dSLR Tips Post

So since a couple of my friends have just recently gotten themselves some dope Rebel XTi cameras, I thought it would be fun to put a post in place (similar to my Firefox and Computer Security posts) that is a listing of tools, resources, and books that I have found useful in the foray into the world of dSLR. Of course, I welcome any additions and insights in the comments (

   and

   , I’m looking at you). Not all of these are dSLR/Canon specific – a lot of them were resources I find useful in my S2 IS days.

Books
Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson
Get this book. Read it fifteen times. Take a bunch of pictures. Read the book another fifteen times. Your pictures will be about 100% better. This is a fantastic book that helps you understand the basics of aperture, ISO, and shutter speed, but more than anything else, makes you realize that it’s not about just getting a good exposure, but that there are lots of different creative exposures in any situation. I love this book.

The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby
I’m a big fan of Scott Kelby, especially his Photoshop CS2 Book for Digital Photographers. This book is different than the Peterson book, in that it’s short on theory and long on practical “here’s how to make a picture that looks like this”. It’s an easy read, and covers a lot of ground and you’ll walk away from it with quite a few practical tips you can use right away (the same is true of his Photoshop book, which I recommend highly, if you’re going to be doing any Photoshop stuff).

Magic Lantern Guides: Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT/EOS 350D

This particular book covers the 350D, not the 400D, but I know Magic Lantern has a version for just about every dSLR out there. There’s a series of books for OS X called “The Missing Manual”, with the tagline “the book that should have been in the box”. That’s the case with the Magic Lantern guides – this takes the manual that Canon provides you with, and expounds upon it in great detail. If you want to know what you can do with your new camera, this book is a must.

Websites
Matt’s del.icio.us photography links
This will give you an updated copy of all bookmarks I create related to photography. Not all of them are going to be useful, but there will be a lot more there than what I am listing here.

Digital Rebel XT Lessons from Canon
This is a set of basic, Flash-based “lessons” on using your camera. This link is for the XT, but I think they probably have one for the XTi somewhere.

Canon Digital Photography Forums from Photography-on-the.net
Covers more than just the dSLR models, but a very good resource if you’re having any kind of issues or questions.

fredmiranda.com
A major digital photography site – one thing that I think is cool is they have “assignments” you can participate in, which help expand your photography skillz.

Gear
Opteka Battery Pack Grip  with 2 NB-2LH Batteries
This is a pretty good grip, and it’s a lot cheaper than the Canon-branded one. Plus, it comes with two batteries. Here’s a tip – don’t buy the Canon branded batteries; the third-party ones are much cheaper and just as good. And you always, always want extra batteries.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Lens
Is this the best lens you’ll ever buy? Not by a long shot. But for the price, you really can’t justify not owning it. Yes, it’s plastic-feeling and light, and the autofocus hunts for years when shooting in low light, but if you want that really shallow DOF, you can’t beat it for the price. Buy it. You’ll thank me later.

Tamrac Velocity 7 Sling Pack
I’ll be honest. I don’t own this bag – yet. But it will probably be the next thing we buy. I currently have the Lowepro Off Trail 1, and I’m pretty unhappy with it. Not only does it make you look dorky (and if you’re pudgy, it really accentuates your gut), but there’s no room in it for anything other than the camera and two lenses.  A co-worker of mine has the Veocity 7, and he carries his 30D with a lens, two extra lenses, as well as three extra batteries and two CF cards.

Canon 430EX Speedlite Flash
This is another piece of gear that I don’t currently own, but really want. You really have to get the flash off of the camera to use it – although since I don’t have $200+ laying around right now, I am suffering through with the on-camera flash. This is an area that I still have more research to do on, but I’ve heard nothing but good stuff about the 430EX. You can get a cheaper flash, but you’ll lose the ability to bounce it (among other things) so I don’t think it’s worth it..

Lowepro SlingShot 100 All-Weather Digital Camera Backpack
I got this bag right before we went Up North this summer, to replace my Off Trail 1, which I hated. And I like this bag a lot. It’s not very heavy, and while the “sling” portion took some getting used to (it must be worn on the opposite shoulder than I am used to for my messenger bag), I find it pretty comfortable. I can store my 350D with kit lens, both of my other lenses, all of my memory cards, extra batteries, our point and shoot, and my filters all in the same bag. Pretty nice.

Software
I’m actually not going to be TERRIBLY useful for non-Mac users on this subject, but some of it applies. My software workflow is pretty straightfoward these days, but I’m also still just getting into using RAW, so it might change. I use Aperture (Mac only) to manage my photos and do my RAW conversions. For additional editing and color correction, I use Photoshop CS2. I store my photos online on Flickr, and use Flickr Export for Aperture to upload my photos.

So that’s that. I will keep this post updated as I get/learn about new gear and resources, and of course, any tips and comments you all might have.

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~ by Matt Stratton on June 26, 2007.

14 Responses to “dSLR Tips Post”

  1. I’ve found Photo.net to be a helpful resource. I can give a big thumbs-up to the 430EX flash. I can also suggest rentglass.com to anyone that wants to try out an expensive lens without investing around $1,000. I’ll try and post more suggestions when I think of them.

