Digital SLR Cameras and Photography for Dummies

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Whether you own a Digital SLR camera or are thinking of buying one, with this guide, you’ll give it your best shot! It has info to help you choose the right camera and accessories, and then use them right. Digital SLR Cameras & Photography For Dummies covers the hardware, the software, and the techniques you need to take top-notch digital photos with your dSLR. This guide will get you clicking with information on:
  • The advantages of a dSLR camera: more control over what ...
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Overview

Whether you own a Digital SLR camera or are thinking of buying one, with this guide, you’ll give it your best shot! It has info to help you choose the right camera and accessories, and then use them right. Digital SLR Cameras & Photography For Dummies covers the hardware, the software, and the techniques you need to take top-notch digital photos with your dSLR. This guide will get you clicking with information on:
  • The advantages of a dSLR camera: more control over what portions of your images are in sharp focus; a more accurate viewfinder; lower levels of the annoying grain effect called noise; ability to capture the most fleeting action; more control over depth-of-field; ability to review your image immediately, upload the photo to your computer, make adjustments, and print a full-color print in minutes
  • Choosing the accessories that will take your dSLR to the next level, depending on the type of photography you do and your current and future needs
  • Megapixels, and matching pixels to print sizes and printers
  • The components of a dSLR: lens; viewing system, aperture, shutter, light-sensitive component; medium for storing the captured image
  • Accessorizing your dSLR with memory cards, filter add-ons (infrared, polarizers, neutral density, and special effects), electronic flash, tripods, and more

Once you get your hands on a dSLR camera (literally), this reference helps you use its features and controls to take great pictures. Complete with more than 300 color photos, lots of tables, and clear, step-by-step instructions for various situations, subjects, and calculations, Digital SLR Cameras & Photography For Dummies helps you refine your techniques with info on:

  • Getting the exposure right with the histogram, the metering system, or Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, or Manual Exposure modes
  • Achieving the right focus with manual focus or autofocus
  • The scoop on lenses—prime, zoom, and special—and using them appropriately and creatively
  • How to use interchangeable lenses, set up speedy continuous-shooting burst modes, apply selective focus, and shoot under the lowest light levels
  • Special features of dSLR to reduce noise, cancel camera shake, do time-lapse photography, and shoot infrared photos
  • Working with the RAW format, JPEG, or both
  • Taking action, flash, or sequence photos or freezing the action
  • Composition basics, including the Rule of Thirds, tips for shooting portraits or group photos, and more
  • Using image editors to fix-up your photos (with cropping, tonal adjustments, color correction, spot removal, sharpening/blurring, and more), with step-by-step instructions for using Photoshop
  • Compositing images
  • Choosing your printer and evaluating your output options

With Digital SLR Cameras & Photography For Dummies, you won’t only get the how-to for various types of shots, you’ll see the results with great color photos. In no time, you’ll be taking great photos of your own.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“This book is split into clear sections and interspersed with photographs and bullet points, which along with the friendly language makes it an enjoyable read…” (What Digital Camera? 1st March 2006)

"excellent choice" (Amateur Photographer, Saturday 22nd September 2007)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470466063
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 9/8/2009
  • Series: For Dummies Series
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 7.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

As a roving photojournalist for more than 20 years, David D. Busch illustrated his books, magazine articles, and newspaper reports with award-winning images. He has operated his own commercial studio, suffocated in formal dress while shooting weddings-for-hire, and shot sports for a daily newspaper and Upstate New York college. His photos have been published in magazines as diverse as Scientific American and Petersen’s PhotoGraphic, and his articles have appeared in Popular Photography & Imaging, The Rangefinder, The Professional Photographer, and hundreds of other publications. He’s currently reviewing digital cameras for CNet and Computer Shopper.
When About.com recently named its top five books on Beginning Digital Photography, occupying the number one and two slots were Busch’s Digital Photography All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies, and Mastering Digital Photography. His 80 other books published since 1983 include bestsellers like The Nikon D70 Digital Field Guide, The Official Hewlett-Packard Scanner Handbook, and Digital Photography For Dummies Quick Reference.
Busch earned top category honors in the Computer Press Awards the first two years they were given (for Sorry About the Explosion and Secrets of MacPaint, MacWrite, and MacDraw), and later served as Master of Ceremonies for the awards.
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Read an Excerpt

