What's the most important thing a photographer needs to take great portraits? Is it a camera that produces extremely high-resolution images? Expensive lenses? Sophisticated lighting equipment?
None of the above, according to writer and photographer Philip Greenspun. "The most important thing about portrait photography is an interest in your subject," he said.
If you don't know anything about your subjects or you don't care about them, "then don't take their photos," or at least "don't expect those photos to be good," noted Greenspun on the photo.net Web site (http://photo.net).
The Web is a great source of advice for people who want their photos to be good. Many sites offer tips on how to improve images and how to find a way through the bewildering world of photographic equipment available today.
But the current assortment of online photography sites is itself a bewildering world. Yahoo!' s main photography section (http://dir.yahoo.com/Arts/Visual_Arts/Photography) has thousands of resources in subcategories that range from Astrophotography to Zone System. Here are a few sites that may be good places to start a foray into photography.
Resources for Beginners
Yahoo! offers a Photographer's Resources subcategory (http://dir.yahoo.com/Arts/Visual_Arts/Photography/Photo graphers_Resources) that lists several sites with basic information. For instance, there's a link to the Taking Great Pictures section of the Kodak site (http://www.kodak.com/US/en/nav/takingPics.shtml), which offers information for beginners on shooting, printing, and sharing photos with both digital and film cameras.
To learn some quick, easy ways to improve your images, read the site's Top 10 Tips for Great Pictures. You even can use "online cameras"-mini applications that simulate the functions of a camera-to practice your technique. For example, one online camera lets you practice locking focus so you can move a subject to the side of an image for a more aesthetically pleasing composition.
Another site that lets you practice with simulated cameras is Photonhead.com (http://www.Photonhead.com). It offers SimCams that help you understand how the shutter and aperture work together, how film speed affects your pictures, and how to avoid camera shake.
Photonhead.com offers many other resources as well, including a Beginner's Guide to Photography, a Digital Camera Buying Guide, a collection of photography tips, and a section on photo editing.
Join a Learning Community
Greenspun launched photo.net in 1995 as a showcase for his photography and travel writing. According to an online note, the site is designed as a "photography learning community, in which more experienced photographers, both avid amateurs and professionals, provide mutual support."
photo.net offers galleries and forums in which members contribute images and advice. "[I]t is common to find contributors on the site who are now experts but who first visited the site years ago to ask beginner questions," according to the site's media kit.
The site also offers sections called Equipment, Learn, and Travel. Together, they contain more than 3,300 articles and reviews. Topics in the Learn section cover a wide range of specialized types of photography, including underwater, nature, architecture, streets, macro, concerts, nudes, ruins, star trails, and sports. There's even a section devoted to framing.
Much photography writing is highly technical; some is downright dull. But the articles in photo.net's Learn section-mostly written by Greenspun-are lively while still offering genuinely helpful howto information illustrated with plenty of example photos.
photo.net is one of the most popular photography sites on the Web. Digital Photography Review (http://dpreview.com) is another site that gets plenty of traffic, with news and reviews of the latest cameras and accessories. You also will find a buyer's guide, a gallery that shows shots taken with specific cameras, active discussion forums, a glossary, and a large database of digital camera features and specifications. …