit of a tripod is that it makes it easier to compose a shot. Especially in low light and with telephoto lenses, framing and focusing a shot is hard. Using a tripod lets you carefully set up the shot so that you don’t accidentally clip off part of your scene or introduce a wonky horizon.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if you don’t have a good tripod, you are wasting your money buying expensive lenses. I have a Manfrotto 458(B) Neotec (£215) and 468 MGRC2 head (£165). This is expensive stuff, but it increases the proportion of my usable shots far more than a new lens five times that price.

Macro dioptres

Macro dioptres are magnifying glasses that screw onto the filter thread at the end of a lens and enable it to focus on very close objects. They are called dioptres because Jessops wouldn’t be able to charge £50 for a magnifying glass, but for a dioptre, now that sounds like a bargain. Long zoom lenses typically have a minimum focusing distance of 1 to 2 meters. With a Macro dioptre attached they can focus much closer, enabling you to fill the whole photo with an insect for example.

Macro image
When working with small subjects close to the lens the depth of field is very narrow – note how only the petals at the front of the flower are in focus
Crop from macro image
An ‘actual pixels’ crop from the image shows that it is extremely sharp. I thought that you would need a macro lens for this kind of quality. I was wrong. Score 1 for my philosophy of trying to get away with cheap kit before getting expensive stuff

Make sure you buy a dual element dioptre, like those from Canon or Nikon. They are optically far superior to the single element ones, and don’t cost much more. A good macro dioptre mounted on a sharp lens produces results just as good as a dedicated macro lens, for a fraction of the price.

The end!

I hope you’ve found this article entertaining.

To subscribe to future photography articles, add this link to your RSS reader.

224 thoughts on “Bernie’s Better Beginner’s Guide to Photography for Computer Geeks Who Want to be Digital Artists”

  1. Nice tutorial on photography. I’ve got a nice camera but no idea how to use it. I’ll have to use your article and try to get better with it. Thanks!

  2. Awesome work man. I got a camera and a copy of “The Camera” by Ansel Adams but I probably learnt more in 20 minutes reading your article than I did from that book.

  3. Bernie:

    Great job showing what you are telling. I teach a 12-hour digital photo course at the Community College. You condensed most of it into a simple quick tutorial. Very good. And your illustrations are also great work.

  4. Great article though I wanted to point out a safety tip. In the article you said

    “Taking a photo directly into the sun would have hurt my eyes without an ND filter.”

    Unless the filter is filtering UV and IR you can still hurt your eyes.

  5. This article was definitely right on focus on it’s target audience. I am a computer geek, and I want to learn more about advanced photographic techniques. Thank you for writing it!

  6. Jacob: you are right, mostly. ND filters do fall off rapidly outside the visible range. However, as long as you’re not using a very wide aperture lens or taking ages to frame your shot, you will be fine.

    While it may be unpleasant to look into the sun for a few seconds, it will not damage your eyes. The benefit of an ND filter is to allow you to compose the shot without discomfort.

    However, looking into the sun through a f/1.4 lens is like focusing the sun through a magnifying glass onto your retina. Don’t do this, even with an ND filter. Stick to smaller aperture lenses (what counts is the maximum aperture, since lenses always show you the maximum aperture through the viewfinder, then step down for the shot), and don’t look through the viewfinder too long.

  7. Very nice tutorial. I’d love to learn about flash lighting and multi-flash techniques, so if you’re looking for chapter ideas … ;)

  8. Well thought out basic (and not so basic) tutorial. Even after 40+ years with Nikons & 40,000 jewelry photos I learned a few new things.

  9. Great article!! I am just about to make the jump into DSLR and this had really helped me understand some concepts I was unsure on. Perfectly pitched at the geek/photographer!


  10. Hi, cool guide, I’m still reading it but I can say that it’s very well done! :)

    Only one comment: you advise to buy canon or nikon, I disagree! ^^

    I’ve just bought a Pentax K10D, “European camera of the year 2007-2008” for the prestigious association European Imaging & Sound Association (EISA), and the price is wonderful for the settings it offers, in my humble opinion of course! ;)

    I agree that Canon and Nikon are today the leaders on the market, but they are other great companies too! =)

    What do you think about it?


  11. There’s nothing like gadget brands to inspire fanboy loyalism. I’m not immune – I type this on my 6th Apple computer.

    Canon and Nikon have the best selection of unusual lenses, but any camera range has great lenses in the medium wide (~24mm) to medium telephoto (~135mm) range. If you want good quality ultra wide or long lenses, Canon or Nikon seem to have the edge.

    You work with what you have, and a good photographer with a Pentax K100D will take better photos than a Canon 1Ds owner with plenty of money and no passion.

  12. Thanks for your reply.

    I agree with you that Canon and Nikon probably have the best quality ultra wide or long lenses, but I don’t care because they are too expensive! XD

    Thanks again, bye bye.

  13. Thank you so much for your tutorial. It really helped me to understand what was what. I have taken two photo classes and being a non-geek could never get past f-stops. Thanks again.

  14. The article was great. But you’re wrong about people being able to look up anything on wikipedia. I can’t get past the Great Firewall of China.

  15. I had nowhere to really start with my 20D until I read this article. I am not quite the “book” type and when my friend sent me the link to your article I knew it was for me. Everything is laid out very simple and “newbie friendly”

    Thanks again for putting this great site together for people looking to capture better photos.

  16. I have recently been very interested in photography and photoshop myself. I have already read a number of articles on photography already, but I must say, none of my readings covered metering in the manual mode (even though you merely mentioned it in your)as creatively as you did.