Digital SLR Cameras & Photography For Dummies


By David D. Busch

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7645-9803-1


Chapter One

The Digital SLR Difference

In This Chapter

* Discovering why digital SLRs are the next big thing

* Finding out how your shoot will change - big time!

* Exploring dSLR advantages

* Looking at downsides? What downsides?

Today, the digital SLR (or dSLR) has become such a hot item among people who take pictures that virtually everyone, including your grandmother, probably knows that SLR stands for single lens reflex. However, your Nana - or you for that matter - might not know precisely what single lens reflex means. It's a camera (film or digital) that uses a marvelous system of mirrors and/or prisms to provide bright, clear optical viewing of the image you're about to take - through the same lens that is used to take the picture.

The key thing to know is that a dSLR is a very cool tool for taking photos electronically.

Welcome to the chapter that tells you exactly how smart you were when you decided to upgrade from whatever you were using previously to the future of digital photography. You find out how a digital SLR will transform the way you take and make pictures, why the strengths of the dSLR are important to you, and why the few downsides really don't matter. Getting in on the ground floor is great, and I tell you why.

dSLR: dNext Great Digital Camera

If you've already made the jump to a digital SLR, you've discovered that the dSLR lets you take pictures the way they were meant to be taken. After using other film or digital cameras, anyone interested in taking professional-looking photos notices why dSLRs stand out:

  •   You can view a big, bright image that represents (almost) exactly what you'll see in the final picture. No peering through a tiny window at a miniature version of your subject. No squinting to compose your image on an LCD viewfinder that washes out in bright sunlight. Nor do you have to wonder whether you've chopped off the top of someone's head or guess how much of your image is in sharp focus.
  •   A dSLR responds to an itchy trigger finger almost instantly. Forget about pressing the shutter release and then waiting a second or two before the camera decides to snap off the shot. Unlike most point-and-shoot digital cameras, dSLRs can crank out shots as fast as you can press the button.
  •   You have the freedom to switch among lenses - such as an all-purpose zoom lens, a super-wide angle lens, an extra-long telephoto lens, a close-up lens, or other specialized optic - quicker than you can say 170-500mm F5-6.3 APO Aspherical AutoFocus Telephoto Zoomexpialidocious. (Best of all, you don't even have to know what that tongue-twister of a name means!)

Just be prepared to succumb to lens lust, a strange malady that strikes all owners of dSLRs sooner or later. Before you know it, you'll find yourself convinced you must have optical goodies like the lens shown in Figure 1-1, a telephoto macro lens that's absolutely essential (you'll think) for taking photos of butterflies from enough of a distance to avoid scaring the timid creatures away.

If you're ready to say sayonara to film, adios to poorly exposed and poorly composed pictures, and auf Wiedersehen to cameras with sluggardly performance, it's time to get started.

The sections that follow (as well as other chapters in this part) introduce you to the technical advantages of the digital SLR and how to use the dSLR's features to their fullest. When you're ready to expand your photographic horizons even farther, Parts II, III, and IV help you master the basics of digital photography, go beyond the basics to conquer the mysteries of photo arenas such as action, flash, and portrait photography, and then discover how you can fine-tune your images, organizing them for sharing and printing.

