I know the feeling. You unboxed your camera and thought that taking pictures would be just about pointing it and clicking the button. Technically – yes, you are right. Creatively – wrong. Taking great, nay even good pictures is understanding what makes a photo standout. That could involve a lot of reading, fiddling around the controls, and of course moving your feet while you take a few thousand pictures to begin with.
You can be sure that quite a few of those pictures will find their way to Flickr. Flickr has been a home for serious photographers, and you will find the best clustered around Flickr Groups. One of the better things about Flickr Groups are the discussions…and of course the photos which you can use to learn the basics of photography. There are an umpteen number of great blogs and websites on photography (try our MakeUseOf Digital Photography Guide too), but Flickr remains that old well-used watering hole for great photographs and tips on how to take them. So, here are eight Flickr Groups that were started around the basic techniques of photography.
Depth of field is one of the more confusing aspects of photography for a beginner in photography. But playing around with it can lead to some creative photos. For instance, using a shallow depth of field, you can give surprising touches to even mundane objects; maybe, a shot of a chess piece focused against a blurry background. By definition, depth of field (DoF) is the range or distance between the nearest and farthest objects that appears acceptably sharp to your camera. This Flickr Group is meant to showcase the use and control of depth of field to achieve a particular result. The discussions are all around using depth of field, aperture, and focal length.
If you are interested in examining the use of shallow depth of field, try the smaller Shallow Depth of Field group.
Long exposure photography if done right creates some ethereal effects when combined with the right kind of landscape or even night shots. You can take it further and dive into light photography as both have the effect of creating motion in what would otherwise would be a static photo. Digital photography gives us a lot of options to experiment with long exposure shots without resorting to the use of neutral density filters. The half-a-million photos in this group take you through some great shots while the discussions could be a good place to get your queries on filters answered.
We continue with out of focus experiments and try out bokeh. Bokeh is a photography technique which renders reflected light out of focus and gives them a soft blurred feel. You would have seen round and blurred points of light in many photographs and could have taken some yourself. Shooting bokeh is something one can try out right out of the box with the appropriate lens. Yes, bokeh has to do with the lens and not much with the camera. If you have a fast lens (with at least an aperture of f/2.8), you can try out some bokehs. On this Flickr Group you can see some examples of good (and bad) bokehs. The group also houses some of the more vibrant discussions around the art.
Just like any other, there are quite a few macro photography groups on Flickr (e.g. Macro Photography). I went with Poor Man’s Macro on this list because it is meant for macro pictures that get taken using anything but a macro lens. That could include extension tubes, close-up filters, reverse mounts, DIY contraptions, and even magnifying glasses. A macro photography beginner can experiment with cheaper alternatives to macro lenses before plonking down the cash for a dedicated macro photography kit.
It is difficult to be absolutely sure, but this black and white photography group is one of the largest on Flickr. You can post your favorite B&W photos here and ask for feedback. A large group is automatically the place for different views and discussions.
Experienced photographers recommend that a 50mm lens should be among the first ones you should have when starting out. Apart from the fact that the f/1.8 lens (e.g. the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II or Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF) is a cheap one, it is a handy lens for everyday photographs. Also, the fixed lens really forces you to move around to get the right shot. For a beginner, that’s an invaluable learning experience. The Original 50mm Group covers photographs taken with a 50mm lens of any brand.
Most of us start out with photography as a hobby. As amateurs it is nice to hang out with like-minded hobbyists on this Flickr Group. In the discussions, you can ask any question on starting out and also share your experiences. For instance, read this interesting thread around — Do you have to explain why you’re carrying a camera?
Own a Nikon? Head here. The Nikon Learning Center is a place for every newbie who is toting a Nikon and wants to catch the tips. This is an official Nikon pool with two resident pro photographers and a couple of Nikon technical managers running the show.
Canon and other camera brands have similar groups around particular models. You can use the Camera Finder to narrow down photos shot with your particular model. Try to drill down further with the kind of lens you are using.
With more than a million groups on Flickr, you can rest assured that you can find a group to join easily, however unique. For instance, a group on sunrises and sunsets. One of the first groups you could join is the one around the make of camera you own. Use the Group Search page to scout them out. Come back and tell us about the ones you find interesting enough as a beginner.