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I mentioned it in the "Recent Purchases" thread, but after having the night to sleep on it I thought perhaps a blog post (versus a forum post) might be the best place to capture my thoughts.

As a bit of background, I have no formal photography training or background. I dabbled with 35mm film SLRs back in the mid-90's, and had a Nikon N6006 and a couple kit lenses to keep me busy. In the early 2000's I tried my luck with the 80-200mm lens and auto racing, but was not happy with the results. I stopped shooting 35mm film shortly after and didn't pick up another SLR (digital this time) until May of 2014. When I got the N6006, the girlfriend I was dating at the time was working at a camera store, developing her own black and white prints, and taking a few classes on photography. While I never got into the film developing process, I did try to absorb some of the photography tips she was getting from school when out shooting projects.

With my new D5300 in hand, a little over a month's worth of experience and about 2500 images shot ... some acceptable but most not so much ... I decided to look for some formalized training. I've been grabbing books where I find recommendations/suggestions, or where I have a need to research, but I'm not getting the active feedback loop with books that I'm looking for. After searching for training options in the area, I found myself in a local camera store where the discussion came to personalized 1 on 1 training as a first stop before group/class training, so I started there.

As a summary, the 1:1 training was good, even though I felt it missed my expectations. I very likely over-hyped my expectations then felt let down when I was brought back to reality. I'm grateful for the opportunity and for the information that I learned from the session. While I was originally thinking I would set up a few 1:1 trainings over the next couple weekends though, I don't think I'm going that route now.

So where did things go astray? When I was at the camera shop the week prior, the discussion got to how to use shortcuts in the camera to use white balance and picture control settings so that the camera can compensate for my exposure input and generate a good jpg image when I snap the shutter release. The problem there is, I've been shooting raw. During the week between the initial in-store discussion and the following training, I learned more here on Nikonites about what is actually stored in the RAW files ... and what isn't. All those shortcuts with when to use Vivid mode or the scene controls, they don't come into play that much. One of my first questions as the training got started and the trainer was looking over my current camera settings was to confirm whether this would make a difference on my RAW picture, and then we deviated from there. My impression is that for most first timers who are just getting their feet wet with a DSLR like the D5300, the training content that they provide is very helpful. I'm not implying in any way that I'm more advanced than the typical new user, but maybe I just jumped into the pool without my snorkel or scuba gear and with my engineering mindset of "how can I make this work".

The plus side to the training being personalized and not a group instruction was that once the instructor decided we needed to get off the usual training course, we were able to get into topics of interest for me. We had a very good discussion on histograms, and how to read them both on the camera, and later in post processing software like Aperture. Since I'm not getting the camera adjustments that can be made with on-camera jpg processing, we talked through some common adjustments that can be made through Aperture, and took some specific examples of shots from my vacation last month that I thought were wasted images, and brought them back to life.

Having a better feel for my camera, and how to get to the different functions, I think I'm ready for a generalized focus training around composition, exposures (aperture vs shutter speed vs ISO), lighting, and somewhere in there the post processing/software developing side of things. Looking forward to the ideas and images that will come!
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  1. Moab Man's Avatar
    If you're not already doing it, a project 365 is one of the best educations you'll get at a pretty quick pace. Plenty on here will vouch for that. As well as asking those on here how they did a particular image. Good luck and keep shooting and shooting and... You get the idea.
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  2. RON's Avatar
    Practice, practice, practice. That is the key. Pick a tree. Shoot that tree in all types of light, in all seasons, at every f stop. When you get a photo you are proud to hang on your wall, your 5 per cent to your goal. Then pick another subject and start all over again an practice---------------
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  3. Moab Man's Avatar
    To add to what Ron said, walk around the subject when possible. The side that catches your eye may not be the best side.
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  4. RocketCowboy's Avatar
    Thanks guys! I think I'm slowly getting there ... particularly to the comment on walking around the subject. Last weekend I was trying to shoot a tree that was half dead, half living that looked like maybe it had been struck by lightening. Couldn't get the lighting right, until when I was walking around I saw it from the other side.