Improving Your Photography with a dSLR

The differences between digital SLRs and the camera you were using before you saw the light will depend on where you're coming from. If your most recent camera was a point-and-shoot digital model, you know the advantages of being able to review your photos on an LCD an instant after you took them, and you also know the benefits of fine-tuning them in an image editor. If you're switching to a digital SLR from a film SLR, you are likely a photo enthusiast already and well aware that a single lens reflex offers you extra control over framing, using focus creatively, and choosing lenses to give the best perspective. And, if you're making the huge leap from a point-and-shoot non-SLR film camera to a digital SLR, you're in for some real revelations.

A digital SLR has (almost) all the good stuff available in a lesser digital camera, with some significant advantages that enable you to take your photo endeavors to a new, more glorious level of excellence. Certainly, you can take close-ups or sports photos with any good-quality film or digital camera. Low-light photography, travel pictures, or portraits are all within the capabilities of any camera. But digital SLRs let you capture these kinds of images more quickly, more flexibly, and with more creativity at your fingertips. Best of all (at least for Photoshop slaves), a digital SLR can solve problems that previously required working long hours over a hot keyboard.

Despite the comparisons you can make to other cameras, a digital SLR isn't just a simple upgrade from a conventional film camera or another type of digital camera. A dSLR is very different from a film SLR, too, even though some vendors offer film and dSLRs that look quite a bit alike and share similar exposure metering, automatic focusing, and other electronics. If you look closely, you find that the digital SLR camera is different, and how you use it to take pictures is different.

In the sections that follow, I introduce you to the advanced features and inner workings so that you can begin getting the most out of your dSLR.

Composing shots with a more accurate viewfinder

With non-SLR cameras, what you see isn't always what you get.

Theoretically, the LCD on the back of a point-and-shoot digital camera should show exactly what you'll get in the finished picture. After all, the same sensor that actually captures the photo produces the LCD image. In practice, the LCD might be difficult to view under bright light, and it's so small (a few LCDs are only 1.5 inches diagonally) that you'll feel like you're trying to judge your image by looking at a postage stamp that's gone through the wash a few times.

The view through a non-SLR camera's optical viewfinder is likely to be even worse: tiny, inaccurate enough to make chopping off heads alarmingly easy, and with no information about what's in focus and what is not.

More advanced cameras might use an electronic viewfinder (EVF), which is a second, internal LCD that the user views through a window. EVFs provide a larger image that's formed by the actual light falling on the sensor and can be used in full sunlight without washing out. However, they might not have enough pixels to accurately portray your subject and tend to degenerate into blurred, ghosted images if the camera or subject moves during framing. They also don't work well in low light levels. An EVF is a good compromise, but not as good as a dSLR for previewing an image.

A digital SLR's viewfinder, in contrast, closely duplicates what the sensor will see, even though the image is formed optically and not generated by the sensor itself. It's all done with mirrors (and other reflective surfaces) that bounce the light from the lens to your viewfinder, sampling only a little of the light to measure exposure, color, and focus. As a result, the viewfinder image is usually bigger and brighter - from 75 percent to 95 percent (or more) of life size using a dSLR "normal" lens or zoom position, compared with 25 percent or smaller with a point-and-shoot camera's optical or LCD viewfinder. You see 95 percent of the total area captured, too.

Check out Figure 1-2 and decide which view of your subject you'd rather work with. Even the 2.5-inch LCD on the point-and-shoot model in the upperleft corner is difficult to view in bright light; the electronic viewfinder in the upper-right corner can be fuzzy, making it hard to judge focus. The digital SLR's big bright viewfinder (bottom) is, as Goldilocks would say, just right.

A dSLR shows you approximately what is in sharp focus and what is not (the depth-of-field), either in general terms (all the time) or more precisely when you press a handy button called the depth-of-field preview. Your digital SLR viewing experience is likely to be more pleasant, more accurate, and better suited for your creative endeavors.

Flexing the more powerful sensor

Digital SLR sensors are much bigger than their point-and-shoot camera counterparts, and this gives them a larger area for capturing light and, potentially, much greater sensitivity to lower light levels.

