Good Way for a Complete Beginner to Learn the Ropes

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by mjames, Aug 22, 2005.

  1. mjames

    mjames Member

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    This may be in the wrong forum, but there didn't seem to be a more fitting alternative.

    I was going to take a photography class at my school, but I decided not to. Can anyone recommend a good way to learn the ropes, so to speak? I'm not sure if it would be best to attend some sort of class or organization, or buy a book, or simply delve into online study. I am planning on taking a class at the university I attend at some point, but for the moment, I'd just like to learn the basics.

    Thanks in advance for your advice :smile:
     
  2. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    The class wasn't a bad idea. :smile:

    Books are good IF you are good at learning things from books. (You may well be - no judgement here.)

    Much info is on the net, a lot of it misleading if not just plain wrong. Having said that, there is a good bit of good info on this forum. And some links to other good sites. :tongue:

    But finally, nothing beats actually doing it. We'll be glad to help! Just ask.

    Cheers

    David

    PS: What local school do you attend?
     
  3. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    taking a class would be very helpful, a real hands on experience that could be supported by other references; i.e. books, etc. this is a skill and craft is highly depended upon doing not reading; at least IMHO

    Perhaps you could hook up with someone with a darkroom that would be willing to help you along; however, the key is finding someone who knows what they are doing.
     
  4. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    Somewhere, you need to get a good solid foundation to start on with some hands-on training. Taking the class would still be a good idea. I don't think you can get that good foundation from on-line reading. There's too many opinions, too many options presented and discussed.

    You could go with a book, but its sometimes hard to translate what the book is saying inot reality without some hands-on help. Besides, there are many things that are not discussed or illustrated well in the various books. That can lead to "not-in-the-book" mindset which is contrary to good photography.

    Another big plus for the class is you don't have to invest in the darkroom equipment in order to get started. Equipment sellers love a customer who doesn't have a clue; they tend to part with lots of cash for lots of expensive gear they really don't need. Bottom line on equipment is it don't make any difference what camera, enlarger, development tank, nor paper you use. But you won't get that tip at the camera shop.

    The best thing you can do on-line is to stick right here with APUG and ask all the questions you want. But please, reconsider taking the class.
     
  5. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    I have been very fortunate to have had people around me to learn from - finding like minded individuals who's opinons you respect is wonderful (especially if they are aptient enough to put up with you - and in my case, that was very trying to my "mentors" :smile:).
    I am relatively green in this hobby myself, so a lot of the learning process (I mean the basics - the acutally learning, I think, never stops), is still fairly fresh in my mind - and I would definitely say that there is no substitute for hands on experience under the supervision of someone who knows how. Unless you have friends who are fairly accomplished, I think the class is a wonderful idea. Either way, I think a class is great. I never took one, but I wish I had - even though I basically had the benefit of one on one tutoring. I have a Photo 101 Introduction to photography handbook from a course offered at a local community college, and I used it for refernce quite often - still do some times. THose courses seem to be well laid out and give a good foundation - and I am sure the instructors would prevent me from picking up many bad habits that I am sure I have and dont even know about!
    As far as the web is concerned... I don't want to sound like I'm kissing ass - but I have seen what the web has to offer... and I would stick to APUG. I found that with most things, not just photography, the web is so accesible to so many, that it is often a bog opinions that are often misleading at best, and down right wrong at worst. Tread very carefully on the web - my suggestion is, if you find a resource you like, run it by some people here - they will most likely have heard of it, or will be able to give it a once over to see if you will be steered wrong or not.
    And do yourself a favor, get a simple 35mm camera, as mechanical as you can get, with a decent 50mm lens, and don't buy any zooms or bells and whistles until you really feel you have exhausted the possibilities of your present equipment - I find having to work with what I have has taught me a lot about so many aspects of photography that I know I would miss out on if I had a bag full of bells and whistles. Also, when you make purchases based on a specifically identified need, you will find youare happier with the results and the amount of money still in your pocket!
    I hope this helps a bit - like I said, I consider myself fairly green still, so this is sort of beginner to beginner! Best of luck!

    Peter.

    PS Dont hesitate to PM me if you have any questions - if I don't know the answer (quite likely :smile:) maybe I will be able to point you to someone or something that will!
     