    I'm trying to shoot something every day, but it hasn't been frequent enough to do a 365 project. So far I've done something a couple days each week ... more so than my exercise routing right now, so there's hope.
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  5. SkvLTD's Avatar
    Practice, shoot in raw, get some non-Ai prime to practice your exposure and manual focusing. Create and get used to a workflow for processing RAWs. Rest is literally, shooting every day and having your goals clearly set.

    Why do you shoot? Then aim and keep on keeping on until you hit it.

    Mine was to go pro one way or another, as soon as possible, and I've pretty much made back my FX jump equipment in less than 3 months. Still chump change, but exponential process towards my ultimate goal. Watermarks de/redesigned, business cards ready to print, etc.
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  6. FastGlass's Avatar
    I think the most important part of shooting and knowing the gear is knowing when and where to use and choose what aperture, shutterspeed, iso to use on any given situation. Walking upon and given scene and just knowing what settings to use gives you an advantage on walking away with a more positive percentage of good shots. I'm a self taught photographer. Still learning about composition and posing. I've been a member of a few forums but this group of people by far gave me more positive advice than all others combined. Like the other post said. Project 365 is a good part of this forum to get good ideas, advice, feedback. That and just keep shooting and learning from what you can create.
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  7. RocketCowboy's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by SkvLTD
    Practice, shoot in raw, get some non-Ai prime to practice your exposure and manual focusing. Create and get used to a workflow for processing RAWs. Rest is literally, shooting every day and having your goals clearly set.

    Why do you shoot? Then aim and keep on keeping on until you hit it.

    Mine was to go pro one way or another, as soon as possible, and I've pretty much made back my FX jump equipment in less than 3 months. Still chump change, but exponential process towards my ultimate goal. Watermarks de/redesigned, business cards ready to print, etc.
    I've been leaving the 35mm prime on and leaving the rest of the lenses at home for the most part lately. It does AF, but my goal has been to try multiple manual exposures adjusting aperture/shutter/iso as I go. While I'm just starting to play with the software side, my goal is still to get the best image off the camera first and understanding how to do that.

    Depending on your distinction between pro and semi-pro (I call myself a former semi-pro musician before I went down the IT path), my goal is to get this to where it's generating some income quickly. I would probably still classify my goal as to become semi-pro, but really that just depends on where you draw the line between the two.

    Thanks for reading and for taking the time to add your thoughts. Much appreciated!
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  8. RocketCowboy's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by FastGlass
    I think the most important part of shooting and knowing the gear is knowing when and where to use and choose what aperture, shutterspeed, iso to use on any given situation. Walking upon and given scene and just knowing what settings to use gives you an advantage on walking away with a more positive percentage of good shots. I'm a self taught photographer. Still learning about composition and posing. I've been a member of a few forums but this group of people by far gave me more positive advice than all others combined. Like the other post said. Project 365 is a good part of this forum to get good ideas, advice, feedback. That and just keep shooting and learning from what you can create.
    This is the forum that I keep coming back to and hit the refresh button on throughout the day. I really appreciate both the wisdom and the personalities here.

    I agree with your priorities ... knowing the gear and what the right settings are for any given situation. For whatever reason, I feel a sense of urgency to pick this up quickly, and so the whole training discussion for me is a tangent on what options are available to help me self teach my way faster.

    I'm going to reconsider doing something like the 365 project. I've started bringing the camera with me on my past two business trips, so now it's just more a matter of getting the habit started.

    Thanks for the feedback!
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  9. SkvLTD's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by RocketCowboy
    Depending on your distinction between pro and semi-pro (I call myself a former semi-pro musician before I went down the IT path), my goal is to get this to where it's generating some income quickly. I would probably still classify my goal as to become semi-pro, but really that just depends on where you draw the line between the two.

    Thanks for reading and for taking the time to add your thoughts. Much appreciated!
    Income % aside, anything pro means that you deliver results without any excuses. Fun and games still matter, passion drives the whole car, but you consistently make it to the finish line no matter what. Amateurs are allowed to make excuses, pro's aren't.
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  10. RocketCowboy's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by SkvLTD
    Income % aside, anything pro means that you deliver results without any excuses. Fun and games still matter, passion drives the whole car, but you consistently make it to the finish line no matter what. Amateurs are allowed to make excuses, pro's aren't.
    Great distinction.
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