A philosophical question about learning photo basics using whiz-bang gear...

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by AbidingGuy, May 16, 2017.

  1. AbidingGuy

    AbidingGuy Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 21, 2017
    M43 Gods,

    Had an eye-opening experience this past weekend while shooting this:
    Night Tower Symmetry.jpg

    I borrowed a "pro-sumer" friend of mine's Nikon DSLR to take this same shot before using my EM5II. When I went to post, every one of the pics I took with the DSLR were blurry. I'll assume it was because of my poor posture/poor technique/shutter shake/not-knowing-anything-because-I'm-a-n00b/etc.

    Now that the background is out of the way, to my "philosophical" question....are n00bs like myself making a "mistake" by not learning "the hard way" about employing proper technique and figuring out how to use the light triangle to take good pictures (like my pro-sumer friend did) before relying on (really) awesome tech like IBIS and partial auto-modes (A/P/S)? I ask because after having that FAIL moment with the DSLR, it made me realize that I might not have gotten into photography at all had it been that difficult to take the awesome pics (to me, at least) that have me investing in the hobby. But on the flipside, now that I have all this kit I'm much more motivated to learn about things like the light triangle and the importance of proper technique...a high-tech chicken-or-the-egg thing, if you will.

    Call me lazy or dumb (or both), but that's just my reality....thoughts? Thanks.
  2. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 25, 2012
    Nothing wrong with using partial auto modes... I'm sure many 'pros' and enthusiasts are using them instead of pure M mode. Nothing wrong with taking advantage of IBIS either. I suspect IBIS would helped with your shot above, allowing you take the shot with a slower shutter speed than your unstablised DSLR would have allowed. If it gets you your shot and makes you interested in photography, nothing wrong with that IMO.

    But I still think it's worthwhile figuring why your previous shots were blurry... AND learning the light triangle, when you would use which partial auto mode, camera metering, etc
    • Agree Agree x 2
  3. ionian

    ionian Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 20, 2016
    Kent, UK
    All that matters is the final photo. The only people who care what settings you used are a bunch of photo geeks reading photo forums (bless our souls). So no, it doesn't matter how you get the image, as long as you enjoy it.

    Having said that, how do you get better? By asking yourself why. Why were your images blurry with the dslr? You mentioned poor technique, but that's easy to fix, so next time you are out, concentrate on good posture and holding the camera steady to the eye. If that fixes it, lesson learnt, if not, try something else. Each time you acquire new skills, you stay curious, and you learn to approach photography with healthy criticism.

    For what it's worth, I'd wager that your shutter speed was too low with the dslr, and you needed to up the ISO with a faster shutter speed than with your small and incredibly well stabilised Olympus.
    • Agree Agree x 3
  4. Medley

    Medley Mu-43 Regular

    May 23, 2014
    My view is that is that it is always beneficial to understand the technical components of capturing an image. I started taking pictures when I was a kid in the sixties and the only camera available to me was a completely manual range finder that my dad gave me of some brand I don't recall. He also gave me a hand held light meter and taught me the nuts and bolts of photography, what the tradeoffs were of f-stop, shutter-speed, ASA, and focal length and how they all worked together. What he didn't teach me was what makes a good image; I had to learn that over the following 50 years, and still am.

    That being said, most people who drive a car don't know how a combustion engine works, and many can't drive a manual-shift transmission. Does it matter? Unlikely, although there are advantages in certain situations to knowing both. Many people became musicians before they knew how music works (myself included). Many still don't and make a good living presenting their creativity to the world. But I started getting serious about music theory 15 years ago and find that it took my music-craft to another level, and also helped when I was working with other musicians.

    Cameras and cars are extremely intelligent today (obviously). They enable a person to just get on with the job of capturing images or driving. Some find this intelligence provides everything they need to be their best. However, frequently when they run into a challenge or problem, they must go to someone else for help, and that's a decision everyone gets to make for themselves.

    Nice picture, by the way.
    • Agree Agree x 3
  5. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    Interesting question, should you learn with the "latest and greatest"? The obvious answer is that that is exactly what the first photographers did and they had no choice. The earliest, least technically accomplished gear ever used for photography was once the "latest and greatest" and people learnt using it. You can bet that the photographers one or two technological generations after that weren't bothering to go back to the first generation of gear to learn either, and that's been the case ever since. With the exception of that first generation of photographers, nearly every photographer has learnt using gear that was more sophisticated and technologically capable than other gear available at the time.

    If you want to learn using less technically accomplished gear my advice would be to buy the most up to date camera you can afford, a camera such as your E-M5 II, set it to manual mode and set the lens to manual focus, and start learning. There's no need to learn on a less technically accomplished camera when you can take your camera and turn all the technology off, or turn off only those parts of the technology where there's a technique you wish to master, and once you've learnt what you want to learn start turning things on again and start using them with new skills behind you.

    And doing that means you only need to buy one camera so you save the extra cost involved in buying a cheaper, more basic camera and then buying the good one you want.
    • Agree Agree x 2
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  6. bassman

    bassman Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Apr 22, 2013
    New Jersey
    The Bassman
    Very few Americans can drive a manual transmission, use a pen with an inkwell, milk a cow. My grandkids have never seen a phone that has a wire connected to the handset, and the dial somewhere else. I don't know how to prepare a wet plate, or even develop film. I've never touched an enlarger myself, or used a view camera, or any camera with larger than 6x6 film.

