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Photography with a Film SLR Camera

I'm trying to learn photography using this Yashica 300 AF camera. Even on the automatic settings, every photo I've taken with it has been terrible. I'm getting a Nikon D40 soon and I currently own a Sony DSC-V1. With an LCD screen, I don't need to learn anything because if it looks right on the screen, then I'm basically good. I want to be a good photographer independent of the LCD. Where do I start? Thanks.

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Your photos are terrible in what way? Poorly focused? Over or under exposed? Poorly composed? The best way I know to learn is to take a basic photography course at your local community college. If you don't want to do that, there are many good books out there that will give you the basics. If you could post a couple of your photos on here, perhaps we could point out where they come up short.
 
+1.
How are they bad?
And a community college course is one of the best ways to learn how to do everything. I would seriously suggest taking a Black and White photography class, because you get to do everything, from start to finish.(develop film, expose photo paper, and develop them too)

Exposure is probably the trickiest to master, because you have to balance movement, with lighting. Low light=long exposure time, which means you cannot have movement.

Composition is easy, at least for shots you do not setup yourself(nature/candid) the basic rule is "one third" Your main focus of the shot should be in 1/3 of the frame, the left, right, top or bottom third.

Like a sunset picture, you want the horizon to be right at the bottom third of the frame. this picture shows it nearly perfect. The waterline is almost 1/3 of the pic, the sun and people are on the left hand third. (huge pic, so doing a link) http://www.travelblog.org/Wallpaper/pix/sunset_wallpaper_brazil-1600x1200.jpg

As for focusing, it's just a matter of getting used to your camera. shoot rolls and rolls of film, and remember what the viewfinder looked like when you shot the picture. Autofocus should be reserved for point and shoot cameras.

Here is my film SLR, it's oldschool, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
I have two telephotos for it, but I want a short lens like the one in the pic for doing some macro/closeup shots.
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The few photos that came out, I threw out already. They were terribly underexposed and very grainy. I might have to take a course. I don't get this camera at all.
 
Does it have a built in light meter?
What ASA film are you using?
If no light meter, you would be well off to get a handheld one.

The community college classes are a blast, you will really enjoy them.
 
Does it have a built in light meter?
What ASA film are you using?
If no light meter, you would be well off to get a handheld one.

The community college classes are a blast, you will really enjoy them.
I believe it has a light meter because there is a auto exposure setting. Actually, that's the setting I was using when I took the these bad photos.

I was using 200 film for the purpose of testing my photos. I didn't think I needed more because I thought I had plenty of lighting.

How are you developing the film, Telly?

I use CVS.
 
Without seeing the pix...your built-in meter probably averages all the light in the scene. So if there is a lot of brightly lit sky, everything else is going to come out under exposed. There are several ways to avoid that, depending on your particular camera. Or, on a sunny day you can ignore the meter and use the old "sunny 16" rule; set your shutter speed as near as possible to the ISO of your film...for example, for ISO 200 film set the shutter speed to 1/250, and the aperture to F16. If your subject is in the shade, open the aperture one or two stops to F11 or F8. Works quite well.
 
I believe it has a light meter because there is a auto exposure setting. Actually, that's the setting I was using when I took the these bad photos.

I was using 200 film for the purpose of testing my photos. I didn't think I needed more because I thought I had plenty of lighting.



I use CVS.

Sorry it took me so long to get back here. Are you shooting in color or in black and white?
 
I just got a course caatalog from my local community college district. They don't even offer film photography classes anymore! But they have a class on Photoshop. Damn! I guess film photography is as much a disappearing art as barbershop shaves.
 
Sorry it took me so long to get back here. Are you shooting in color or in black and white?

I shoot in color.
I just got a course caatalog from my local community college district. They don't even offer film photography classes anymore! But they have a class on Photoshop. Damn! I guess film photography is as much a disappearing art as barbershop shaves.

My local state college offers a bunch of courses. Due to time constraints, I won't be taken any right now but it's nice to know they're available.
 
I took an introductory photography course at a community college a few years ago, not because I thought I would learn much from a beginner's class but just to get access to their excellent darkroom facilities. To save time, I would develop my film at home in a little Yankee Clipper tank so when I got to school I could spend all my time just enlarging and printing. A real bargain for the price of the course. And I did pick up some good info in the classroom sessions after all.
 
A good way to learn the basics of exposure with film is to shoot slide film. It's cheaper, and it gives you immediate feedback as to whether you are over or underexposing your shots. It's the closest thing to "what you shoot is what you get" in learning photographic technique. If you are off by one stop, it's immediately clear to you by looking at a slide. Negative film has a greater exposure range, and a good developer/printer can make a fine print from a mediocre negative.

