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Frustrated beginning photographer! Any tips or advice appreciated

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by SqueeSquee, May 30, 2014.

  1. SqueeSquee

    SqueeSquee New to Mu-43

    May 30, 2014
    Hello all,
    I've been wanting to take up photography as a hobby for quite a while and finally bit the bullet and bought a camera- after much thought I decided to buy an Olympus Em-5 over a traditional SLR as I figured I could most things with it and it's smaller size would mean I'd be more likely to take it with me to places (which has definitely proven to be the case).
    I have a basic understanding of things like aperture, depth of focus, shutter speed and ISO but I really struggle to apply this.
    One of my frustrations is focussing- if I let it autofocus it often focuses on the wrong part of the subject which is to be expected, but I simply can't see in the screen or the viewfinder if the subject is in focus and usually find out the hard way when I download the images and find them blurry. I'm not sure if this is an issue with practise or maybe I'm half blind and other people can see if the subject is in focus through the LCD display or viewfinder!
    Another frustration is related to the camera, the lens I have is the 12-50mm f3.5-6.3, when I have the camera in manual mode it often simply will not let me adjust the aperture to below 6.3.... I don't know if it's because it considers the settings to be incorrect and therefore won't let me alter things beyond what it considers the correct range or if there's something wrong with the camera or lens or what. I just thought the purpose of the manual mode was to have full manual control over every setting even if you end up with completely black or white photos.
    Thanks in advance for any replies, I'm trying not to let the frustration get the better of me and stop wishing I'd just bought a point and shoot!
  2. Ricoh

    Ricoh Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 2, 2013
    Photography should be treated as an art, I'd recommend learning enough about the working of the camera, or just set it to P and concentrate on composition. I thoroughly recommend looking at the attached videos made for by B+H, two lectures delivered by Adam Morelli.
    Robbie36 kindly posted them in a street thread started by Kevin Paris.


    • Like Like x 1
  3. SqueeSquee

    SqueeSquee New to Mu-43

    May 30, 2014
    Thank you, I will certainly watch those lectures! My partner just figured out why I could set the aperture at 3.5 sometimes and only 6.3 at other times, it depends on whether the lens is zoomed in or not. So at least I know it's not completely random now which is what I was beginning to think :confused: 
  4. Ramsey

    Ramsey Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 9, 2013
    Zagreb, Croatia
    First, welcome to mu43.

    Basically, this depends on a lot of things. Size of focus area/target (single point/group or all possible area), type of AF (single, continuous, tracking etc, don't forget about the focus and recompose technique), shutter speed (maybe it was too slow for the type of shot you were going for), etc. Experiment with different things (too much to explain now), and know the pros and cons of each. The shutter shock could also be an issue, i know a lot of people handle it with the 1/8sec anti shock delay.

    The small green box (usually immediatelly on) should be the focus point. If it's not, in a way that you get the confirmation on the intended area but when reviewing the pics on camera/computer the supposed area is not in focus, you may have a problem with the camera/lens. It has been know to happen.

    The f6.3 aperture is the limitation your lens when it's zoomed on the 50mm. When it's on 12mm, the maximum (meaning the widest opening) aperture is 3.5. Meaning the f number can not go any lower. Acquire a "faster" lens (f stop around 1.7 for primes and f2.8 for zooms) if you want more light gathering and (arguably) greater dof.

    Full manual is something everyone should understand, but not a lot of people use it exclusively. Most of the time, it's aperture priority, then shutter speed priority. They are semi-manual, depending on needs, the subject and possible external limitations. My suggestion is to start with P mode, it's mostly automated, but you can give it some pointers on what to change, not unlike in iAuto mode.
  5. Timmy

    Timmy Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 3, 2013
    Wiltshire - UK
    Welcome to the forum and congrats on your new EM5.

    I would suggest that to begin with just shoot in "P" mode while you get to know your camera - after that explore setting the aperture low in "A" mode for nice portraits. Let the camera do most of the work and enjoy the photography.