    Could you write a longer article, indeed, a step-by-step guide on how to use the manual mode in photography? I’d love to be able to use the manual exposure metering quite often.

    Thanks, and please, more of those guides!

  17. Wow, this was a brilliant article. I love the extras on the side, but the content of the article is concise, and relevant. You briefly mention that you plan on writing more articles. PLEASE DO! The nerd in people like us is unquenchable we need more!!!

  18. Hi I am doing an open university course on digital photography. One of the students on the course,recommended your website, as further reading to do for our course. Very well explained, you cover most of what we are trying to learn. Thanks Melody

  19. Bernie,

    Extremely well done – I like your style and also think the photos portray the “1000 words” concept especially the split image on Noise Ninja. Looking forward to your next articles. Thanks for taking the time.

  20. Excellent article! I was just wondering, what technique do you use for noise reduction. I’ve been adjusting through Light Room and Photoshop CS3’s built-in noise reduction filters, but nothing is giving me the product that I need.

    The work is for web, not print, and the problem with the set of images is that it was shot with high ISO in a not-so-well-lit environment.

    I was able to color correct and come to a good image in all other aspects except for the noise.

    please help.

  21. Nice work! I am developing a training course to train staff how to take photographs of our products. Can I use the URL of your article as a resource for learners that have limited photographic knowledge?

  22. Thanks for the fantastic tutorial. Very concise and with excellent examples. This should be required reading for any new SLR owner.

  23. Thanks Bernie,

    Very nice read. I want to ditch that P&S and get into DSLR world. Your article came just with the good timing! :-) Being a “computer geek who wants to be digital artist”, I think I just found the gem that will let me go forward.

    I would be very intersted in your views and tips on basic post-processing. I am confused as to know if I need Photoshop CS3, Adobe Light Room, etc…

  24. You don’t need any such software products. If you’re not planning on doing much digital manipulation beyond adjusting the exposure in RAW conversion, the free RAW conversion software that comes with your camera (Digital Photo Pro for Canon users) will be just fine. Clunky, but fine.

    If you want to, for example, add and remove objects from photos or add special effects, you will need a good image editor. The Gimp is free, and is rapidly improving which is another way of saying that it sucks.

    If you haven’t tried Photoshop, by all means see if you can get by with The Gimp first, but do it that way round because starting with The Gimp after your 30 day free trial of Photoshop runs out will be a depressing experience.

  25. Thanks for that quick reply! :-) In fact, I am already a Gimp user and it seems to be handling quite well my need for the moment. But I never shoot in RAW so that part is a bit scary for me.

    What about Light Room (or Aperture)? Do you use one of them? They seems interesting for exposure manipulation and quick editing of a bunch of photos.

  26. The biggest advantage of those products is the workflow management. They don’t do anything that Photoshop (or even The Gimp) can’t do, but they do it faster, and have features that help you keep track of hundreds of photoshoots each containing hundreds of photos.

    I don’t take enough photos to warrant buying them. If I did, I’d choose Lightroom.

  27. Real good written!

    It took me some time to read it through cause I’m from Austria an had to translate the technical phrases, but in general, it was easy to understand. Thank’s for this big help!

  28. Nice article!!!

    One question though: I don’t understand the calculation for the Neutral Density filters (1/50 doubled 8 times = 5 seconds). Could you give me some more examples?

    I’m wondering if I want a ND4 or ND8 lens – What would happen with a 1/200 or 1/1000 “normal” exposure without the ND filter, how would those two affect the exposure?

  29. Let’s say that you put your camera in aperture priority mode and select f/11, a good general purpose aperture for obtaining sharp results. The camera meters the scene and automatically selects a shutter speed of 1/50.

    Adding a 1 stop filter halves the light reaching the meter, so the meter will compensate by doubling the shutter length to 1/25 so that the resulting picture is just as exposed.

    Adding a 2 stop filter halves the light coming in again, so the shutter speed drops to 1/12. This filter is called an ND4 filter, because 2 stops darker means 4 times darker and 4 times the shutter speed – half something twice and it becomes a quarter.

    In the same way, a 3 stop filter doubles the shutter speed to 1/6 second, and is called an ND8.

    It’s probably easier to remember that an ND8 multiplies your shutter speed by 8, I just wanted people to understand what’s happening: a stop is a stop is a stop, whether you get it through an ND filter or any other setting; you could just as well add a 4 stop ND filter and increase the ISO 4 stops from from 100 to 1600, if for some reason you wanted a really noisy image.

    Incidentally, when you stack ND filters, the stop values add together, so a 2 stop filter plus a 3 stop filter is a 5 stop filter. The marketing numbers add together, so for the previous example an ND4 plus an ND8 makes an ND32.

  30. I just always used the scale and Canon’s AV button to make the pictures lighter and darker, but never understood what I am actually doing, with your article I understood the essence of stops.

    Thanks for the thorough explanation of ND Filters+stops. Going to buy a ND4 now I think.


  31. Your site is terrific! Any time I have a friend/family member who is asking me about photography, I gladly link them to your site as it has more than enough information to get them learning the fundamentals! Thanks for the hard work putting this together.

  32. I’ve been reading many online articles regarding photography and you are the first that actually described what Metering is all about! YOU ROCK! Keep up the good work. I’ll be checking your site more frequently now.

  33. Bernie:

    Thanks for taking the time to boil down the basics into normal-person language. Stops, ISO, depth of field, all in easy-to-understand terms – brilliance! Santa dropped off a nice new DSLR and what you have written will put me on a great path.

