For you guys that have been into it for a while it's not hard. For beginners looking at books and illustrations online it's different. Sometimes the pictures you see don't even show the breast, or the angle doesn't show the little variation in color down the center of the head or the color in the printed page is bad.
I'm new to birding and I'm new to this forum. I have always been taught that the only dumb question is the one that you don't ask till it's too late. Maybe that doesn't apply here?
You are absolutely right about the dumb questions are the ones not asked. I sometimes look at an obviuos bird and have to do a double take to confirm the ID.This forum is full of informative people and most are very very nice and willing to help ID birds. A couple may come off as arrogant but take it with a grain of salt. I am fairly new myself, and sparrows are very difficult for me. They are little brown birds. Don't get discouraged keep asking questions. In my opinion if you don't have a field guide, get one with drawings and not pictures because like you said the pictures don't normally show all the angles on the bird, whereas an illustration typically shows the distinguishing characteristics of the bird in question.