    As for focusing - to begin with trust the focus box that pops up to tell you what the camera is focusing on. Remember if you can repeatedly half-press & hold the button to "lock" and "re-lock" focus before you fully depress and take your photo. That way you'll be sure it's focusing on what you want before you actually take your photo.

    Hope that helps!
  6. WendyK

    WendyK Super Moderator

    Feb 28, 2014
    Northern Virginia
    As someone who has been learning manual modes rather recently, I have a few tips. First, if you're not getting the exposure right, make sure that you turn on the "blinkies" aka highlights and shadows (underexposed areas will show up in blue and overexposed in orange). You may have to hit the Info button a few times until they show up depending on your settings. Then you can easily make adjustments to aperture, exposure compensation, shutter speed, etc. until the important parts of the image are no longer highlighted. That has helped me a lot, more than anything else, actually. I shoot a lot of pictures in the morning in my garden, and now I don't blow out the highlights in white flowers or lose too much in the shadows.

    The other recommendation I have is to take multiples of the same shot (ideally try this with static subjects) with different settings while you're learning, and back on your computer, look at the EXIF data for the ones you prefer so you learn what works for different subjects. You're more likely to get your subject in focus that way, too. I was shooting with primes for the first time when I got my E-M10 and suddenly had a lot more options for aperture so I would take several images, all with a different aperture, and compare my results. I read a lot of tutorials online, but sometimes there is just no substitute for experimentation. Thank goodness we're learning on digital rather than film cameras!

    As for focus, have you tried turning on any of the focus aids, like magnification, peaking (does the E-M5 have that? the E-M10 does)? You also could try using the touch to focus and via the screen on the back. I'm having a little trouble with focus myself right now on macro images, but that is because I'm in denial that my 40 something eyes need reading glasses. If you don't know how to focus and recompose, you should definitely learn that right away, as others have mentioned.

    Good luck and enjoy your experiments!
  7. drd1135

    drd1135 Zen Snapshooter Subscribing Member

    Mar 17, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    I would set a single focus point in the center. Use this point to focus on what you want, hold the shutter half depressed, and recompose if your focus point is not in the center of the frame. This method is not without controversy as moving the camera does change the plane of focus, but it works for many.
    • Like Like x 2
  8. flamingfish

    flamingfish Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Nov 16, 2012
    A few bits of advice from another beginner:

    Get the David Busch book on the E-M5. Yes, most of the information in the book is in the camera manual, but the Busch book is a lot easier to read.

    Get Bryan Peterson's Understanding Exposure.

    Both of these books are available on Amazon. (Isn't everything?) For the Busch book, you could get away with an e-reader version if you wanted, but I wouldn't recommend the electronic version for the Peterson book because you really want to be able to see the images.

    (Forum related question: is there some special way to include an Amazon affiliate link so mu-43 gets its cut if a reader buys something, or does just linking to Amazon do the affiliate thing automatically?)

    Have you enabled the Super Control Panel (SCP) on your E-M5? It's the easiest way to get access to the settings when you start wanting to change things. I'd recommend it.

    Unless you expect to be taking pictures in places where it's important to be silent, for the time being at least I'd make sure that the "beep" for autofocus confirmation is enabled. I'm usually too busy looking at my subject to remember to look for the little green dot.

    I use the viewfinder rather than the LCD screen whenever possible. If, like me, you're in reading glasses territory, you can adjust the diopter on the viewfinder so that it corrects for your vision, and you don't have to wear your reading glasses.

    In terms of the camera focusing on the wrong thing -- you can use the touch screen to tell the camera where to focus. In addition to "off," there are two modes for the touch screen. One lets you set the focus point AND take the picture with just one touch -- no need to press the shutter. The other mode lets you set the focus point, but the camera doesn't take the picture until you press the shutter. The icon for these functions is a little hand with some horizontal bars on the left side of the screen, not quite halfway up from the bottom.

    There is no focus peaking on the E-M5. There's a workaround that people have figured out, but it requires several steps, so not something to fuss with until you're more used to the camera.

