Tag Archives: learn

eBook Review: Photo Nuts and Bolts

Photography is just like every other skill — it requires three things: 1) a basic understanding of the fundamentals, 2) lots of practice, and 3) some raw talent (and maybe a little luck). Books won’t help you much with the last two, but they’re perfect for the first one.

Photo Nuts and Bolts: Know Your Camera and Take Better Photos is a book that focuses on the fundamental theories and mechanics of the camera. So this goes way back to the very nature of light and the tools we use to capture it.

Aimed at the beginner to intermediate dSLR user, the book steps through the foundations of modern photography. Understanding your camera and the light it captures is the basis of solid photography and is essential to more advanced topics.

You can purchase Photo Nuts and Bolts from digital Photography School. Links in this post are affiliate links to the product — It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but I get a cut of the sale.


Photo Nuts and Bolts is a 64 page downloadable eBook containing 10 lessons in the fundamental theories and mechanics of photography. The three column layout and minimalistic formatting make this book easy on the eyes and a pleasure to read. Supporting photos and diagrams are scattered throughout as needed, but are not overbearing in their presence. Each lesson is approximately three to four pages long, making them a moderately quick read.

The 10 lessons in this book are very concise and to the point (I’m particularly impressed because I’m a rambler). The material is presented as introductory reading for the given topic. While it does go into details, it will leave the reader with a basic understanding and a thirst for more. The last page of each lesson helps quench that thirst with homework challenges, additional resources to various websites and web articles, and questions/answers and comments from fellow photographers on the given topic.

The flow of the book is fairly important, and I would suggest reading the lessons in order since they build on each other. We start off with a few lessons in light and optics, followed by exposure controls, and finishing up with additional camera controls. The end of the book also has a glossary of the basic terms used throughout the book.

As a bonus for the launch of the book (1 week only), you’ll receive a one page pocket guide intended to print out, fold up, and… stick in your pocket. This little guide gives you some general camera settings that may be useful for 10 different situations (outdoor sunshine, outdoor dusk, indoor action, indoor low-light, etc.).


Neil Creek is a fellow photography enthusiast that decided to take a shot at the professional side of things a few years ago. He’s been doing well photographing, teaching courses, and writing for the digital Photography School. I’ve known Neil for some years now, and his enthusiasm for the art of photography has only grown each day. The writing in this eBook reflects his high level of understanding in the technical and mechanical/optical aspects of photography.


This is a good solid book that teaches the foundations of photography in a concise and meaningful fashion. And even if you’re somewhat familiar with the topics, there are a lot of background and theory details presented that you don’t typically see outside of textbooks.

Readers of the digital Photography School blog will notice that many of the lessons in the book have been published in the past months. So why buy the book? A lot of stuff has been reworked and touched up in these articles. Plus, the last two chapters are completely new. It’s also handy to have everything in consecutive order and in one package so you can quickly reference the topics at any time.

I would suggest this book for beginner/intermediate photographers wanting to gain a better understanding of their equipment (the dSLR in particular). If you’re struggling with concepts like exposure controls, lens controls, light metering, white balance, and other fundamentals, this book should straighten you out.

You can purchase Photo Nuts and Bolts for $19.97 just for this first week for an undetermined time period, after which point it will return to the regular price of $29. Plus, the pocket guide is only available for the first week purchases, so grab it soon!

Trading Cards for Strobists!

Strobist Trading Cards, Vol. 1

I’m a self-admitted non-Strobist — “fake” light scares me when it comes to photography, and I haven’t yet taken the initiative to learn my way out of this phobia. So anything that can bring lighting techniques down to my level is welcomed with enthusiasm. I’m fairly certain that these trading cards from Zeke Kamm and David Hobby are the best way to reach (and teach) people like myself.

What’s that? Trading cards? Yup — bite sized gold nuggets of wisdom! These guys put together a pack of 24 cards (same size as baseball cards) with amazing photos on one side and lighting diagrams on the other. This is a great way to teach the subject — one example, one diagram, and one explanation. Each card displays a unique setup with unique results.

The really cool thing about the cards is that they cover a wide variety of setups. We’ve got everything from strobes, softboxes, gobos, umbrellas, flashlights, gels, bounce cards, natural light, and lights from the hardware store! The cards not only show you what equipment you need, but how to position it to achieve the effect displayed on the opposite side of the card. This is super-handy because positioning is just as important as the actual equipment.

Sample Card 1-0 Sample Card 1-1

The images on the cards mainly cover subjects such as portraits, still life, product, and food photography. But they even include a few macro, landscape, and various other topics. Hey, if nothing else, the photos are pretty amazing by themselves!

Sample Card 2-1 Sample Card 2-0

I would recommend this deck of cards to any photographer wanting to learn about “Strobist” techniques in a simple and straightforward manner. You basically get 24 different lighting lessons for less than $1 each. Not a bad deal! Visit the following link to get your own set!


Disclaimer: Zeke sent me a pack of the cards at no charge for the purpose of reviewing them and providing feedback. I was not payed for this review and I’m not in any way affiliated with the product owners or distributors. I just think they’re dang cool!