    Like everyone else who has commented, looking forward to your next post. I know you weren’t thinking you would tackle this, but some thoughts on composition would be a good next “chapter”…

  34. Hi,

    I have a very old camera,Powershot A75 Canon, I didn’t know I can do a lot with it before i read the article. Can you write an article in detail on other modes of a digital camera? or just write on something you choose.

  35. Good article, but I was confused about something. What causes this to be true? “At narrow apertures the whole of a scene will be in focus, whereas at wide apertures only the bit of the scene that you focus on will be on focus.” What causes that? How does letting in more light make the background blurry? Thanks, Lori

  36. Okay, related to that… If I choose a particular aperture (let’s say, f1) for a particular lens, that means that the aperture opening and the lens’s focal length are the same, right? So, if my lens is 50 mm, and the aperture setting is f1, then my aperture opening is also going to be 50mm. Let me know if I’m understanding this correctly so far, ’cause it’s gonna matter for my question.

    Now, if I’m using a lens that goes from 18mm to 50mm, and I change from 50mm to 20mm, and keep the aperture setting at f1, will my actual aperture opening also change, to 20mm, on the fly (to maintain the 1:1 ratio)? Thanks in advance. -Lori

  37. Yes – zooms with a constant aperture of say f/2.8 change the physical size of the aperture as you zoom.

    Lenses with a variable aperture, e.g. my 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 also change the physical size of the aperture as you zoom, but not by enough to compensate for the focal length, so the f-number rises as you zoom.

    Incidentally, all lenses let you compose the shot through the maximum aperture, then quickly step down to take the shot. The value that they step down to is set electronically by the camera. Therefore even with a f/4.5-5.6 zoom, if you set the aperture to f/11 on the camera, zooming will not affect the aperture of the photo.

  38. Wow ! great tutorial :-)

    Where did you get your close-up filter ? I’ve never seen one of those.. And it seems interesting.. Somebody knows if its available for a Canon 17-55 f2.8? Thanks !

  39. Close-up lenses work best with telephoto lenses. I use mine with a 70-300.

    There is a different solution for normal and wide lenses: extension tubes. A 12mm or 25mm extension tube placed between the camera body and the lens will let you focus really close to the subject.

    Kenko make a set of 3 tubes that cost much less than the Canon ones, but there are mixed reports about whether they work with EF-S lenses, so try them in a shop first.

  40. Great Tutorials, Keep it up.

    I have a quick question, probably sounds a bit stupid.

    I have recently been looking at buying a Polarizing filter for my DSLR, problem is its become apparent that I can buy either circular or linear.

    Whats the difference?

    Is it as simple as it sounds?

    Thanks in advance.


  41. You need a circular polariser to work with modern SLRs with automatic metering.

    Circular polarisers ‘reset’ the polarisation after filtering out the light polarised in a certain direction. This prevents them from interfering with the meter, which also uses polarised light.

    If you always use manual mode, linear polarisers are fine.

  42. Thank you so much! I am a bit of a closet geek (analysis paralysis & research until my eyes bleed) and just cant stand those glib articles directed at techno-phobes and haven’t got the attention span for wading through fat books for stupid people. You answered all my newbie questions in one fell swoop. I know I sound stoned but you’ve actually changed my life.

  43. Hey!

    So glad I stumbled across your article – as everyone above has said already…THANKS!

    It’s a great article and provided me with succinct info that I usually fins a bit confusing and boring (thus never manage to wade through.)

    Here’s to me actually using my SLR rather than putting it on auto all the time!

  44. Great article. The heading “Aperture, or 1, 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, erm, what the f***?” made me laugh as I’d been thinking exactly that but it was finally put in a way that made sense.

    As an idea for a future article, would you consider doing something on different lens types and what they do? By that I mean you mention a prime lens at one point, and I’ve heard this term before but no one seems to be able to tell me what the difference between as prime lens and a normal one is (if there is one). I’ve also seen referances to things like wide/ultra wide lenses and a detailed description of these and their advantages and disadvantages would be really helpful.

  45. Like everyone has said, great article on ND filters. I stumbled upon your site from ADIDAP – please keep up the good work.

    Anyway, I had a couple questions that I think I know the answers to, but just wanted clarification: 1you mentioned that ND filters can be stacked, so if I stack a ND2 and ND4, the result will be an ND8 (based on the f-stop reduction). That be being said, is there any reason to buy the ND8 at all, or is it more practical to have an ND4 and ND8 – because the ND2 is too small of a reduction of light to be used on it’s own?

    2can I get away with just the ND filters and forget about the ND grad filters (considering I can use the ND filter for 1 shot, say for the sky exposure, a 2nd shot without the ND filter, say for the foreground exposure – then Photoshop the 2 exposures, masking out the lighter areas to simulate graduation)?

    Thanks in advance for your reply.

  46. If ND2 is 2 stop and ND4 is 4 stop, then stacking them gives a 6 stop filter.

    If you want to capture a bright sky and a dark ground in one exposure, you need an ND grad. I prefer to use two exposures with no ND filters at all – one exposure for the sky and one for the ground, then merge them in Photoshop. This allows me, for example, to shoot landscapes without a flat horizon.

    The only thing I use ND filters for is getting longer shutter speeds. There’s no reason that you couldn’t expose the sky by using the same shutter speed and aperture that you used for the foreground and adding a 2 stop ND filter, but in practice you’d just increase the shutter speed by 2 stops if you’re in manual mode, or dial in two stops of underexposure if you’re in one of the automatic modes.

