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Where to start?


Have been a casual, perhaps hobbyist, shutterbug for a long time. Never put much effort into learning much of anything beyond full auto point and shoot. Been messing around with some of the manual settings...and having a lot more fun. Decided I wanted to buy editing software. Contacted Corel, was told that After Shot Pro 3 was compatible with my wasn't.  Bought Lightroom. Just as in the past I feel very overwhelmed....biting off more than I can chew. 

Unlike the past I am not going to pack the camera away and forget about it. Looking for advice on educating myself. Right from the beginning...say a photography for dummies type of thing lol...

Ok...perhaps not THAT entry level. 

Any suggestions?


@inkjunkie wrote:

Pretty sure I know the answer but going to ask anyway...why the f/2.8 version of the 70-200mm? Simply that much faster than f/4 version? 


Have started my online training. Have realized that I have been looking at several things from the wrong perspective. In short I have realized that I need to remove my cranium from my rectum and take a few breaths.  

Have a ton of questions about my particular camera, but I want to see if I can figure them out simply by learning more about things in general. 

The f/2.8 lets in twice the amount of light as the f/4.  It is one stop faster. It also gives you better bokeh at f/2.8 compared to f/4.   On the reverse side, it is almost twice as big and heavy and costs more money.  Choose your poison :).


I think the key to success is to realize what you didn't know or know what you knew was wrong.  You are well on your way to success :).

Diverhank's photos on Flickr

@inkjunkie wrote:

Pretty sure I know the answer but going to ask anyway...why the f/2.8 version of the 70-200mm?  

Because it is mad, crazy sharp!  The camera body was a full frame 6D Mark II.


EOS 6D Mark II2017_09_240460.jpg


Shot with a 

"The right mouse button is your friend."

To those that suggested the EF 70-200 f/2.8...most sincerest of Thanks. Got the lens yesterday. Mounted it on my T7i. First picture I took. I shoot RAW/JPEG, for now. This was the first shot I took. Mita, one of our Redbone Coonhounds. Yes, she really is this dark. This is the JPEG out of the camera...FB_IMG_1509465145908.jpg

You can be satisfied to know you got the best lens there is in that range.  If it doesn't do it for, nothing else will either.

EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!

"... don't see the point of buying a less expensive zoom lenses only to move up to the better lenses when my skill improves..."


I suppose there is logic to that.  Big zoom lenses and all-in-one lenses are the poorest on the IQ scale there is.  Keep that in mind.  It is far better to have two or three lenses than one lens that covers the same range.  Plus all-in-one zooms thend to be slow and variable aperture types.  Again not a plus.


I would limit yourself to one of these...

EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM (the white one, not the black one)

EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM (new version is better) 

Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 for Canon (G2 model)


...and if you insist on that everything lens get this one...

EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM (white one)


Still the bottom line and where the rubber meets to road, I mean dragstrip, is post editing.  You must learn how!  Not a choice if you want the best.



EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!

@inkjunkie wrote:

Should have stated that I am trying to avoid buying several lenses, don't see the point of buying a less expensive zoom lenses only to move up to the better lenses when my skill improves...if that makes sense..,

You have already stated that Lightroom was a bit over whelming, so use Canon’s DPP for a week, or a thousand photos, so that you can wrap your head around the basic concepts and terminology associated with photo post processing.  

LENSES.  You mentioned an interest in a all-in-one zoom, I forget the model, that ranged from wide angle to near super telephoto.  Those lenses are great for lesser cameras,  Your T7i will mercilessly reveal the design compromises that have to made to achieve a 10:1 zoom range.  The best zooms have a zoom range of 4:1, or less.

Which brings up the next issue to consider.  You seemed to indicate that you have an EF-S 18-135mm lens.  Those are pretty good lenses for walking around like a tourist.  But, do you need a zooom that duplicates the short end of that range?  Your choice of the EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L is a good one for action photography.  Don’t invest in an extender, though, because I suspect that your images will beccome either to noisy, due to a high shutter speed, or to blurry due to too slow of a shutter speed..