    –Toni

  2. Do you have a workspace on Photo.net? I started playing with it a while ago – my “portfolio” (which consists of two pictures of Scout) – is at http://www.photo.net/photos/mattstratton

  3. Do you have a workspace on Photo.net? I started playing with it a while ago – my “portfolio” (which consists of two pictures of Scout) – is at http://www.photo.net/photos/mattstratton

  4. i would add that while the 430EX is an awesome flash (i have it), if you’re planning on getting more serious with the whole photography shebang and you can afford it, i’d go ahead and get the 580EX instead. you can expand with it much more – it can be used to trigger other flashes in multiple flash situations. but for me, so far, the 430 has been great.

  5. i would add that while the 430EX is an awesome flash (i have it), if you’re planning on getting more serious with the whole photography shebang and you can afford it, i’d go ahead and get the 580EX instead. you can expand with it much more – it can be used to trigger other flashes in multiple flash situations. but for me, so far, the 430 has been great.

  6. quick question about the aperture software… how is it at handling multiple versions of an image? i’ve heard that photoshop elements manages this really well by showing the original with an added icon when there are multiple versions “behind” it and it kills me that iphoto doesn’t have this ability. if aperture has good multi-version support, that might be the one thing to get me to try it.

  7. That’s pretty much exactly what Aperture does. In a nutshell, the only actual image is the master – any editing you do in Aperture is recorded as “instructions”, and those are stored as versions. So you can create very many versions of an image in Aperture and keep them all straight, but still very easily always go back to your master without damaging any versions.

    Bear in mind that Aperture is not an editing program, however – you can do RAW conversions in it, and a decent amount of post-processing, but I think Photoshop still needs to be a piece of the workflow if you have editing to do. The good news is that the integration between Aperture and Photoshop is pretty good – you can click on any image (master or version) in Aperture and say “edit in Photoshop” – which then fires it up there, you save it there, and it updates itself as a new version in Aperture (iPhoto works similarly, but without the versioning).

    Here’s a screencap that might help – you can see how it “stacks” up the original and the versions…the little icon in the lower right of a photo (the circle) shows that it is a modified version (from an external editior). The modified icon is different if it is a version modified directly in Aperture.

  8. That’s pretty much exactly what Aperture does. In a nutshell, the only actual image is the master – any editing you do in Aperture is recorded as “instructions”, and those are stored as versions. So you can create very many versions of an image in Aperture and keep them all straight, but still very easily always go back to your master without damaging any versions.

    Bear in mind that Aperture is not an editing program, however – you can do RAW conversions in it, and a decent amount of post-processing, but I think Photoshop still needs to be a piece of the workflow if you have editing to do. The good news is that the integration between Aperture and Photoshop is pretty good – you can click on any image (master or version) in Aperture and say “edit in Photoshop” – which then fires it up there, you save it there, and it updates itself as a new version in Aperture (iPhoto works similarly, but without the versioning).

    Here’s a screencap that might help – you can see how it “stacks” up the original and the versions…the little icon in the lower right of a photo (the circle) shows that it is a modified version (from an external editior). The modified icon is different if it is a version modified directly in Aperture.

  9. whoa, that’s pretty sweet. one more quick question… is it suitable for storing all of your photos in like you can with iphoto or is it really only for smaller groups of pics?

    thanks again for the info. this may just be a late b-day gift to myself… it’s tied between that and a ring flash. πŸ™‚

  10. whoa, that’s pretty sweet. one more quick question… is it suitable for storing all of your photos in like you can with iphoto or is it really only for smaller groups of pics?

    thanks again for the info. this may just be a late b-day gift to myself… it’s tied between that and a ring flash. πŸ™‚

  11. It’s intended as a professional tool for organizing photos, so it’s definitely for storing “all your photos”. You can either store the imported photos in the “Aperture Library” (which is basically a big database) or you can use “referenced files” which means you store the photos wherever you want and Aperture just kind of indexes them.

    My Aperture library currently contains about 2,500 images, which is about 14 GB (don’t forget that I shoot a lot of RAW, so my photos start off at about 8 MB or so).

    Let’s put it this way – Aperture supports up to 10,000 images *per project*, so I’m guessing it would take a pretty giant Library to choke it.

    One other question – what hardware are you using these days? Aperture requires Intel or G5.

  12. It’s intended as a professional tool for organizing photos, so it’s definitely for storing “all your photos”. You can either store the imported photos in the “Aperture Library” (which is basically a big database) or you can use “referenced files” which means you store the photos wherever you want and Aperture just kind of indexes them.

    My Aperture library currently contains about 2,500 images, which is about 14 GB (don’t forget that I shoot a lot of RAW, so my photos start off at about 8 MB or so).

    Let’s put it this way – Aperture supports up to 10,000 images *per project*, so I’m guessing it would take a pretty giant Library to choke it.

    One other question – what hardware are you using these days? Aperture requires Intel or G5.

  13. i had to get a new macbook pro a couple of months ago, so i’m good. πŸ™‚

  14. i had to get a new macbook pro a couple of months ago, so i’m good. πŸ™‚

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