A dSLR's extra sensitivity pays off when you want to

  •   Take pictures in dim light.
  •   Freeze action by using shorter exposure times.
  •   Use smaller lens openings to increase the amount of subject matter that's in sharp focus.

Within the Canon digital camera line alone, you find digital SLRs with 22.2-x-14.8mm to 24-x-36mm sensors (the size of a 35mm film frame). Some of Canon's digital point-and-shoot cameras use a sensor that measures only 7.8 x 5.32mm. Put in terms that make sense to human beings, the dSLR sensors have 8 to 20 times more area than their Lilliputian sensor-mates. Figure 1-3 gives you a better idea of the relative sizes.

If you think of a sensor as a rectangular bucket and the light falling on it as a soft drizzle of rain, you see that the larger buckets are going to collect more drops (or the particles of light called photons) more quickly than the smaller ones. Because a certain minimum number of photons is required to register a picture, a larger sensor can collect the required amount more quickly, making it more sensitive than a smaller sensor under the same conditions.

In photography, the sensitivity to light is measured by using a yardstick called ISO (International Standards Organization). Most point-and-shoot digital cameras have a sensitivity range of about ISO 50 to ISO 100 (at the low end) up to a maximum of ISO 400 (at the high end). Fuji has introduced a compact digicam with its SuperCCD sensor that includes two light-sensitive areas per pixel, and it boasts an ISO 1600 maximum sensitivity, but virtually all other non-SLR cameras top out at ISO 400.

REMEMBER

In contrast, digital SLRs - with their more sensitive sensors - commonly have ISO settings of up to ISO 800. Many are capable of ISO 1600 or even ISO 3200. There's a downside to this extra speed, as you see in the section "Reducing noise in your photos," but in general, the added sensitivity is a boon to people who want to shoot photos in dim light, take action pictures, or need to stretch the amount of depth-of-field available.

Reducing noise in your photos

Noise is that grainy look digital photos sometimes get, usually noticeable as multi-colored speckles most visible in the dark or shadow areas of an image. Although you can sometimes use noise as a creative effect, it's generally a bad thing that destroys detail in your image and might limit how much you can enlarge a photo before the graininess becomes obtrusive.

The most common types of noise are produced at higher sensitivity settings. That's because cameras achieve the loftier ISO numbers by amplifying the original electronic signal, and any background noise present in the signal is multiplied along with the image information. As you see in the Figure 1-4, a relatively low ISO value of 200 produces an image that's virtually free of the noise, but jumping the sensitivity to ISO 1600 produces a lot more noise - even though a person used a digital SLR for both pictures.

REMEMBER

One reason why point-and-shoot digicams rarely have ISO settings beyond ISO 400 is that the noise becomes excessive at higher ratings, sometimes even worse than you see in the lower example at right. However, you can boost the information that the bigger dSLR sensors capture to higher ISO settings with relatively lower overall noise. I've used digital SLRs that had less noise at ISO 800 than some poor-performing point-and-shoots displayed at ISO 100. Obviously, the larger sensors found in dSLRs score another slam-dunk in the noise department and make high ISO ratings feasible when you really, really need them.

Noise doesn't always result simply from using high ISO settings: Long exposures can cause another kind of noise. Although some techniques can reduce the amount of noise present in a photo (as you discover in Chapter 2), by and large, digital SLR cameras are far superior to their non-SLR counterparts when it comes to smooth, noise-free images.

REMEMBER

Thanks to the disparity in size alone, all sensors of a particular resolution are not created equal, and sensors with fewer megapixels might actually be superior to higher-resolution pixel-grabbers. For example, most older 6-megapixel dSLRs produce superior results to the newest 8-megapixel non-SLR digicams. I've seen results from one $3,500 4.3-megapixel pro-level dSLR that run rings around the best images possible from an $800 EVF model with an 8-megapixel sensor. So no matter how many megapixels a point-and-shoot camera's sensor can hoard, that sensor isn't as big as a dSLR's. And when it comes to reducing noise, the size of the sensor is one of the most important factors.