The only problem that I see with the 100-400 is that you would not have a FAST lens.  A fast lens will be very useful on those overcast days, or even shooting at twilight, or even at night.  For that reason, I would suggest the same EF 70-200 f/2.8L II IS USM that time Tim suggested.  You can get the 100-400 at a later date.  You could even use a 1.4x III extender with it.  But, not the 2.0x III with your T7i., which I think would be a bad match for the same reasons I listed above.  

Also, when you use an extender, you loose AF points.  I think your T7i would still have 27 available AF points, arranged as three rows of nine, but your ISO would have to be set too high for you use faster shutter speeds.  I think the constant f/2.8 zoom and a 1.4x III extender is as far as you want to go, and stick with a Canon extender, too.

"The right mouse button is your friend."

Looks like my reply vanished....hmmm...Need to start using my laptop instead of my tablet, looks like I hit the cancel button.
I do have a few questions. Need to exercise first...

I did sign up for an online class...not sure it is the right one for me but...


@inkjunkie wrote:


Unlike the past I am not going to pack the camera away and forget about it. Looking for advice on educating myself. Right from the beginning...say a photography for dummies type of thing lol...

Ok...perhaps not THAT entry level. 

Any suggestions?

Where to start?   Your question is quite encompassing...there are too many options out there. My 4 options are:


1. The best I think is paid lessons (online and/or college). Not all can afford it or willing to pay.

2. Just as good or even better is to join a photography club that also offers lessons for members at a nominal fee.

3. Youtube has lots of how to videos...while some are not so good, most materials, I find, are excellent.

4. Go to the library to check out photography books and start reading.  When I run into a book I really like, I'd buy one for myself from a store or from Amazon


I have done all 4 of the above so I recommend that you do the same.  Option # 2 is imho the best option but even that alone is not enough.  Learning is one thing but you have to be doing for each lesson, you have to go out and take pictures.  I like option 2 and option 1 best because you will get feedbacks on your photos...some instructors are brutally honest and try to tear your work apart figuratively.  Check your pride at the door and learn...that's how you will improve.  I've seen a few thin-skinned students who got mad and quit - big loss on their part.  Method 3 and 4 lack a feedback mechanism and should be used as supplemental means only.

Diverhank's photos on Flickr


A few good books are:


1)  Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson

2)  As an alternative to #1, some people prefer The Digital Photography Book, Part 1 (it's a series and I think it's now up to 5 books) by Scott Kelby.  

3)  The Photographer's Eye:  Composition & Design for Better Digital Photography by Michael Freeman

4)  Speedliter's Handbook by Syl Arena (this book is very good, but is specific to understanding the Canon ETTL system -- though it does have many good tips on effective use of flash photography... it is nuanced toward Canon's system.)

5)  Light Science & Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting by Fil Hunter, Steven Bifer, and Paul Fuqua


#1 and #2 are very commonly recommended to new photographers as they teach the basics in plain language that doesn't require special expertise or previous experience to understand.  It isn't just collecting the right amount of light for the exposure... but how your camera collects it that will influence the result (will you have a tack-sharp subject with a blurred background?  Will you have relatively sharp focus of everything in the image?  Will you freeze action to a moment in time?  Will you deliberately blur action to imply motion in the shot?  Etc. and how to know which approach to take to get the creative results you want.


The Scott Kelby book (#2 on the list) is an alternative... some people prefer the way one author writes vs. the other.  But the Scott Kelby book is the first in a long series.


I always recommend #3 ... once you understand the basics (in #1 or #2).  This book doesn't tell you how to adjust camera settings... it teaches you how to recognize elements in the scene that make for good photography.  


#4 and #5 are both about use of flash.  Good lighting has a huge influence on your images.  These books teach you how to control the flash for much better light, get the flash off the camera so that you can not only control the highlights, but also the use of shadows.  Lighting probably wields more influence over the look of an image than the choice of lenses.




So back to post processing software...


Lightroom is the most popular software used (by far).  But what's probably stumping you is that you aren't sure what to do when you open Lightroom.  You probably want to watch some tutorial videos.  


Canon's Digital Photo Professional (DPP) comes with your camera (it's free to you) and it's designed to let you adjust your RAW images (you could adjust any image, but it's optimized to deal with Canon's RAW files).  But you do edit these files one at a time.


