Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Photo Lesson #1: Choosing a Camera

I really can’t justify boring you to death with my history as a photographer… if you are reading this it is because you want to learn how to take better photographs and not have to rely on overpriced uncreative portrait studios… however… if you happen to be interested in my background you can click HERE and read about me as a photographer as well as my FAQ. Otherwise, read on for what you came here for…

"So is it you or is it the camera?"
That is probably the most common question that I’m asked when it comes to my photography and not to throw random maybe-true-maybe-not statistics out there, but I would say 90% of the time that I’m ask this, I have my camera slung over my shoulder. I have a fairly large DSLR camera, my favorite lens and the one I use most often is fairly long, and I keep my flash attached at all times which make it look even bigger and fancier. If not into photography, I can see how one would think that a large expensive camera has some sort of magical power to take incredible photographs effortlessly, but, unfortunately, it’s not true.
So when people ask me if it’s me or the camera I tell them this…
A camera is a tool. It is an eye that saves the image you see… it does not point itself, it does not find its subject, it does not bring out a subjects personality… it has no creative ability on its own.
That is the photographer’s job.
So while I wouldn’t be much of a photographer without a camera, it is me who is responsible for the images I produce.
This answer is usually followed up by this question…

"So do I need a big expensive camera to take nice photos??"
Based on my answer for the first question, no, but that doesn't mean you wouldn't benefit from a DSLR camera.
All cameras have their gimmicks… some make sense… some, however, do not. While I chose to buy a camera with lots of knobs, button, and dials which do a variety of things, I do not use all of them. I don’t believe in spending a bunch of money for something you won’t use. I’ve taken plenty of nice photographs with my Sony Point and Shoot.
When my daughter was born, my Canon was in the shop being cleaned, so all I had was my little Sony and those photos came out just fine. Now if you have the money to buy a nice DSLR camera then by all means, do it! They feel great in your hand!
But if you are like me, you don't have a grand or more laying around begging to be spent. So...
Use the one you have for now - make it work. Look for a used DSLR Camera. Save your money up. Ask your family for one for your birthday.
Most camera companies put out a new version of their popular DSLR camera every year or two. I can’t even tell you how ridiculous that is. I shoot with a Canon 30D that I bought about 4 years ago. I’ve not upgraded because there really is no need. It still serves its purpose. So when you find a camera you like, look for the model they made 2-3 years ago and get that one. Look online…You’d be amazed at how much the cost of a camera goes down once the "new version" comes out.
Some features I find to be important…
*Auto focus lens… because when you are chasing a toddler around with a camera the last thing you want to worry about is focusing yourself!
*Auto everything else… don’t make it hard on yourself… make that camera earn its keep! Most cameras have a dial with options to take portraits, landscapes, night shots, movies, and auto in general. If you are interested in learning how to work a manual camera then get one with the option of switching from manual or automatic. (DSLR cameras all have this option) I personally flip flop between manual and automatic depending on what I'm shooting.
*Stabilizer… the mega pixels of cameras are so high now a days that most cameras are coming standard with a stabilizer, even the point and shoot cameras. This option keeps your photos from becoming blurry with normal involuntary movement of the hands while taking photos.
*8-12 mega pixels for the best looking photos. My camera is 12 and that is PLENTY big enough.
*Rechargeable battery… unless of course, you like spending tons of money batteries. Cameras are battery murderers, so you are better off getting one with a battery pack.
*As far as additional lenses and flashes.. Don't worry about those quite yet. You need to learn to work what you have before adding additional worry and weight.

So, finally, what camera do I recommend?
Well I’m a Canon user. It’s what I shoot with now.
My very first camera was a 35mm film camera made by Minolta from the early 1980’s that my dad gave me. I loved that camera. It finally broke and those old cameras are more expensive to fix than to just buy a new one.
So I then used a 35mm Canon Rebel. Loved it!
When going digital, I tried out a lot of different cameras and researched for weeks. Because I was familiar with Canon, I bought another. I highly recommend Canons. Other than needing a good cleaning once in awhile, I’ve never had any problems with it and they are easy to use.
I actually would recommend the Canon Rebel DSLR for those starting out. It’s a decent price and just a good overall piece of equipment. I’ve never owned a Digital Canon Rebel, but have used one, and the picture quality is great.
But I can’t tell you what camera to go buy, I can only give you what I recommend and some advice when looking for a camera. Go out to your local electronics store and try some out. Whether it is Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Sony, Pentax... whatever you choose to shoot with, it’s ultimately the way you use it. That it why I am here… I’ll do my best to help you learn how to use that camera and take pictures that you might have normally spent a few hundred dollars to have.
If you already have your camera, great! Otherwise, go out and find one! (See my suggestions at the bottom of the page)
What I would like to do along with my tips and tricks is to provide "photo assignments." I’ll show you how I achieved a certain look in one of my own photos and get you guys to go out and "reproduce" the photo or give you guys a theme to stick to for a photo shoot. Once you get a few images, email them to me and I’ll post a few as examples! I want you to be involved as much as possible.
Any other suggestions or things you would like to see/learn, email me and let me know! This is for your benefit and I want you to get the most out of it that you can! I’m not going to pack you full of photo lingo or technical aspects of photography… I’m going to keep it simple. I’m also not going to teach you how to be a professional photographer either. It takes years to develop the skills to make a living.  This is for fun, and to help you and your family, or to develop a hobby.

So here we go.

PHOTO ASSIGNMENT: New Years Resolution
With the New Year right around the corner - you are bound to have some resolutions bouncing around in your head. Submit a photograph that best represents your New Years Resolution along with a short description! Submit your photos and description to eviemakes3@gmail.com to have them featured on the blog. If you don't know how to watermark, let me know and I'll watermark your photo for you with your name or initials. All images must be in by January 3, 2011 at noon if you'd like them to be considered for the blog.

Next time: Photo lesson #2 - Photo Editing Programs

My camera recommendations:

Nikon D3000 10.2MP Digital SLR Camera with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S DX VR Nikkor Zoom Lens

Canon Rebel XS 10.1MP Digital SLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens (Black)

Olympus Evolt E620 12.3MP Live MOS Digital SLR Camera with Image Stabilization and 2.7 inch Swivel LCD w/ 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 and 40-150mm f/4.0-5.6 ED Zuiko Lenses

Sony Alpha A330L 10.2 MP Digital SLR Camera with Super SteadyShot INSIDE Image Stabilization and 18-55mm Lens

And this Olympus is incredible!  A little old school mixed with new.  If I had that extra money laying around - I'd totally buy it!
Olympus PEN E-PL1 12.3MP Live MOS Micro Four Thirds Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera with 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Zuiko Digital Zoom Lens (Black)


Bonnie said...

I JUST bought the PEN E-PL1 last night! I'm so excited to start using it! I was actually reading thinking please say the PEN, please say then PEN, and then you did!

Bonnie said...

I should probably add that I got it at Staples for only $400 if anyone else is interested. Woot!

Klove said...

Very cool...I have to start thinking of a resolution. XOXO

Matt & Kelly said...

Bonnie - I'm Jelous.. of course, I want the 2... which is like a grand... which is why I'll never get it. But I tried it out and its awesome, I think you'll really like it!

Klove - only 3 days until the New Year.. no pressure or anything.

Becky said...

I just wanted to say thanks so much for doing this! I just had a baby girl in August and have been trying to perfect my picture-taking skills of her! We live in Belgium and I have a lot of spare time on my hands so I am really looking forward to participating in your "assingments" once we get a camera!

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