    One of the many buttons on the E-M5 can be used to magnify the view so you can fine-tune focus. You'll have to look at the manual (or the Busch book) to see which button does that by default. The buttons are customizable, so you can decide which button you want to use for which function. It's not difficult to customize the buttons. The hard parts are figuring out which functions you want to use on a regular basis, and remembering which button you assigned. I have trouble figuring out when I've locked focus by half-pressing the shutter button (I can never tell when it's pressed enough), so I set one of the buttons to lock focus. That way, I can put my subject in the center, focus on it, lock focus, and then move the camera very carefully so that the subject is wherever I want it in the frame.

    Pay attention to what your shutter speed is. As others have recommended, I usually shoot in P or A mode, so I let the camera choose the shutter speed. However, if the light isn't good and/or you're using a small aperture (remember that the higher the number, the smaller the aperture), your shutter speed may be slow. Even with the fancy-pants image stabilization in the E-M5, there comes a point at which the shutter speed is so slow that you're not going to get a sharp image by handholding the camera. If necessary, you can get a faster shutter speed by increasing the ISO -- the "film speed" -- but increasing the ISO increases the "noise" in the image. For the time being, though, I'd say leave the ISO on auto while you get comfortable with the camera.

    The macro function on the 12-50 is fun. Minimum focusing distance on that lens is 7.87 inches, so if you try to get any closer than that the lens won't focus. Keeping very still is particularly important for macro, so expect a relatively high proportion of blurry images until you gain some expertise.

    Have fun! I'm loving my E-M5, even though I've yet to create anything I'd have the nerve to show on the forum.
    • Like Like x 1
  9. WendyK

    WendyK Super Moderator

    Feb 28, 2014
    Northern Virginia
    Being new to the whole "needing reading glasses" thing, I didn't realize you could do this. THANKS! you just allowed me to live in denial a little longer...
    • Like Like x 1
  10. spatulaboy

    spatulaboy I'm not really here Subscribing Member

    Jul 13, 2011
    North Carolina
    Single focus point is the way to go. And buy another lens. This is an interchangeable lens camera after all.
    • Like Like x 1
  11. orfeo

    orfeo Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 27, 2013
    get a 25mm lens, and shoot with that all the time. It's the best lens for beginning to learn to see as a photographer.
    Zoom is the worst lens for beginning imho.
    Also, study what ISO is, how shutter speed affects movement, sharpness, study your posture, study the aperture of your lens and how it render differently...

    And Watch Diane Arbus video on YouTube, it will teach you what is ART...
    • Like Like x 1
  12. Itchybiscuit

    Itchybiscuit Photon Mangler

    Dec 10, 2013
    Glasgow, Scotland
    Or, keep your cash in your pocket as you learn the ropes and don't touch your lens zoom ring - tape it up if you have to at the widest (12mm) end. Use your feet for zooming - just get yourself closer to your subject. It's a tip that will serve you well for the future. You can crop OOC (out of camera) instead of zooming which basically crops 'in' camera. It just means you have access to the full range of 'f stops' from your widest aperture at f3.5 to the smallest at f6.3.

    I do hope we're not confusing you too much but it's all well meant. :thumbup:
  13. edmsnap

    edmsnap Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 20, 2011
    Edmonton, Alberta
    Everyone new to photography has a similar comment, so you're exactly where you should be. My own advice to people is to ditch the auto-everything, buy a cheap manual vintage lens, and shoot in Aperture Priority mode while you learn. My (completely-biased) opinion is that letting the camera do so many things for you really impairs the learning process and in fact encourages you not to learn. With a manual lens, you control the aperture and you control the focus - these are the hardest parts to learn that really shape your photography. For me, the photography is so much more interactive and involving that not only am I very in tune with all the settings, but it slows me down so that I have a lot more time to work on composition, framing, and everything associated with what I'm taking a picture of. I'd recommend a good-condition Helios 44-2 as a training-lens; one can be purchased off eBay along with an adapter for $50-60. Check out the Adapted Lens Sample Image Archive on this site to see if you fall in love with anything.

    I similarly hate autofocus. Unless you're photographing people where face-recognition is in play, I tend to call it autofocusonthewrongthing. Again sort of lending itself to my manual lens recommendation, you can set a function button to activate focus-assist which magnifies the viewscreen/viewfinger by a factor of 10 to aid in seeing what is in focus and what isn't. Makes focus very easy.