A couple of good books helped me to get a handle on the basics. John Shaw's "Nature Photography" explained the basics of camera controls in an easily understandable way, and Brian Peterson's "Understanding Exposure" reinforces Shaw's insight and adds some more nuances. Both are published by Amphoto, I think, and are still available on the market.

Don
 
Personally, I would set that camera aside and pick up an old 4x5 crown or speed graphic and shoot real B&W film. You don't need anything other than a basic lens (around 127 or 135 mm) and a wide selection of filters. Something simple to use like an HP Combi-tank and a couple of inexpensive developers.

I say this for a reason. You would be surprised how much you will learn about color when shooting B&W film (I know it sounds counter-intuitive but it is true) and the large format allows you to easily view the negative with a simple light box (even a home made one) and you will quickly learn the art of proper lighting and the effects and drawbacks of improper lighting.

One other advantage of shooting large format is that you will gain the ability to process your film differently for each shot if need be, and begin to understand the whole photographic process in a much more intuitive fashion. Why process film differently for each shot you ask, well I will give you an example; first few shots on a typical roll of film are shot outdoors and with good lighting, next couple are shot indoors with a flash, but in those shots you would like some of the background to be as visible as possible, finally you finish the roll with some indoor shots with flash but don't care about the background and the subject is at greater range. Well, you will more or less be stuck with following the film speed of the roll and suffering for most of the flash shots, and in particular the first ones in the example, or processing with a compensating developer (something that should be a deliberate decision before shooting the shots) and making the middle group come out great, or lastly using either a "push" process or a developer that naturally increases the film speed (again a decision made before making the shot) and improving the overall indoor experience but not helping the middle group much at all, and if that decision is made after shooting the first few shots, more or less ruining them (those first few that is.) This sounds more complex than it really is. But with sheet film, you get to choose the film, developer and method of development for EACH shot, thereby greatly improving your options, and perhaps more importantly, developing a greater understanding of the subtle nuances of photography.

It really does not matter if you never get great shots with this setup, as long as you end up learning more about photography and light. Digital makes too many corrections for you to effectively and simply learn what you are doing, and while it will correct many errors for you, often you will be getting less than spectacular results and not understand the reasons for them, or will be wanting some effect that you remember from some other picture and have absolutely no idea on how to go about even starting to gain that effect, because you will have never learned in the first place. Or perhaps you have some idea, but the camera will be fighting you to take it's idea of the "ideal" shot, and not your idea of the intended shot.

Yes, you can learn a lot of this with roll film, and I assume with the camera you already have (as long as it has manual settings) but a simple digital camera would be my choice for going crazy with hundreds of shots to improve things like composition (no cost per shot as long as you use the display on the camera and or your monitor to view the shots) leaving film as a medium for discovering light and exposure, but the versatility of lighting and exposure options will have to be made on a "per roll" basis with a 35mm camera, whereas simply on a "shot for shot" basis with the aforementioned large format camera.

Film is quickly going the way of the dodo and digital is finally of suitable quality to meet or exceed it for most folks and even for more demanding applications, but digital is in my opinion an unsuitable medium for easily learning exposure and light. Think of it this way, setting aside all the known disadvantages of cartridge shaving and assuming for the sake of argument that a cartridge razor would give a great shave. If you start with a cartridge razor, with all of it's pivoting head and other whiz bang features you would be hard pressed to learn about beard grain patterns, reduction and lather techniques. Although you can learn them, it would be a battle that would come at a high cost in time, as you would have a hard time understanding just what you did differently each time to achieve better results. With a DE razor, you quickly learn at the very least what not to do. With a straight you get to understand everything, and achieve the feedback fairly quickly at that. In the previous example think of the cartridge as digital, the DE as roll film and canned goo, and the straight as large format with a brush. Yes, you can successfully go from any one to a different one, but if you started with a straight, you would quickly learn "how" to shave, and then, armed with that knowledge could know how to effectively use the cartridge system to full advantage (not that you would want to in this case, but I think you get the idea)

