Right around the holidays last year, just about everyone I know bought or received a camera. No, these weren't the point & shoot variety (hey we have our iPhones for that right?). These were DSLR‘s or digital SLR's. The excitement over opening the camera was palpable. I know because I received several emails soon after asking me … “So, I got a DSLR, but my images still suck. Why?”
My first response was always, “did you read the manual?” The silence at the other end was quite telling. Most of us, I know fail to read our manuals. When I bought my first Nikon DSLR, which I believe was the D70, I don't remember diving into the manual either. On the one side, there is a new toy to play with and on the other, my ego was saying to me: “Yeah, I can figure this out. No problem.” That's until I started seeing images I'd be ashamed to show my mom.
So, if the manual is way too daunting, or even boring, what do you do? Until today, you could have scoured the interwebs and patched together a bunch of the info that may have helped elevate your game. That too is time consuming and unless you are nuts about photography or pursuing as a professional, chances are slim you would be inclined to curate that information, digest it and then deploy it on your next go around with your DSLR.
Rob & Lauren Lim, the duo behind Photography Concentrate, have just published Extremely Essential Camera Skills. I was one of the few lucky ones to receive a review copy gratis. Having seen some of their earlier tutorials – Photo Editing Skills and Album Design Skills, I knew this one was going to be special.
Think of Extremely Essential Camera Skills as the foundational course you forgot to take when you started experimenting with your camera. It's exquisitely designed – consistent with their other tutorials and extremely engaging website (which you must bookmark). When you open up the PDF, you are presented with a set of colorful tabs for the different chapters such as: The Camera, Focusing, Exposure, Lenses, Depth of Field and Camera Settings. I found the built-in navigation to be very helpful as it makes it easy to skip pages or navigate back to the ones you want to read again.
Unlike other tutorials that teach but fail to train, what I loved about Rob & Lauren's latest offering is that they are serious about making sure you get the concepts they have just taught before moving on to the next chapter. They do this through tips, exercises, videos (more on this in a bit) and pop quizzes. Though it is incredibly thorough, Extremely Essential Camera Skills is not a read it and forget it kind of manual. The lessons you will learn, each one at your own pace, will stick with you for a lifetime. The definitions and demonstrations are easy to understand and absorb.
As a professional, most of the concepts were familiar to me. But that's only because I use my camera every day, so it does become intuitive. Having a guide like Extremely Essential Camera Skills will help you get to that point where you too can easily make images you are proud to show your family and friends.
If there was one area where I could see the authors develop more content, it's the section on using an alternative to that pesky flash that everyone insists on deploying. To their credit they do say this: “The built-in flash on cameras generally sucks.” So true. May we see a sequel to this guide that will dwell on off-camera flash? I hope so, but I do believe this guide will lay the foundation for better images using flash. So, I do urge you to get this one first.
The 7 videos by Lauren are fantastic. Her even, conversational tone and excellent examples helped me better understand the concept behind exposure compensation. So, the take aways are many. With Rob & Lauren's permission, I am considering using this guide book for photographers (I really don't want to call it a manual) in the beginning photography class I teach high schoolers. Yes, it's that good and it is perfectly fitted to meet the demands of amateurs and semi-professionals too.
As I have already stated, I received a review copy Extremely Essential Camera Skills and loved it. If you are struggling to use your DSLR, this guide book will help you get comfortable. For the next two weeks starting today, Rob & Lauren are offering a launch sale. You can get Extremely Essential Camera Skills for $29.97, that's 40% off the regular price of $49.99. In addition to the 89-page PDF and videos which you can view on your computer or your iPad, you will receive the Extremely Essential Camera Skills Field Guide, which you can print and tote around while you are photographing.
Full disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive a commission on the sale of this PDF to support Tiffinbox. If you enjoy the content on this site, I ask that you use the links in this post to buy Extremely Essential Camera Skills. Thank you!