  6. mjames

    mjames Member

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    Thank you guys for all of your suggestions. I can't believe how friendly and helpful everyone here at APUG is. These forums are an invaluable resource.

    I'm not taking the class this semester because my schedule is full. But I am planning on taking it next semester. Hopefully I'll learn some basics between now and then.

    Thanks again guys... you're very helpful.

    P.S. - David, I go to University of North Texas.
     
  7. modafoto

    modafoto Subscriber

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    I got a book that dealt with the technical aspect as well as the artistic aspect. I learned a lot from that book. Furthermore I attended a course where I learned the darkroom processes and some composition.
    After that I continued to discuss on APUG and taking small courses along the way to learn studio lighting, more composition and lots of other stuff.
    I still use the book I bought in the beginning...nice stuff!
     
  8. FrankB

    FrankB Member

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    When I first started I found magazine articles quite helpful, in particular Black & White Photography UK (AKA Ailsa's rag! :wink: (That really ought to be a piece of music, you know!)). There were other titles but they've all now changed from photography magazines to computer equipment catalogues. :rolleyes:

    A college course got me interested in darkroom work, but I found it was taught to cater for the lowest common denominator. The college was measured by how many students successfully completed the (undemanding) course. If you were ahead of the minimum required standard you were effectively ignored while the tutor tried to get those below standard (an achievement, trust me!) through the course. The equipment was old and pretty effectively knackered, the safelights weren't safe...

    It was a start, that's all I can say for it. Your mileage may (I fervently hope!) vary.

    I then started acquiring books, some of which were better than others. A good selection include John Blakemore's Black and White Photography Workshop, Les McLean's Creative Black and White Photography and the three Tim Rudman books on darkroom practice, toning and lith printing.

    I found APUG a little daunting at first as there was so much being discussed that I hadn't even heard of (Pyro, PMK, Azo, etc.), but the people are just so friendly and helpful here... ...what can I say?! It's just a damn good place to be!

    Whatever works for you, I hope you thoroughly enjoy yourself!

    All the best,

    Frank
     
  9. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    Frank,

    Thankfully, I find that most of the community colleges here (from speaking to students) have a fairly good level of equipment, but... you are 100% correct: they will cater to the lowest common denominator. Unfortunately, they have to. But for a complete newcomer they may not be that bad - if for nothing more than to have a place learn the very basics while you try more advanced things on your own. Its always a crap shoot - how good the level of instruction is, class size, etc. But generally, in a beginner's case, it will be a person who knows a lot more than you do, and who's job it is to answer your questions.
    Its really too bad you had such a mediocre (at best - by the sounds of it!) experience with your class - but I find that yours may be the exception rather the rule.

    I have been developing fim and printing for a while when I found APUG - and I was overwhelmed by the amount of things I found here that I didn't have a clue about! Fortunately, most people here are absolutely awesome - and they will explain if you ask! The coolest photo lovers hang out I found thus far and by far!

    Oh, and Jay:

    While I agree with what you said to a large extent - the weeding out of misinfo gets easier the more you know... at the very beginning it can get quite daunting. Fortunately, I found that its easier here than most places, simply because of the calibre of people that this site seems to attract. In fact, its rarely necessary at all if you ask from a beginners stand point.

    Crap - I got all long winded there :smile:

    Peter
     
  10. Elox

    Elox Member

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    I took a local community college continuing/adult education class a few years ago to get a refresher in darkroom work (after not having done any in 15+ yrs) and found it to be pretty good. After talking to some people that had take both this and the credit class, the non-credit class seemed to be better. Smaller class, more direct interaction with the instructor, only one (3 hr) class session per week, and access to the darkroom whenever a class was not using it.

    I don't remember if TWU or UNT offered such classes. If not, you would most likely have to go to Gainesville (NCTC) or Farmers Branch (Brookhaven)
     
  11. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Subscriber

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    There are community darkrooms that offer classes as well. I know of the Dallas Darkroom, because the founder of Denver Darkroom helped them with starting their darkroom. They can be found at http://dallasdarkroom.com/index.htm.

    If you are thinking of just taking a class next semester, I would recommend working on shooting. If you can scan photos, you can post them here for comment. (You will have to subscribe to do that, but at $12 per year it is extremely affordable.) Also, just shooting and reading about composition will make a real difference when you start to do your classes. I teach introductory photo classes and find that just having taken a bunch of rolls of film before the class starts puts the student at a huge advantage when taking the class. The darkroom stuff will come easily and a class is a great place to learn it, since you have that option.
     