    None of this matters.

    What matters is understanding what makes a good image, and how to use the tools at your disposal to accomplish making one. I could probably remember how to use a hand-held exposure meter, but to what end? The metering systems in my cameras are great, as are the exposure compensation controls and WYSIWYG EVFs.
    • Agree Agree x 1
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  7. junkyardsparkle

    junkyardsparkle haunted scrap heap Subscribing Member

    Nov 17, 2016
    like, The Valley
    Oooooh, philosophy thread! First things first, I have to confess to having some chronic discomfort with the extent to which many of the other monkeys I share a world with will happily adapt themselves, to the point of dependency, to any shiny magic that sombody dazzles them with, without the slightest curiosity about the who, why, or how behind it all. Apologies for any axe-grinding creeping in. :D

    That said, it seems reasonable to regard automation of processes as a good servant/bad master. There's something to be said for understanding what things are being weighed and what parameters are being set as a result... because there are times when the outcome you want isn't the one that an algorithm assumes that you want, and you'll know which parameters to override and in what way to do so. A good automation system offer an elegant means of doing this (but increasingly, the real-world ones that people are being presented with... not so much). The traditional M, S, A, P modes still used on cameras are a classic example of allowing you to quickly and easily declare which parameters you want to take responsibility for, I would say.

    But here's the punchline: every film camera I ever owned was of the point-and-shoot variety. I just didn't find my way to exploring anything else in my youth, partly because it wasn't something I had much exposure to, and partly because I mostly just wanted something pocket-sized to document adventures. I tried to take decent pictures, but didn't really think of it as a creative tool (film and processing was expensive!)... it was later, with the faster feedback loop of digital cameras, that the fun of snapping pictures as an activity unto itself kicked in. All of which to say... it doesn't seem like anything has to happen in any particular order... and hey, you're already way ahead as far as knowing what the things are that you're not giving your attention to... so just scratch your itches as they come up, maybe? But don't get too spoiled by that IBIS... that's voodoo. :p
    • Like Like x 1
  8. wlewisiii

    wlewisiii Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 16, 2011
    Hayward, WI
    William B. Lewis
    Mostly I'd say that learning light and composition are more important than if your hardware is manual or automatic.

    I will say that I think zoom lenses teach too many bad habits and that a normal prime (35 or 50 mm equivalent to 35 mm film) is a far better way to learn and understand composition.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  9. dogs100

    dogs100 Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Nov 12, 2011
    N Devon UK
    Come on Simon, everyone knows the answer to that ... but just to remind those who forgot ... when images are bad it was the light or the camera malfunctioned, when they are perfect (or what passes for perfect in our individual standard scale) then it was the photographer.
    • Funny Funny x 1
  10. gnarlydog australia

    gnarlydog australia Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Feb 23, 2015
    Brisbane, Australia
    Damiano Visocnik
    I see it this way: there are people that are born talented to "see" an image happening and they try to capture it; then are others that will think and reflect, futz and analyse to let that moment pass.
    Who is right? neither, in my book. o_O

    From a background of full manual photography I became a professional photographer (architecture and industrial) slave to achieving "perfection" in my images. My work was lousy, technically perfect but lousy.
    My friend, on the other hand was clueless but passionate: she produced work that I couldn't, stunning. I admired her.
    It also bothered me that she had no clue why some images of her didn't "work out" (it was film days, with manual cameras). I tried to explain but she was a mechanical moron. :doh:

    So, what is moral of the story?
    Go out and shoot, a lot; there is no longer the cost of film where mistakes cost money.
    But then be critical and ask yourself why things didn't work the way you wanted them. The camera you have should not limit your creativity; I am an advocate for high end cameras, and most Micro 4/3 cameras are very high end.
    But don't become a slave to spray and pray... thinking eventually you will nail something. Each image should have a meaning and a story, otherwise it is just recording mundane life. And when something puzzles you don't be afraid to ask.
    Perfection is achieved by not being afraid to experiment and being critical of your own work.
    As for learning how everything works in a camera? nah, not totally necessary. Learn as you go, when things challenge you and your images aren't as expected, try to work out what went wrong. So, the small steps will not be overwhelming, you won't get "paralysis by analysis" trying to work out what setting should you use at any given moment, and hopefully you will have fun.
    I have friends that are measurbators and their work is perfect but boring, I have others that wish they could do better but can't be bothered learning a few basics and then I have another guy that despite not dedicating himself so much to photography has started to produce very good images in a short time he has been doing it. He experiments and asks himself and other on how to improve.

    But if all this fails, there is always the iPhone where "every" image one takes is just stunning ;)
    • Like Like x 2
    • Agree Agree x 2
  11. junkyardsparkle

    junkyardsparkle haunted scrap heap Subscribing Member

    Nov 17, 2016
    like, The Valley
    This is a point that probably deserves some expanding upon. Somebody could read it and think, "Eh, how is having the option to use a different focal length going to teach me bad habits?"... here's how: Deliberately choosing where to place the camera is a big part of producing the best images that you can. Spending time using a normal-ish prime will condition you to make this a normal part of the process.

