I’ve just treated myself – by means of borrowed money – to a digital SLR, an Olympus E500; an excellent camera.
Browsing the Web, looking for information and opinion, I had a long-standing prejudice reinforced in no uncertain terms – with occasional exceptions, digital photographers seem to know bugger all about the basics of photography, and no matter how many bells and whistles your camera has, ignorance of the fundamentals will always give crap results.
This is a fairly typical example. A guy on a forum was wanting to know why his pics were blurred and his camera giving him mysterious messages (RTFM, pal!). His lens, he said, was set to infinity. How far away is your subject, asked a helpful reader (just before losing the will to live, I suspect). Oh, 8 to 10 feet.
OK – think about that; this pillock was snapping something within spitting distance, with a focus setting he could have used to photograph the moon! I mean, how stupid do you have to be not to know what “infinity” means, and how inappropriate it is to something 10 feet away?
Luckily, I started in photography, in my teens, with just a camera and the instruction sheet that you got with rolls of film for setting the exposure, which was remarkably accurate. I then graduated to using a lightmeter and, eventually, via a series of SLRs and compacts of varying degrees of sophistication, to my first digital camera six years ago (this represents a period of 40 years or so), so it presented no photography-related problems at all – I just needed to learn the technology.
These days, apparently, people are happy to buy an often vastly expensive digital and, starting from a position of total photographic ignorance, proceed to take terrible photos and to blame their camera when they don’t get the desired results. These numpties should be prevented, by law, from buying anything more complex than a Box Brownie – and they’d probably cock that up!!
By the way, RTFM = Read The Fucking Manual! Something almost no-one does and almost everyone should. Why? Well film cameras have three basic controls – focus, lens aperture and shutter speed (with maybe zoom as well. OK, many had a lot more settings, but they were just variations on the theme of the basic 3 or 4. Digital cameras have many more controls – sometimes hundreds more – my auto-focus Minolta 35mm SLR has a 44-page manual, in comparison, the manual for my new digital SLR runs to 216 pages, so while such a tome may be daunting, it is essential that you familiarise yourself with it (the first thing I did, even before my camera arrives, was to download a copy). Before taking any pic that actually matter, I’m going to play with it for a while, photographing anything and everything, to get the feel of it and familiarise myself with at least some of its controls. This, of course, is much easier than with film, as even the crappiest photos cost money to develop and print, but with digital you can just delete the rubbish, but not, I would suggest, before uploading them to your computer, to see what you did wrong. And don’t blame the camera for your errors – they don’t make mistakes, any more than computers do (assuming neither has a fault). People do.