Why is it something you have to learn? Because unfortunately, great photos a better camera does not make.
A common question: What camera should I buy?
Every other week, if not more often, I get asked by a friend, or a friend of a friend, or a mere acquaintance on Facebook what type of camera to buy. I guess it goes with the territory of being a professional photographer — everyone assumes we will know what will best fit their needs. Because answering this question honestly is actually something that takes time, I decided to write a blog post to which I can refer people to when the topic comes up.
I really do wish I had enough time to do one-on-one consultations with everyone who is looking to get their feet wet with dSLRs. But it’s just not possible, especially because technology is constantly changing, and I would have to continually be doing research to stay in-the-know with products that would be the best for those just starting out. So don’t be offended if I’ve sent you here instead of conversing with you personally. I, of course, encourage people to learn more and more about photography because the more you know, the more you will value good photography. That’s a wonderful thing for this industry!
The first thing you must know, if you do want to hear the answer to the question, is that my knowledge about photography doesn’t translate to knowledge about every camera out on the market. In fact, I pretty much only truly know the cameras I shoot with, and if you’re asking ME advice on which camera to buy, I think it can be safely assumed that you’re not ready to purchase the same cameras I use.
This means that if you’re in the market for a point-and-shoot camera, I cannot help you in anyway.
If it is a dSLR camera you’re looking to buy, you know—“a good camera” (a phrase I have heard so many times)—then this post is for you. Not sure what the difference between a point-and-shoot camera and dSLR is? Read this.
So if you’re still thinking you’re “ready to buy a good camera that will take nice pictures,” then I applaud your desire to learn more.
LEARN? What? That’s right, you will have to LEARN something in order to get those nice pictures out of a good camera.
As a whole, dSLRs do take better photos than say, Powershots, in terms of clarity and saturation. But, owning a dSLR will not pave the way for you to suddenly improve your photography skills–composition, depth of field, being ready for the right moment, coaching out emotions when needed, etc.
I won’t go on a tangent here about what it takes to actually harness the art of photography. But I will say that if you do not want to learn and master concepts such as shutter speed, aperature and ISO, you might want to stick with that point-and-shoot. So many times, I have heard the story about someone ponying up the $700-900 to buy that entry-level dSLR and then they never use it because all of the features are intimidating.
Yes, you can put your settings on AUTOMATIC and fire away. But please know, that 85 percent of your photos will most likely still look like snapshots. Especially if you’re not going to be shooting in perfect lighting because your flash will automatically go off.
Are you intrigued by the challenge of learning the various ways you can manipulate what a photo looks like? Then I will be the first to cheer you on. Take classes through your community center. Read books or scour online resources to learn the technicalities. Every other professional photographer had to start somewhere. I myself took a photography class in college and learned to shoot on slide film. The eye for a good photo might be natural, but knowing how to use a tool that does something with that eye is an acquired skill.
I should warn you… if and when you DO fully “get” how to adjust your f-stop or why you would need to amp up your ISO but at the same time increase your shutter speed, you will realize you probably want a different lens (because you will soon outgrow the capabilities of the lens that comes with the camera, or any lens you can most likely afford at this starting off point). And then you might want a new camera body. And then you can officially welcome yourself to your new hobby-turned-expensive-passion.
Ok, ok, so you’re still with me, so that means you’re interested enough to upgrade your point-and-shoot. You WANT to fiddle with settings and not just turn on the camera and go. You’re ready to marry THINKING with SEEING for the art of MAKING.
Then yes, you need a dSLR!!! But which one? I mean, afterall, that was your original question! My suggestion? Do research. I do not know anything about Nikon cameras because I am a Canon shooter. But you can’t go wrong with either of those brands–both are bastions in the quality camera category.
Here is a site that might be very helpful in walking you through how to determine which dSLR is right for you.
I myself started out with a Canon Rebel XTI. Rebels are affordable, prosumer cameras. Some of my favorite images ever were taken with this lil’ guy. (In the end, the limited ISO capabilities, the cropped censor, the slow FPS and other factors required me to upgrade.)
This site here is a WONDERFUL resource for digital camera reviews.
Again, you’ll want to make sure you’re looking at reviews of the latest models as after awhile, models become obsolete. Here are Canon’s current models and MSRPs.
Bottom line is: if you are truly contemplating spending a good sum of money on that “better” camera, please do yourself a favor and learn how to use it. It’s the one holding the camera, not the camera itself, that makes beautiful imagery.
Happy camera hunting!