Lightroom is not just a RAW processing program... it's also a Digital Asset Manager (DAM) program.  If you do a lot of shooting and you aren't organized, you may have photos all over your hard drive and you might struggle to find them.  Lightroom starts with it's "Library" module which controls how it imports and stores the original files and allows you to sort them into "collections" (think of collections like a photo album for a theme or event, etc.)  For example, I professional wedding photographer probably has a "collection" for each wedding or each client.  I have some common locations that I like to go to shoot so I have  "collections" for those locations (each time I go to that same location I typically add the images to the same collection).  It also allows you to do keywording of your images to make it possible to search them quickly.  It lets you rank your images.  So you can do searches such as finding all the shots taken with a particular camera & lens that you ranked 5 stars and are portrait shots.  When you have tens of thousands of images... being able to do fast searches is really handy.


It's also a RAW workflow and image adjustment program.  


When you shoot an image using JPEG, the camera does a lot of processing on that image (in the camera) before it saves the image to the memory card.  A JPEG typically gets "white balance" applied (to deal with the color cast of the light); some de-noising probably occurs if you shot at high ISO; some sharpening probably occurs around edges; a color style is applied, etc.  


When you shoot using RAW, none of this happens (even though most images need some adjustment).  But JPEG is a "lossy" storage type which means subtle differences from pixel to pixel will be dropped to make the image compress better for storage.  If you then later try to adjust the image, you usually find that some detail was lost in the compression (and you can't recover it -- hence the name "lossy").  RAW images don't discard or adjust data - you get everything the sensor saw.


Programs like DPP and Lightroom let you apply all those things that JPEG would have applied automatically... but since RAW isn't "lossy", it is VASTLY better for post processing / adjustment.  You can recover far more detail in your images as you work on them.





So your question about "where to start" is answered by two things... (1) is probably some tutorials in how to use lightroom ... but the other thing to learn is (2) what are all the common adjustment types and why would you use them?


The answer to #2 is that once you take a photo, it will look a LOT better once you process it (take it through the post-processing workflow).   


Here's an example:




This is a before/after comparison... the 'before' is basically how it came out of the camera.  You can see it's a bit washed out, there's some clutter on the left side of the frame... I cropped it, I adjusted the "white balance" (it looks a bit cold with a slight 'blue' color cast based on the clouds), I checked and adjusted the 'white' and 'black' points in the image to improve contrast.  I adjusted the tone-curve for the image which further 'stretches' the contrast (instead of this image having an fairly flat gray-ish look... you can see the output is a bit more dramatic with both brighter and darker areas instead of mostly just middle-gray areas).  Some sharpening was applied (which you probably can't see in this tiny sizes but do show up in a full size image) and there's even a bit of vignette adjustment do darken the outer areas of the frame and bring attention toward the center.


Anyway... this is the general idea of what is meant by "post processing" ... you're taking your original data and tweaking it to get a result more to your liking.  If you try to do this with a JPEG image, you'll find lots of issues because JPEG scrapped lots of original data.  This is why most serious photographers shoot RAW.


Programs like Photoshop can do this (but Lightroom is faster at THIS type of editing) but Photoshop will let you go beyond reality... you can insert elements into a photo that weren't really there (e.g. add some people, remove something from the background, etc.)  Photoshop will let you apply effects (create blur where something wasn't really blurred, etc.)    Photoshop lets you do the sorts of things a graphic artist might do (beyond photography.)  


I do use Photoshop... but only very rarely ... probably more than 98% of what I do with photos can be handled with Lightroom.



One of the other cool things about Lightroom is that if you take a lot of images in the same lighting with the same camera, etc. then there are probably a lot of adjustments that should be made to the entire set of images.  In Lightroom you can "sync" your adjustments... adjust one image ... then select a range of images and tell it to "sync".  Lightroom will open a panel showing check-boxes for each adjustment type (e.g. "white balance" would be one checkbox).  You can decide which kinds of adjustments you want to sync and when you perform this, those edits will be applied to EVERY image in the range you selected... this really speeds things along when you are working with a lot of images.



Tim Campbell
5D III, 5D IV, 60Da