    Maybe if you get photos that you aren't happy with, try different post-processing tricks with them. For instance, a nature scene that's a little out of focus or didn't frame up nice could maybe be plugged into an "oil painting" filter to create something really interesting, giving you an opportunity to learn and practice that part of photography too. Find fun, not frustration :smile:
  14. woody112704

    woody112704 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 13, 2012
    I second what flamingfish said about the Bryan Peterson's Understanding Exposure book. When I first started out that book helped me immensely.
  15. val

    val Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 19, 2013
    Seems like your points have been answered. stay with your 12-50mm for now and go through the focal lengths and find what lengths that you like most and If you do consider another lens, I would recommend the 25mm f1.8 or f1.4 depending on what you can afford since it's a good focal length, has good bokeh and is small/lightweight. 25mm on your current lens and 25mm with those lenses will give you different results due to it's aperture.

    I learnt by setting my aperture to it's widest and zooming in and seeing the number go up so I knew what my limits were especially when shooting with less light.

    do the same with ISO and try find how low shutterspeed you can go handheld with IBIS.

    once you find your limits, you'll find it easier to get use to the camera.

    There are many articles covering the technical sides of cameras which should answer any questions you might have, the more you learn, the easier it is to find an answer (usually)

    and shoot in RAW!
  16. sokar

    sokar Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 30, 2011
    I would definitely adopt this practice from the outset. This will ensure that you get what you want 'sharp' to be in focus. Some good suggestions here and I have another. Try operating in "A" mode with auto WB and auto ISO. Set the ISO limitations for lower to upper to 200 - 1600. This should manage most shots, especially in the day hours. The auto WB of the later Olympus camera bodies is above average. Having the ISO set to auto, avoids the need to think about this and allows you to concentrate on framing and depth of field controlled by the aperture setting.

    A prime lens is a great starting point as others have pointed out. The reason is that most primes out perform zoom lenses and it forces you to concentrate on framing. I used a 17mm F2.8 solely for nearly 3 years. It was not the best lens in the M43 inventory, but persistence with one field of view will ensure that your results continually improve.
  17. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    call me Arg
    HI Squee2, welcome to this wonderful hobby. You have bought a VERY fancy camera as a first camera. You will be delighted when you master it, but you WILL need time to master it.

    drd has nailed the critical settings for you (thanks mate). Your camera is focusing on strange things because you let it, i.e. it is set to decide its own focus points. Try what drd says and the focusing problem will go away immediately.

    Your partner is right about the lens. It cannot go wider than f/3.5 at 12mm, and f/6.3 at 50mm. Don't worry about it.
    • Like Like x 1
  18. SqueeSquee

    SqueeSquee New to Mu-43

    May 30, 2014
    Thank you very much everyone for your replies!
    You've well and truly given me plenty to work with, I'm planning an overseas trip for about 2 weeks time so that's the deadline I have to get to a better understanding of everything.
    Luckily for me I'm quite handy with editing so I have been able to save a lot of otherwise bad photos, I'd like to get to the point though where that's not a necessity.
    I see there are lots of things I can do to aid focusing, I really like the suggestion of setting up a function button to lock the focus as I also have trouble working out when the shutter button is half depressed.
    I had planned on getting a 25mm lens, maybe I'll get it sooner rather than later and use that for the most part to learn with or take the other suggestion and just leave the zoom on my current lens well alone.
    • Like Like x 1
  19. Matero

    Matero Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jun 22, 2013
    What I've done is I dumped zooms, since there is so great number of excellent primes for m43. And they are small so you can carry those with you. Just making a pair like 17mm + 45mm or 25mm and 75mm and you can do a lot. It's all about practice, more shots, more keepers.
  20. Cruzan80

    Cruzan80 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    Denver, Co
    Sean Rastsmith
    If trying to get good pictures for the trip, figure out focus issues, then use either P or iAuto, to let yourself enjoy the trip. Don't fight the camera to the point you don't have fun.
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