I took photography courses at a local college way back when we used film, remember that? Okay so it wasn't THAT long ago, but I was bummed when the class focused more on the developing of the film than teaching me to use my camera. It left me so confused that I became afraid of the manual setting on my camera for year. Recently I mentioned to you guys that I was done being afraid. I took my camera off auto and have not looked back. Maybe you've noticed my photos have improved, maybe you haven't because I used to use photoshop to brighten every single image I took! I still love photoshop, but I'm amazed that I don't need to edit 90% of the photos I take now! Yay! That means more time in my day, which is always a good thing.
I started out going through some tutorials on different photography blogs trying to learn the basics. I scoured the library and book stores for books that would really break it down to a beginner level. Something that would make all the jargon click in my brain, that "Aha" moment. I found a TON of really great books, but nothing that would really focus on getting started. Breaking down the terms enough for me to really retain the information. FINALLY I came across a photographer who put it all in basic terms, takes your hand, walks you through it, and put it all in one handy little pocket size book for me! Seriously, basics! If your comfortable with knowing what F-stop, ISO, and shutter speed are, how they work, and how to best use them together then your beyond this little guide. But if your just getting started and want to understand these things well enough to retain the information and really build a foundation than let me introduce you to Kristen Duke Photography and...
her site). Kristen suggests that you print it out and bind it so that you can take it along with you while you practice. There are a lot of great images that show you not only the desired result, but the results you get when your settings need to be adjusted. That is what gave me my "Aha" moment. I'm a very visual person, so the examples that show exactly what goes wrong if you do this or that really helped me soak up the information.
If your ready to take your camera off auto with just some really basic knowledge that gives you the foundation to build your skills I really recommend this e-book. It's short (18 pages, including 6 that are strictly photo examples), but well worth the investment and a heck of a lot cheaper than a college course!