  47. Thanks – sorry, I was flipping back and forth from a Wiki site describing ND filters and this page – on the Wiki, ND2 equated to a 1 f-stop reduction in light, ND4 equated to a 2 and ND8 equated to 3 stop – so with that, a stacked ND2 and ND4 would result with a 3 f-stop reduction.

    From what I understand so far, the application of the ND filter is so you can prolong the shutter speed in bright conditions to prevent overexposure beyond the 9 stop dynamic range (which is difficult to correct in PS), whereas the ND grad has a different application – but can be reproduced in PS with multiple exposures of your subject.

    thanks again.

  48. found the link on Google and after giving it a quick look and saw how it was delivered, i decided to close the rest of my browser’s tab, containing the rest of the links i found on Google. The guide proved to be REALLY REALLY informative, and the occasional humor made the topic a lot less intimidating and scholastic. and the sample pictures: pretty :)

    to say that the guide is great is in itself an understatement.

  49. Those stupid books make it all sound so damn complicated, don’t they?! I’ve been reading photography books for weeks, I’m on overload. Your tutorial is a breather. Concise but not undermining the underlying theories. Thanks a bunch…

    Keep up the good work

  50. What a great little gem…I ran across your article while looking for some tips on my new Olympus camera…I have owned several Canons and this is my first Olympus. But your article give names and reasons for some of the things I have learned along the way…Thanks big time!

  51. Great guide for digi novices. Paid for a 12 week course but learnt more reading your article in 10 mins. Keep up the good work and thanks.

  52. “This is the guide I wish someone had written for me when I started 3 months ago”

    Exactly the same for me too with a slight difference that someone actually did write it! And did a really good job!

    Good sense of humor too :P Morpheus and titles of paragraphs :)


  53. Wonderful site appu!! …the site should be called ‘photography for intellects who don’t really understand much from reading camera book”

    Much thanks and keep up the good work!!








  55. Excellent article. I’m just about to purchase a dSLR and can’t wait to try playing with the manual settings based on what I’ve picked up here.

    Can you help me with my maths? I tried to repeat your calculation for angle of view using the values in your diagram, so:

    arctan((35mm/2)/80mm) x 2 = 0.43

    Is this value returned in radians, so then 0.43 radians x 180/Pi = 25 degrees?

  56. Great easy to understand photography basics, I use a Fuji s9600 just a point and shoot but with lots of dials and control not a DSLR but ok for me while I’m getting grips to the basics

    Keep up the good work thanks again

  57. Thanks a lot bernie for this informative approach to DSLR photography. I’ve learned quite a bit from your explanations. Just a few comments or suggestion for possible improvement:

    1) A printer friendly option would be nice, so that the main text can be printed cleanly, as well as the notes in the margin, in portrait mode (my default format). This should work for American B size paper as well as for my French A4 (210 mm x 297 mm) paper.

    2) “imagining looking through a piece of card with a 35mm wide rectangular hole in it” -> “… a 24 x 36 mm (35mm film) rectangular hole…”

    3) “Photography on sunny days can sometimes be disappointing because the scene never looks as colourful as it seemed to when you were there.” -> “… seemed to be when …”

    4) “Buy a body with a high crop factor ” -> Choose Olympus for a crop factor of 2 (I personnaly have an E-500 and an E-3).

    5) “Before you buy these, buy a good tripod ” -> ” … tripod or at least a monopod “.

    6) “If you must soot with filters and a lens hood then you have to buy filters for each lens size.” -> “…shoot with…

  58. Many thanks for your help, I’m researching all areas of art before I start my teaching course in September, and I know how kids love photoshop… this has been a great starting point, and even turned me from painting to photography. Thanks again!

  59. Bernie,

    After deciding to extend my “geekyness” to photography and getting a digital SLR for my birthday, I’m really glad I stumbled on your guide. After a thorough read, can’t wait to start practicing all of this stuff and learning more. Thank you!

    One comment – would be great if you posted a list of recommended sources that helped you get from the beginner level to being able to write this guide.


  60. Great guide. This is more than just a beginner’s guide actually. I’m a professional photographer and still found info in here that is useful. I never even dreamed of using a 10 second shutter speed but the headlight effect was amazing.

  61. Great reading. I have been shooting for about 4 years and happy with the majority of my photos but sometimes some shots can look a little flat, or others refer to them as appearing flat. I don’t really understand how this happens and even worse I have no idea how i could tweek the photo to make any improvements.

  62. Thanks for your really helpful article. You explain things in a very concise and informative way.

    When is the next article coming out? I look forward to it!

  63. Thank you for producing this, I really want to get into photography as a hobby and simply couldn’t get my head round everything. I’ll need to read this a few more times and mess around with things, but hopefully I will get. Are you completely self taught or did you have any classes or anything?

  64. Thanks Matt,

    I found it all came together after a few months of puzzling over books and taking a lot of pictures. John Shaw’s Nature Photography Field Guide was invaluable, as was the flickr Canon DSLR forum.

  65. Fellow geek,

    Great article! Thanks for taking the time to demystify the internal workings of the DSLR. It helps me out quite a bit.

  66. Can I just say thanks? I have been borrowing/buying books left and right, and doing all kinds of internet searches, just trying to get some sort of understanding of the basics so I can really use my new DSLR to take some great shots. You managed to “dumb down” the basics without making me feel dumb.