  12. Travis Nunn

    Travis Nunn Member

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    Compared to most of the members here at APUG, I am a relative newcomer to photography. I've been developing and printing myself for only about two years, but before I got into that aspect of it, I shot a lot of film. I didn't really have any knowledge of composition rules or depth of field or anything like that, but when I took my first introductory class at a local community college everything came together for me. I also volunteered to be a darkroom lab assistant so that I could spend more time in the darkroom. I spent more than twice as much time in the darkroom as most of my other classmates and it showed in my prints so that just goes to show that the more you put into it, the better you will become.

    I only found APUG about 1-2 months ago. Since that time I have learned so much by reading old threads. At first I had no intention whatsoever of subscribing, but after a week or so I saw how valuable this site really is to me, the knowledge I've gained is worth far more than the $12/year. I, too, didn't understand a lot of what was being discussed for a while (never heard of AZO before) and there are still some things I'm not familiar with, but I am still learning.

    Well, I didn't realize I was going to be so long winded.
     
  13. Jeremy

    Jeremy Member

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    I'm a burgeoning grad student at UNT, though not in the arts.

    Are you an art student? If not then I would pass on the photo class as they will require you take drawing 1 & 2 and design 1 & 2 before taking B&W Photography. I don't mind helping out if you have any questions. Also, you are looking at close to $400 for the class BEFORE buying any supplies so unless you are an art major where you will get credit towards your degree (other than just an elective) I highly suggest passing on the class as that would buy A LOT of film. If you are an arts major and will get credit towards graduating then go for it!
     
  14. dr bob

    dr bob Member

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    TAKE THE CLASS! When I played golf, there were so many players who, when they read some cockeyed golfing magazine article, rushed out and purchased the latest equipment or tried the latest fad swing. I bet they spent ten times more than a group of lessons would have cost. If you put your money on education, you will keep the benefit forever. And you will meet the nicest people and make new contacts.
     
  15. Woolliscroft

    Woolliscroft Member

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    I would agree with gnashings (I almost always do) Buy an old, but decent SLR like a Pentax K1000 or an old rangefinder, in both cases with a good 50mm lens, get the manual off the web, buy it some film, point it at stuff and press the button (a lot) and see what happens. Read books and magazines by all means for technical advise and to see what other people do. Maybe join a camera club and you should find yourself in a position to get more out of you class when you do get to do it.

    David.
     
  16. joeyk49

    joeyk49 Member

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    I've been taking photographs for a long time. I sometimes take a good photograph (emphasis on take & sometimes) and never took a class. Lately I've been reading as much as I can.

    I'm realizing that along the way I learned some less than desirable traits (relying to heavily on my camera's programming) and also didn't learn other more desirable ones (bracketing). These have, many times, seemed to keep me disappointed when many of my photos come back from the lab. The learning/relearning process has been a slow one. This has brought me to the conclusion that I need to take a class so that I can start from A, move on to B and so on, following a set progression. I'm hoping that it will get me away from plodding along aimlessly and get me on a course to actually making good photographs.

    Does this bit of rambling make any sense?...Take the course...
     
  17. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    This is almost entirely off topic, but this post made me think of an experience I had recently. I went to an autowreckers to pick up a part (my other disease - cars...). Upon entering the yard, I saw a Subaru WRX (for those of you not into cars, a very fast rally car for the road) and young guy (maybe 18-19) looking at it solemnly. I found out that he was the owner fo the car, and have no idea how he came out of it alive - its was a pretzel! I could see the size of the pole he hit by the way the car was wrapped around where the pole embedded itselfin it. It was a total write off...
    Then I looked at the car - between wheels and tires and drilled brakes and carbon fiber parts and air intakes and exhausts - this car had probably 50% of its original price hanging off of it in modifications.
    Here is the point: a few track days with a good instructor would not have cost 1/10th of all that kit - and I am willing to bet, would do a better job keeping the car out of the scenery...
    No amount of equipment can outweigh good know-how and the benefit of the experience of others.

    I am officially the "APUG King of 'Longwindedness'" :smile:

    Peter