New technology is making both film and digital SLR cameras easier to use in their Manual modes. Unfortunately, even the new books and tutorials online don't take advantage of this. Instead, they continue to teach photography as if it were a science instead of an art. This set of lessons is different. They were put together to teach people how to use the manual settings on their camera quickly and easily without all of the mechanical details that aren't necesary to know -at least not when you're first starting out.
Basically, I've distilled the knowledge down to the two main settings that control exposure when you take a picture: aperture and shutter speed. -I'll explain aperture, then leave you with some homework/experimentation before you move onto shutter speed. After that (and more “homework”), I'll show you how they relate to each other. Links to other sites with articles on the topic will be provided at the end incase you want more in-depth information.
What You Need:
These lessons assume you have a fairly modern SLR camera. Digital or film, it doesn't matter. Digital gives you immediate feedback and allows for more experimentation without wasting money on film and processing, but I learned on film so don't worry too much if that's what you're using.
By “fairly modern” I mean that it's assumed that your camera has a built-in light meter and an exposure indicator (usually a graph that looks like this [-2..1..|..1..+2] -it may be on an LCD screen on the outside of your camera or may be viewed through the lens, either way it'll probably only show up when you're on one of the Manual modes). If you are unsure whether your camera has these or not, see your manual. If you don't have these features, you can still follow these lessons. You'll just need a light meter and some additional experimentation to figure out exposure without the graph. Alternatively, a used film SLR like mine (a Canon EOS Elan IIe) is pretty cheap on eBay.
My Dad started teaching me about photography when I was about 10 or 12. Until college all my photography was with point and shoot cameras. In college I tried several times to learn photography on my own and just got frustrated with it. About 4 years ago my Dad gave me his film SLR camera and I happily used it on “Auto” for about a year. After missing some shots that required manual settings, I decided that it was time to learn how to use the camera properly. I bought some books and turned to some tutorial sites online, I took notes and carried them with me on photography outings. Took rolls and rolls of experimental pictures and eventually found out it was much easier than my references made it out to be. I've learned alot in these past 3 years, but now I know that it could have been much easier. In the spirit of making it easier for the next guy, I'm presenting these lessons here the way I wished they would have been written up when I was starting out.
What You Won't Learn:
The most important aspect of photography is composition. Google “rule of thirds” to learn more about composing a picture or join an online group like the photography_beginners mailing list, of which I'm a member, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/photography_beginners/ to get critique.
On to the Lessons!