    Most of the “beginner” stuff I’ve run across jumps right into it’s info assuming that I already understand the difference between a 35mm lens and something with more or fewer mm. And I don’t. Or didn’t. But thanks to your article, I’m catching on to that and some of the other basics. Thank you so much!

  67. Hi, I have to correct you in that you say films have only 5 stops of dynamic range. I have worked with Kodachrome films for many years and have up to now not yet seen anything that can match the dynamic range of the slide films. I have started to copy some of my slides to digital and find that the dynamic range of a digital camera is far to low to copy slide films.

    I quote:

    Density and dynamic range

    In addition to its longevity, Kodachrome has a high dynamic range. The lightest part of the film, the clear base, has a density of about 0.3, and the darkest part of the film has a density of about 3.6, for a total range of about 3.57, a range of about 11 stops (0.3 D per stop). Kodachrome’s dynamic range exceeded that of the unadjusted human eye and exceeded the dynamic range available from any printed image, paper or photo. To access that total dynamic range required projection of the film in a very dark room with a very bright spherical-bead reflective screen, or special scanners. In a Kodachrome film image, about a third of the detail lies in darker image areas, invisible without a very bright light behind the film. On computers, approaching that dynamic range needs a very bright monitor working in a very dark room, which still only shows part of the total dynamic range. [10]

  68. @PetterH:

    You’re right, mostly: that quote from Wikipedia is talking about the dynamic range of the film itself. What it means is that if you take an image with Kodachrome and analyse the slide in the lab, there will be 11 stops between the very darkest perceptable details captured and the very brightest. However, the dynamic range of film systems is not just a property of the film, but of the film and the development process.

    What I should have said was that “By and large, when an image is captured with a film camera, processed, printed, and viewed under normal lighting conditions, there will be around 5 stops between what people perceive to be the brightest white and the darkest black”.

    You see, it is not possible that prints made form Kodachrome had 11 stop dynamic range, because if they did, they would look horrible! The more dynamic range you force into an image, the lower contrast it is – in fact, increasing contrast is done by lowering dynamic range – making dark objects seem darker and light objects seem lighter, thereby reducing the range of brightnesses that are rendered as a shade of grey.

    When people use HDR techniques to capture massive dynamic range, they have to use a process called tone mapping to artificially increase the contrast of the scene, because 11 stop dynamic range in an image, without contrast enhancement, looks horrible.

    Interestingly, human eyes atually do something similar to tone mapping, which is perhaps why (gently) tone mapped images look less artificial than non tone mapped HDR.

  69. I´m not talking about prints from Kodachrome film. If you are making a print you will loose half the dynamic range of the film itself due to the fact that light travels through the emulation twice. Thats why slides always looks much more crisp at the wall compared to making prints of the same picture. And if you take a Kodachrome slide (Or any slide film) and try to duplicate it you will see that the dynamic range is much more than your 5 stops. Maybe not 11, due to processing but at least 8 or 9.

    Using RAW format manage in some ways to compensate for this but due to the A/D conversion etc the dynamic range of digital image is still behind the slide film

  70. Just bought a Canon Rebel XS and came across your site, its great for me.

    I’m an over the road truck driver so my photos will be from behind the windshield. Any tips on how to take good pictures doing 70MPH?

  71. If you have it, image stabilization will be handy. Also, it will be hard to check autofocus while driving, so consider pre-focussing on a far away object then switching to manual focus before you start driving.

    Stick to relatively wide lenses because shooting through glass gives poor quality with a telephoto. 50mm and below should do the trick.

  72. Thank you for writing “Bernie’s Better Beginner’s Guide to Photography for Computer Geeks Who Want to be Digital Artists”. It was a great help for me! You saved me from disastrous future pictures. I am so happy now.

  73. Bernie

    first of all: thanks very much for your tutorial. I just took up digital photography and your guide was, quite simply, the most helpful tool I’ve had.

    Secondly: you shouldn’t apologize for your writing skills: I’ve read your tutorial and everything was clear immediately, even the more intricate aspects. Moreover, I laughed my ass off in the process, because everything sounded so familiar. That said, I guess I really am a geek.

    So thanks and keep up the good work.


  74. Hi.

    I do have a Canon EOS 40D and a EFS 17-85 1.4-5.6 IS USM

    I have tried many times to get good pictures in the dark. I just can’t get it ok.Reading make me more unsure.

    How can I get it working?

    Thanks in advance



  75. Your beginners guide was amazing. I liked the technical explanations about things that other sources assumed was none of my business. Your section of F-stops and ISO were extremely simple and helpful. Thank you. I will be referring back to it often.

  76. Thank you very much! I was dreading picking through a photography book trying to find what I needed to know, thanks to this guide now I won’t have to just yet.

    Also, while reading I couldn’t help but wonder, what do you do for a living?

    Thanks again.


  77. Awesome, thanks a lot. Just what I needed. I am happy to go and get my first camera now, confident i won’t leave it in a drawer after a few days like i normally do with gadgets.

  78. Wow, this is great for beginners like me. Do you have other information available online or the next installment for beginners? How do I find it?