My two cents, YMMV

Bob
 
Telly,
Did you set your camera for the 200 speed film? I think some cameras set the film speed automatically, I'm not sure. The film cameras I own from the fifties and eighties, you need to tell the camera the film speed. Other wise the light meter wont meter correctly.
As other posters has said its all about composition, and exposure. The composition is were the art is, and the "correct" exposure is mostly tenchnec.
Forget the auto programs and get a decent used incident light meter. An incident light meter (unlike the meter in your camera) is for measuring the light falling on the subject. A reflective (like the one in your camera) light meter measures light reflected off the subject with no regard of the "tone" of the subject. In other words the reflective meter thinks everything is a medium gray (Black and white, most meters don't see in color). So that nice snowy landscape you take a picture of turns out under exposed (gray) and that picture of a black cat sitting on a black background comes out over exposed (gray) because the meter thinks everything is gray to begin with. Thats two extreme examples were the built-in light meter will let you down. Thats were an incident meter will work. The incident meter will only meter the light falling on the subject with no regard to the tone of the subject. IF you insist on using the cameras meter understand the limitations of it, then you can compensate. For example in the snow scene you would know that the cameras meter is going to underexpose it (because it "thinks/assumes" the snow is gray, like everything it sees), so you meter it with the cameras meter, the go to manual control and increase the exposure. Still with me? Good. Exposure is dependent on three things. One is the film speed. Second is the F-stop, or size of the aperture. Third is the shutter speed. The F-stop is numbered inversely from largest to smallest aperture opening. So, if your lens has a F-stop range of 2~32 then 2 is the largest opening, and 32 would be the smallest. Remember when you go from one F-stop to the next your letting in twice, or half the light. Similarly when you change the shutter speed from one speed to the one next to it, the shutter opens for twice, or half the time. What I mean is if you go from 60 to 30 your going from 1/60 sec. to 1/30 sec.that the shutter is open (twice as long). If you go from 30 to 60 the shutter is open for half the time.
So to increase the exposure you can increase the time, or open up the aperture (go to a smaller F-stop number).
This might seem overwhelming at first. Photography is a deep subject, and it takes a long time to get your head around it. At least it has for me. Thirty five years and counting. Search on-line for tutorials. There are many. Stick with it and you'll find it a very rewarding past time. Good luck.
BTW I think you will like the D40 its a good camera, but remember its the indian, not the bow.
 
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A lot of great info here. Thanks, guys. At this point, I'm going to pull back on my photography. I don't have the time to delve into it right now as much as I would like.
 
My two cents, YMMV

Bob

Sorry, Bob. That's the easiest way to have a person who doesn't want to become a pro to quit photography totally. If one wants to learn about light, exposure, DOF or anything else a digital camera will do fine. Just use manual exposure, manual focus and an external meter. The instant feedback is invaluable. The first good camera I used was a Crown Graphic in 1962. I still have and use a Sinar 4x5, Hassey, Rollei and Mamiya 6X6 to 6X7 and many Nikon and Leica film and digital cameras. I also still develop by own film. The D40 or D60 should be fine.

Len
 
Telly,
Did you set your camera for the 200 speed film? I think some cameras set the film speed automatically, I.

That was my first thought. But the Yashica 300 AF has DX coded sensors to automatically set the film ISO. I suppose the sensors could be dirty or bad. The easiest way to find out is to compare the exposure with another camera.

Don't give up on photography. The D40 will work just great. Put it in fully auto mode and it will change everything for you to suit the current light conditions. If you exceed the auto mode in low light the flash will automatically pop up.
I know a pro in NYC that freelances for the NY Times and he uses this camera in auto mode all the time. Although this is not his only camera many photos from this camera get published in the Sunday Times every week.

Len
 
Don't know much about the new Yashicas, only one I have is a Mat124. But do you have an instruction book? Might find the answer there as it is hard to diagnose without being there.

Did you buy the camera used? ASA 200 film should not be grainy so maybe you were shooting in an area that needed a faster film. Or the elctric eye may be off.

Like a few others I would recommend buying a more basic camera to start. There are a lot of older SLRs bu Canon, Yashica, Nikon or pentax floating around EBay for little money. Find one that is working and shoot away. You will have a matchneedle for exposure and the focus, speed and aperature is up to you.Most of us started that way and it is a learning experience. I personally like my Canon T70 as it is lightweight and has some advanced features, although it does have a manual setting.
 
While you knowledgable guys are here...I recently spent about six hundred bucks for a digital SLR, it was an impulse purchase, and I am kind of regretting it because I find it very hard to let go of film photography. After playing around with everything from a Crown Graphic to a little 35mm rangefinder, I more or less settled in on 2 1/4 as my favorite format. I own a couple of TLR's (Yashicamat and an old Ciroflex, and a Mamiya 6x7) but seldom use them anymore because of the expense of commercial processing of color, and the totally inability to find a processor that does decent B&W processing. I can't have a darkroom anymore because of space constraints. I figure if I could develop my own negs in a tank and a changing bag, then scan the negs into a computer I would have the best of best worlds. Finally to my question: does anyone make a scanner for medium format negatives? And are they any good?
 
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