Reclaiming depth-of-field control

Depth-of-field is the range over which components of your image are acceptably sharp. In general, being able to control the amount of depth-of-field is a good thing, because having more or less depth-of-field gives you creative control over what is sharp and what is not. You might prefer to zero in on a specific subject and let everything else remain blurry. Or you might want to have everything in your frame as sharp as possible.

To understand how dSLR cameras give you more control over depth-of-field, you need to understand the three factors that control this range, which I outline in Table 1-1.

Point-and-shoot digital cameras offer very little control over depth-of-field, because, unless you're shooting an extreme close-up (see Factor 1 in Table 1-1), virtually everything is in sharp focus (despite Factor 2). This condition (which can be a bad thing if you're trying to use focus selectively) is due to Factor 3: Non-SLRs use that tiny sensor, which calls for lenses of a much shorter focal length.

So, a point-and-shoot digital camera might have a 7.5mm to 22.5mm 3X zoom lens that provides a slightly wide-angle to slightly telephoto field of view. A digital SLR with the largest (24 x 36mm) sensor might need a 35mm to 105mm zoom to provide the same perspective.

Yet, depth-of-field is dependent on the actual focal length, not the equivalent. So that point-and-shoot camera's lens, even at its longest telephoto position, provides more depth-of-field than the dSLR's same-perspective zoom at its widest angle. So much is in focus with a non-SLR digital camera that, in practice, you have very little control over depth-of-field, except when shooting close-up pictures from very short distances.

Even if you're shooting relatively close with a point-and-shoot camera, as in Figure 1-5, judging and using depth-of-field can be tricky. The house in the background is too sharp, and because this particular digicam didn't have great close-up capabilities, the ice-covered berries in the foreground aren't sharp enough. Shooting the same scene minutes later with a dSLR equipped with a macro lens shows how control over depth-of-field can be used creatively to isolate a subject (see Figure 1-6).

Because of the longer focal lengths mandated by the dSLR's larger sensors, these cameras offer the photographer an important creative tool.

In Chapter 6, I explain depth-of-field in more detail.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Digital SLR Cameras & Photography For Dummies by David D. Busch Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction.

Part I: Digital SLRs and You.

Chapter 1: The Digital SLR Difference.

Chapter 2: Safari Inside a dSLR.

Chapter 3: Tracking the Ideal dSLR.

Chapter 4: Accessorizing Your dSLR.

Part II: Oh, Shoot!

Chapter 5: Taking Control of Your dSLR.

Chapter 6: Mastering the Multi-Lens Reflex.

Chapter 7: Special Features of dSLRs.

Part III: Beyond the Basics.

Chapter 8: Working with RAW and Other Formats.

Chapter 9: Action, Flash, and Other Challenges.

Chapter 10: Composition and dSLRs.

Part IV: Fine-Tuning Your Output.

Chapter 11: Fixing Up Your Images.

Chapter 12: Combining and Reorganizing Your Images.

Chapter 13: Hard Copies Aren’t Hard.

Part V: The Part of Tens.

Chapter 14: Ten Ways to Improve Your dSLR Photography.

Chapter 15: Ten Things You Never Thought of Doing with Your Digital SLR.

Chapter 16: Ten Online Resources for Digital SLR Photography.

Appendix: Glossary.

Index.

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  • Posted May 8, 2010

    Excellent Book for the new Photographer!

    David Busch is an amazing Photographer who has taken his knowledge and put it into this book. If you buy this book and read it, You will learn a ton! You will know your camera and everything you need to know about Photography! Experience is the best teacher, but this book is a great start!!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2011

    Very Good Book

    I did photography during high school and loved it. After high school I got married and had kids. 7 years later I finally got a dSLR. I got this book to help refresh my memory. I loved it!

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