  79. berny,

    i am “so” new to taking pics but absolutely love it. i have an advanced point & shoot (panasonic-lumix) and am very confused on depth of field, aperture,etc. i love taking close up shots and was wondering if you could critique my work? i could send you my pics if you didn’t mind. i am very grateful i came upon you “helpful” article. thank, noreen freebairn

  80. Hey Bernie, and everyone else.. this is my desperate call for help end i really need all the advise i can get…

    ok so im inlove with taking photos and sometimes it even looks as if im not half bad at it either,, thing is i have a crappy ass 5megapixel camera and ive been saving up for something a little more decent, but i really have absolutely noo idea of what camera i need to buy,, i dont have the money for the best on the market, and thats not what i want either..

    id really appreciate any advice i could get,,


  81. hi Bernie

    really good website.

    i love taking pics n got a lumix TZ7, a decent enough camera for a beginner like me.

    the material on ur site is so easy to read n understand.

    good work

    n thks for the help u r providing

  82. Thank you for this guide! It explains exactly what I wanted to know in a much more compressed form than I could find elsewhere. Bookmarked for future reference as well as to be able to link to friends.

  83. thanks alot for the info.

    was wondering if you would reccommend a good beginner camera with lens and such .. i am interested in photography and want to get started!

  84. Awesome guide! It helped me to understand a lot of things, sadly I don’t have an SRL camera, but a very powerfull compact Canon, with its 60mm. lens. Thanks a lot for writting! :)

  85. Among all the different guides i read on the net, this was the one that definitely shed more light on photography and how to be a better photographer.

    I am impatiently waiting for the release of the FujiFilm Finepix HS10 camera on which i will be more than glad to test some of the techniques i learnt.

    Thanks a lot Bernie.


  86. Thank you for taking the time to make the website for me. I just purchased a canon dslr t2i and needed to refresh my memory on camera basics. Thanks again for putting in simple terms!

    I did see what I thought was a picture of a common exotic plant species that you took a picture of, and if i can remember my western plants was called knapweed. Funny how good pictures can refresh memories of college years ago!

    Take care and God Bless,


  87. I’ve just stumbled upon your site while searching for a tutorial on an related subject. Glad I did too. There’s a lot I like. Anyway, you’ve been bookmarked and I’ll be back soon. :)

  88. Hi

    My kudos to you for giving the world of beginners like me a much desired jump-start. I am now absolutely confident that my pictures will be much better hence-on.

    God Bless you

    P.S. I would also like to go through your advanced photographic techniques. Can you help me to get the full article?

  89. G’day,

    Thanks so much for the time and effort you have given to produce such an excellent article. I am currently attending a photography course howevever, I find your article easier to understand due to simple explanations and photographic examples. I would suggest to include a lists of ISO’s and shutter speeds. Well done mate, I am greatful and impress at the article.



  90. I am retired Chief from India’s largestPower sector , Now switched to social Science and Humanities. Wish to start on real Street life Photos & videos on on hunger, mis management, education of orphans, poor and e governance nature animals , ancient craft and culteer

    Pl advice how can I bigging THANKS

  91. I am retired Chief fro Inmdia largest Power sector, switched over to Social Science and Humanities. Wish to start street photo and video on ground realities covering povertyof orphans, education , nature animals etc

    Kindky how to beggin

  92. hey, i love your guide, its very useful, i hope you could make a section, where you could guide us, which lens is for landscape, which filters are for landscape etc.

    and those lens/body/filter anything, what is it for.

    it would be more helpful for us!

    Thank You!

  93. Wow, after 4 weeks of trying to understand the so called beginners DSLR course I’ve been doing I came across your article & am excited that I can actually get what you’re talking about. Thanks heaps I’m looking forward to getting out there & shooting, something I was previously nervous about as I had no bloody idea!

  94. Where are you Bernie? Are you still writing or are you in a big corporate office? After being a programmer/analyst for 25 years, I’m changing careers…thanks for your informative and funny lessons!

  95. Great tutorial. I am a beginner and tried going through many tutorials and guides but was not getting clarified. After going through this writeup, I got to know the real fundae behind amazing photography. Now going to explore it with my cam. thanks a lot.

  96. Thanks for a great photography primer – best descriptions I’ve read so far and puts everything in context. Much appreciated!

  97. Thanks for the lesson! Picked up a Nikon D5000 today after years of using an Olympus OM 1. Will serve me well I’m hoping in Cambodia next year.

    Cheers again.

  98. This is the only tutorial I’ve found that’s easy to follow yet detailed. Thanks very much, I’ve learned a lot! You’re a lifesaver :)

  99. I’m overwhelmed by the clarity of your text in such a technical matter. Great generosity, brightly intelligent, extremely helpful. Must have taken you a lot of work. Thanks a million.

  100. What an excellent guide, I have been looking for a concise but clear explanation for ages and this is it. Just about to buy my first DSLR and now can’t wait to play around with all the settings. Any new chapters coming, Thanks for all the time this must have taken!

  101. Thank you so much for your articles! It is the easiest to understand and most thorough explanation I have read as well! I hope to see more from you, I love the way you teach. And I love your photo projects!

  102. f/x where x is the ratio of the focal length to the aperture width and NOT ratio of the aperture width to the focal length.

  103. Thanks a lot Bernie.

    I am a beginner and I have purchased my first DSLR Canon 60D with lens Canon 18-135mm IS and 55-250mm IS. Your are article is very detailed and has helped me understand many terms related to photography. That would certainly help me. I would keep watching your website for further updates.

    Thanks again.

    Mangesh K.

  104. dude – thanks for this article. But it’d be great if you could add a print stylesheet to your site for people like me prefer to print this type of long articles so we can read on the train, etc.

  105. Thanks Bernie for the simpler and easier to understand explanations.
    Received a SLR from Santa and am totally overwhelmed.

