New Camera Tips

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Break out that new camera!

So you got that shiny new camera you’ve always been hinting at for Christmas. But for the past few weeks, you’ve only been able to use the automatic mode and your photos don’t look any better than when you take them on your phone (or perhaps..worse). What gives right?? This is a DSLR camera! It should crush the photos I take on my phone! UGH!!

Well, first off, you should invest some time in reading that heavily worded manual you got with your camera. The things you should intially start learning about are the three elements of a good exposure for your new DSLR. Shutter speed, aperture and ISO. In the simplest of terms:

1. Shutter speed controls how “fast” the camera takes your picture.
2. Aperture controls how much “light” is let into the camera.
3. ISO controls how “sensitive” the sensor will be to that light.

All three have to marry up to give you a properly exposed image. If your shutter speed is too slow, you get blurry pictures. Is your aperture setting off? You’ll get over or under exposed images. And if your ISO isn’t set correctly, you’ll also get over or under exposed images. I digress but I felt it prudent to at least give you those three elements of a properly exposed image before moving on to equipment.

So the camera you probably got came with a “kit” lens. A lens that Canon, Nikon, etc bundle with the camera body to allow you to take images right out of the box. Now for most, including myself way back when, the kit lens allowed me to learn about the elements I mentioned above. But soon after, I was looking to upgrade my lenses to better grade glass and quality.

Thus starts todays lesson… When it comes to camera equipment, I would highly recommend researching your gear and springing for higher quality glass and gear that you can afford. Allow me to use one of several examples from my own photographic history…

When I was looking into upgrading my lenses, I wound up buying glass that was less than what I felt I wanted to take the type of images I was looking for. The end result was that I sold those lenses on places like Ebay or privately and lost money in the process. A LOT of money. Had I researched what I wanted a little bit better and maybe waited until I could afford the exact lens I wanted, I wouldn’t have been out the hundreds of dollars in the end. This holds true for anything you want to buy that will afford you taking the images you want. Tripods, ballheads, straps, hotshoe flashes, etc all fall into this lesson. As I progressed down this journey of becoming a better photographer, I learned that I wound up saving a lot of money by spending a bit more on better quality gear. As crazy as that sounds, I did the math.

For example, lets say I wind up purchasing a lesser quality lens for $500. I read the reviews, believed this was the lens but knew in the back of my mind that I was more impulse buying than anything. But the lens served a purpose right now. Fast forward a couple of months. The lens stays in my camera bag or just winds up not doing what I really need it to do. As I’m perusing the inter-webs, I find THE LENS! Holy crap! Where was this lens a couple of months ago?!? The lens costs $700 though. So, I sell the older lens for say, $300 and then buy the newer, better quality lens for the list price of $700. So… do the math right?

That example is one of many I’ve learned over the years. Now it goes without saying that in some cases, this is unavoidable. No argument there. But on the whole, my advice is to always take a pause when looking at a new piece of gear to improve your photography. Learn, read, research and most of all, reach out to friends or family that might have more experience photographing. Worst case, reach out on blogs, message boards for advice. That method is free and typically yields quite a bit of solid advice from people that do this for a living.

As you embark on what I hope is a wonderful journey documenting family events and just taking images that you can be proud of, that journey will be better experienced with the right gear. In my humble opinion, there are snapshots and there are truly wonderful images that people look at with admiration. The personal satisfaction of learning this craft and creating images that you can look back on with pride is why you asked for the higher end camera in the first place right? So go forth and shoot those images!

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