My Weakest Area of Photography

My Weakest Link

In my “What Should I Write About” poll, Neil Creek asked me what my weakest area of photography is and how I plan to improve it. That’s a pretty deep question, and it really made me think about my photos and what I’m trying to convey.

Picking out your own strong points may be a difficult task, but picking out your own weak points is near impossible. I would expect people to fall into one of two camps on this: too self critical, or not critical enough. I’m actually having a hard time narrowing my weak spots down to one, so I’ll break this discussion into two parts: technical and artistic.


This one is actually easy for me to identify because every time I encounter it I dread having to deal with it. I’m talking about the dreaded off camera artificial lighting (flashes, strobes, studio lights, etc). I’m very much a natural light photographer, but I encounter situations that could benefit from a better understanding of lighting techniques and equipment.

Part of what’s holding me back is the fact that off camera lighting requires equipment. Buying that equipment requires knowledge and understanding of how it works and what it can do. Using that equipment requires an even deeper understanding of how it works and how to control it.


First of all, I need some equipment. Right now I have one slave flash, but I’d like to get something that offers a little more control and flexibility. I’d like to have a one or two light setup that can be taken out in the field if needed. I like the idea of things like soft boxes, umbrellas, reflectors, etc, but I’m not sure which ones would be most useful in a wider array of applications. I’m open to taking suggestions from those of you who know more about this stuff than I do.

While I save up some money for that equipment (which means I’ll have to stop buying new film cameras), I suppose I could brush up on my Strobist education. I’ve also been following Jim Talkington and his lighting videos lately, which are actually getting me more interested in the concept of off-camera lighting.

Once I’ve done my research and acquired my equipment, it’s just a matter of practice practice practice.


This one is a little harder to define for me. I think the biggest thing I’d like to improve upon is my ability to capture and convey the emotion of a scene. Do you ever come across those photos that strike you emotionally? You know, the stuff that really hits you, makes you ponder life, stirs your emotions, and conveys a message.

In looking back at my own work, I can see little bits and pieces of this sort of thing, but not on a consistent basis and not at full force. Many times, I attribute these types of shots to dumb luck. Often times, while viewing a particular scene, I can feel a certain emotion due to my surroundings. I have a mental vision of how I’d like to capture that scene, but I often fall short of telling the whole story the way I saw it with my eyes. Am I making any sense here?


I think this sort of thing is something that comes with lots of time and even more practice. I’ve been heavy into photography for a relatively short time when compared to the old masters. I’m sure that their ability to convey emotion was something that had to develop over time. So I guess I’ll just keep shooting and see what happens.

One other thing I’ve noticed is that my photos of people seem to have a stronger emotional connection than those without. Not that it’s impossible to create a striking image without the presence of people, but I think we naturally have a stronger connection to people shots. Including people in my photos (whether it’s portraits, candids, or street photography) is something I’ve been trying to do more of lately. I’m at a stage where I’m getting comfortable with candids and street photography, but I’d like to progress to a point of getting a little more intimate with the subjects and making a connection with the camera.


What is your weakest aspect of photography? Is it something technical? Or is it something more artistic? And what do you plan to do to improve yourself in this area? Please do share your thoughts on this one — I’m sure many of us have the same weaknesses and aspirations as photographers.

What Should I Write About?

This week, rather than use the typical poll format to ask a typical question, I’m going to turn the tables and have you ask me a question or lend a suggestion for future article topics.

The fancy little widget you see here (probably not visible to feed readers) can take your questions or suggestions while also counting votes. So if you see something on the list that you want to learn about, vote for it! If you don’t, just click the “What Should I Write About” headline and you can enter your topic for others to vote on.

I can’t promise that I’ll get to every question or suggestion, but the more votes something has, the more likely I’ll get to it quickly.

And remember to check in on the results from last week’s poll that posed the question “Ballhead or Panhead?” when it comes to your tripod. I’ll give you a hint… over twice as many prefer a ballhead over a panhead. Also, don’t forget to check out the comments from the other readers — they make some good points for both sides of the argument.

Getting Down to Business

So I’m sure many of you have already heard about Chase Jarvis offering up a spot at the ASMP Strictly Business 2 seminar in Chicago April 11-13. But if you haven’t, here’s an excerpt from the seminar website:

ASMP’s Strictly Business 2 is a weekend conference that will teach you real-world business skills and help you thrive in our highly competitive industry. SB2 brings you consultations, lectures, video presentations, a keynote address, workshops, hands-on negotiating training, and social gatherings to share and learn from your peers. This weekend will change the way you look at your business — join us.


On that official entry page, Chase has laid out the rules for nominations. He’s looking for a name, website, and a 100 word max blurb about why that person should be chosen to attend. Self nominations are perfectly acceptable. So get over there and nominate yourself or your favorite upcoming photographer!

Who did I nominate? I thought about nominating myself, but my vote went to my buddy Jim Goldstein. So at this point, I don’t have any nominations or votes for myself.

If any of you would like to nominate me for the trip (so I can pursue turning this photography thing into a career), I’d be perfectly OK with that. ;)