    Thanks for all your efforts


  106. Well done my friend! You have produced an incredibly simple descriptions on all the important aspects of basic photography which apply whether film or digital. If this is how they teach photo class at college then I’m impressed.
    This is so easy to follow that I actually learnt something no one else has ever explained, why I should shoot in RAW. So it’s 9 stops against 5 stops – simple! Can’t wait til the next article.
    All the best – Keith Robins of YeoPhotoGroup (Google it in)

  107. Thank you! I enjoyed your text and information :-) I think I’ll just go outside and put some of them to use.

    I especially liked your mix of basic information with some nice deeper background info.

  108. as a newbie I enjoyed what I have read so far, just hope I can use a lot of the information on my new camera FujiFilm Finepix S200EXR

  109. We will be going to Alaska (USA) in early May with a Canon 60D that we (my wife included) barely know how to use. We have used your information to a great extent. While I am more of a fly by the seat of my pants photographer she has to know and understand everything involved in shooting pictures. You article was perfect for both of us. Keep them coming.

  110. Thank you good sir!

    This artical was very well written. I am a geek and photographer and this was very simple to understand and put to good use.

    I didn’t have the cash for Photoshop and all of the tools after my buing my camera, however GIMP with the UFRaw plugin will recognize most RAW formats and give you the tools needed to make every shot look perfect (as long as the shot is a good pic.) This is a great alternitave to anyone who can not aford (or refuse to buy) Photoshop.

    I would like to know more about good Macro Photography and i hope to see more on that soon.

  111. Thanks Bernie,

    Not only have you informed me but you have also inspired me to the world of photography that waits me.

    Now I’m off to play with my new toy!


  112. Excellent blog post! Im a noob to photography but bought a Fuji S3200 for holiday. Cant wait to get it and try taking some good pics.

  113. Hello! I just want to say thank you very much!
    I found that, this is very good and simple to understand for me, which is very unusual due to my inglish, it is not my first language, and I’m learnign to use my DSLR camera and sometimes is quite confussing, however I’m still trying and now I feel a bit more confident thanks to you. You have made it a lot easier to me. I’m going to be trying a lot more.
    Thank You, Very Much!!!! again and again.


  114. Hi,
    I’ve had a nikon D40 for a few years now and hadn’t ventured away from “auto” until recently. I have so much to learn but finding the information I want isn’t always easy. As a wannabe photographer who’s just starting out I fully expect this excellent article will prove to be a fantastic primer for me.

  115. So this is how digital photography is done! thanks to this blog for this information, I’ve read some articles about digital photography and I’m very interested to its sense of diversity.

  116. I am yet to come across a better site than this to learn the basics from. Should have given the feedback a long time ago, but better late than never. Can never thank you enough, Bernie!

  117. This helped so much. Explained everything clearly and on a level that relates to my camera knowledge. Thanks for the help!

  118. Great stuff, usefull and easy to follow. How about an article on what is needed to set up a photography home studio for beginners? using continuous light or strobes, umbrellas or difusers etc.. thanks a lot

  119. I’ve been looking over a lot of beginner photography blogs and yours has been, by far, the most effective for me. As I sat here reading your blog, I screwed around with my camera taking pictures of my desk to put into practice what I was reading. I got some wonderful quality shots of my speed-dry nail topcoat. I’ve had my camera for under a week now and I’ve been fiddling with the settings to find out what kind of setting does which kind of shot, and I’m doing ok, but this helped. Some things I found much harder to understand, like the focal length. I am by no means a mathematical person… I always ‘have a feel’ for things rather than doing it mathematically. I know this will have to change eventually, though. I’m not trying to fight it, it’ll come eventually.

    One thing I must thank you so much on is talking about filters. All of these beginner photography articles ONLY focus on aperture, shutter and ISO. You don’t hear about filters or even anything about RAW images and what to do with them… I kept seeing these amazing artistic landscape shots and not understanding how to do something similar of my own, and now I know.

    Your bias towards Nikon and Canon is completely understandable, as they’re the biggest fish in the photography pond, however I chose to go with a Pentax k-r. When I was talking to the lady in the camera shop, I essentially said two things: under $1000, and something that will grow with me for a while. She suggested Pentax mostly because I can use pretty much any lens since 1975 in my camera. This is proving to be a wise move, as I’m off to pick up an old school film slr camera, two lenses and three roles of film tomorrow for a neat $100. My friends shoot with Canon, but I hate borrowing people’s stuff, preferring to build my own collection.

    You’ve gone into just enough depth to get people on their feet and kick them out of the nest without making them crap their pants and sell their equipment because they don’t think they’ll ever get it. Good work, you’ve earned a bookmark in my browser!

  120. This Guide is unbelievable, i never found something with this much content this well explained. A big , big thank you from a photography-beginner from germany!

  121. Hey, awesome guide. REALLY!

    “First, choose Canon or Nikon.”? I agree with Savage. I’m about to buy a used dslr and a few lenses for less than 300€ and i’ll keep the other 2700€ for a good holiday :)

    Keep at ir :D

    PS: Bookmarked

  122. Wow, this is the most comprehensive and thorough explanation of photography for beginners i’ve ever come across, thank you so much its well wicked – i knew about 25% but my knowledge has been expanded no end – i finally know what/how to use the functionality on my camera for my new pastime – capturing the world in all its beauty. Thanks a million mate!



  123. Others may have said it, but this is how beginners should be introduced to photography. I havent read a better explanation of photographic terms anywhere else. Hats off to you, Bernie. Thank you for taking the time out. I hope creating this gave you as much joy as it did for me when i was reading it.