    It's not that you can't do this with a zoom lens (although to some extent physical size can be an impediment), but it's easy to see how the temptation to just hold a camera up to your face from wherever you're standing and snap can really get its claws in people. This is one area where I suspect the phone-photography revolution has probably had a positive impact. It's probably also the one thing that I did learn from using film compacts back in the day, I guess...
    • Like Like x 2
  12. bassman

    bassman Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Apr 22, 2013
    New Jersey
    The Bassman
    I strongly disagree with the prime-vs-zoom debate which talks about "lazy zoomers" who don't want to have to move their position, and therefore zoom instead. There's just no way that zooming from a fixed location gives you the same picture as walking to a different location. Zooming only changes the cropping/magnification; changing positions always changes your perspective. Telling someone to "zoom with their feet" when they have a prime lens is telling them to change the perspective.

    I use both zooms and primes, although zooms more. Sometimes I zoom from a fixed location to crop the scene; sometimes I change positions and zoom to change the perspective. But they are not in anyway interchangeable.
    • Agree Agree x 6
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  13. junkyardsparkle

    junkyardsparkle haunted scrap heap Subscribing Member

    Nov 17, 2016
    like, The Valley
    I certainly didn't mean to create or reference any such debate. :D

    The point was, simply: we should get a feel for what changing camera location does, and when we might want to do that, rather than just racking a zoom in or out. Some people wil instinctively pay attention to this even if they do start out with a zoom lens; some won't, but maybe it will be an epiphany at some point if they maintain a willingness to learn (understanding light was this type of experience for my thick skull).
  14. Thai-Mike

    Thai-Mike Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 2, 2016
    I love primes, but using my 12-50 and 40-150 as well, Not that often but in some situation where my primes can not reach the subject in distance.
  15. junkyardsparkle

    junkyardsparkle haunted scrap heap Subscribing Member

    Nov 17, 2016
    like, The Valley
    I want to stress, as clearly as I can, that nobody said anything about zooms not being useful or that people shouldn't use them. Please please please lets not let this thread turn into an argument that nobody's trying to have. We're having a philosophical discussion about how early experiences with different gear might influence the learning process... right? :D
  16. AgentMichaelScarn

    AgentMichaelScarn Mu-43 Regular

    May 27, 2016
    I think we just want to discourage the romanticizing we see with *Shooting HOLY TRINITY Primes Only*. Fast primes are often the object of lust/seen as whizbang gear in early experiences, when "mere" kit lenses are still very capable in the right hands.
    • Agree Agree x 1
    • Informative Informative x 1
  17. Clint

    Clint Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Apr 22, 2013
    San Diego area, CA
    At some point and time it is very worthy to learn:
    • good handholding and shooting techniques including how to use the shutter button with an extremely limited amount of movement in the camera.
    • and understand the exposure triangle, how it works and how you can make it work to your benefit - which can take your photographs to another level.
    • how focal lengths interact with your subjects, the foreground, the background, and how you use the exposure triangle to emphasize certain aspects or add levels of creativity into your photographs.
    • Agree Agree x 4
  18. AussiePhil

    AussiePhil Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 1, 2014
    Canberra, ACT, Aust
    If pictures are made of light and shade, mood, emotion, expression and composition then we need little of the modern day automated technical mumbo jumbo

    The first post did illustrate though how the various automated modes including IBIS we take completely for granted.
    How many people could pick up an old fully manual SLR and actually understand enough of the basics to use it efficiently?
    How many just use P mode because it works?

    To answer the original question NO it's not valid to older gear to learn because that modern high end camera can have all the goodies turned off and set to full manual to learn.

    The first thing I do when handing my camera to most people to take a photo of me is check its in iauto as this provides the least chance of screw ups:)
  19. Carbonman

    Carbonman Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jul 10, 2014
    Vancouver BC
    While you can turn features on or off with today's cameras to help someone learn the principles of photography, a lot of those beginners will resort to using their phones if they have to work too hard to get a shot. The vast majority of people want to capture images that they like or that mean something to them. If you make it an arduous learning experience, they will go back to the devices that let them do their 'job' of capturing those images. This is why the camera industry is shrinking.
    I learned a lot with my first SLR. It had no built in light meter, shutter speeds were 1/500 down to 1/30 second plus Bulb, all the lenses were fully manual 'preset' 42mm screw mount and the ground glass viewfinder had no focusing aids. I learned the basics and learned what I did and didn't like about a whole lot of camera functions and features. It's part of how I learned to operate digital cameras.
  20. AussiePhil

    AussiePhil Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 1, 2014
    Canberra, ACT, Aust
    The first serious camera I used was a Petri 7s s fully coupled range finder.
    Looking back through the misty haze of 40 years I'm not sure it taught me anything except turn all sorts of things till the needles matched, but my father and I turned out many images that were special to us.
    I agree with carboman that people will take the simple way however for someone that wants to learn then just use the new camera already at hand
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