  124. This is truly great stuff. I was looking on the internet for something on photography. Didn’t expect anyone would right it so clearly. Perfect!!

  125. Thanks a lot for the time spent writing this guide. For someone like myself who is just venturing away from cheap point and shoot cameras for the first time this has been immensely useful!

  126. Having just purchased my first DSLR I have found the information provided invaluable & will take you’re advice & work with my kit lens until I fully understand the different types of photos I wish to take. Great explanations to what other sites & magazines have over complicated for my liking.

  127. Your article is very useful. I just have a quick question on Canon 450 taking a shot of a group of approx 10 people (2 rows of 5). Why is the back row of people always slightly blurred? I know it probably has to do with depth of field or shutter speed maybe. I would be very grateful if you could help me on this.

    1. Probably because your aperture is too wide. You’re focussing on the front row of people, and the depth of field is so narrow that the back row is out of focus. If there is lots of light, you can close the aperture a bit (or shoot in P mode and the camera will do this automatically). If there is not much light, you’ll need to use a flash or increase the ISO sensitivity, because just closing the aperture will decrease the shutter speed and give you motion blur.

  128. Wow..this is exactly what I need to learn about DSLR. Simplistic yet informative article about complicated art of photography. I have not finished reading the whole article in one go, but I have bookmarked it and will read again, next time with my DSLR around. Thanks for the wonderful information.

  129. Bernie:

    You have quickly become my favorite photography author.
    Your ability to condense what is usually a mind numbingly long topic, into one or two paragraphs is amazing.

    1) You really should consider writing a photography book.. I can only imagine how much information (understandable info) you could pack into a mere 100 pages. I’d buy it.
    2) It would be great if you had a Google+ account ,, just so that with each new blog post, you could let “followers” know that something new is ready for reading. It would be super helpful to those of us who never use RSS feeds.

  130. This finally explains so many things Ive been reading in laymans terms! Bernie you are the greatest! Your ability to relay the information, the tips on composition, photography terms and definition of the features to use in order to optimize your result and capture the photo you see with your mind into the photo you get on your camera….just perfect. I have magazines, tutorials, you tube videos, photoshop and composition for dummies-all I really needed to do is read your blog so I can understand what they are talking about when I page through the others! THANK YOU!!!!

  131. Thanks a million, you not only covered the basics brilliantly, you also lifted the veil on professional quality results via digital editing. I adore you!

  132. CANNOT thank you enough for this!!! I just got my new MARK II & was struggling yesterday to find the right ‘configurations’ / settings for each shot. This was such a nice refresher course & easy to follow! You ROCK!

  133. I really appreciate you taking the time to write this up! I’ve got a nikon d40 with little knowledge of how to PROPERLY use it… But i want to learn!

    This gave me a fantastic insight to the basics of how everything works =)


  134. Write a book Bernie! Seriously! I know about composition – writing – and you have the gift. So compose a book and get well paid for your ability to teach beginners photography, and to teach it so well, because you can also write very, very well. Just what you have composed here in this one small website guide is so impressive because you are able to present complex information in down-to-earth language that most people are able to grasp, and your talent in writing makes the reading and absorbing the information easy and fun. So WRITE A BOOK!

  135. You know, about a month ago I was at home doing some research on shooting RAW images and I stumbled open this article and I really liked the way you touched all the basics in a very detailed yet fluid way. I definitely would have loved to read this when I was starting to get involved in photography (I’m still a beginner, by the way). But anyway, it was a nice refresh on the subject.
    But the reason I’m writing this comment is because yesterday I read this article on how inheritance is most of the times only used with the sole goal of achieving code reuse. That lead me to your article on inheritance, and I couldn’t agree more. Then I made the connection between the two articles and I thought it was a nice coincidence.
    I’ll start looking at your website to see if I find something I disagree with, otherwise it will be kind of boring :)

  136. Well I have been using an DSLR for a good 8 years now and film stuff before that. This is great as a refresher and for a begginer.

      1. Strange coincidence. I’m a resident of South Wales, and I recently bought a Sony NEX-6. I was out getting to grips with it today, shooting similar scenes as your babbling brook. The shots didn’t look quite as I’d hoped, so I took to the web to get some advice for a beginner. Came across this article, saw the shot of the babbling brook and realised I must need a filter! Then I start reading the comments and see your photo was shot in South Wales too. Small world eh :)

  137. Wow! This can be one particular of the most useful webs We’ve ever arrive across on this subject. Actually Excellent. I’m also a specialist in this topic so I can understand your hard work.

  138. Very, very well written. So easy to read and understand. Makes it so much easier to understand my camera. I have bookmarked this article to refer to as I am learning.

  139. This article is just gr8. I’ve recently bought a Nikon d5100 n was surfing Pinterest for some nice photos to learn from. Your article was suggested by someone. It gave immense insight about the different settings and combinations with technical details. Love to hear from you and will go through the other articles for more.

  140. Lightning photography can also work during the twilight and early morning hours. There is always a small chance you’ll get the shot, but your window of time for

    capturing it is much much smaller. Instead of having 15 seconds to get your photo, you’ll have 1/15 of a second to capture it. Otherwise your camera’s sensors are

    overwhelmed with the amount of light and your resulting image is full of white.

  141. I’m 42. I’ve of got a degree and a brain…and yet your article is the first one that has really made sense to me !

    I’ve just started out doing sports photos for my son’s rugby club. I’ve got a Sony nx5n-but it’s been in auto mode for the last two years. Man I need help-and this article has been a great start

    Thank you for the time taken with this


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *