Articles about shooting portraits

What Camera should I get? Part IV (and final)

A couple of weeks ago I started composing my first ever blog post. After I sat down and looked at what I had written I saw a long boring, uninteresting article that lacked any quality at all. At that point I was asking myself what I was getting into. I had just started a blog and dang it, I needed content.

The reason was that I glazed over important topics. When I started re-writing with my girlfriend/editor looking at each article, I took her suggestions and the article got longer; a lot longer. Those edits became the previous posts. This is where I wanted to be: DSLRs.

With DSLRs there are many manufacturers. We can discuss the greatness of each, but why? All that will do is create more ‘camera wars’ (for those that are not familiar, camera wars are much like computer wars. PC or Mac? Nikon or Canon or Sony or Pentax or…? Same fight, same result; none.

For the most part I am going to mention Nikon or Canon because that is what I know the most about. The fact remains that when you get to this level of equipment you are spending a large amount of money. Will they take better pictures for you? Not for you no. But if you take the time to learn how to use the equipment and what it can do, you will have the opportunity to take better pictures.

When you get a DSLR system you are getting just that, an entire system. That brings us back to that question again; “What are you going to photograph?” Also another question comes to mind: Do you have some old Nikon or Canon lenses lying around? Will they work with a new camera body? If those lenses are less than 25-30 years old there is a good chance they may. There is also a good chance that even though they will work, they will do so only in manual mode or at least not give you access to all the features of your new digital SLR.

The true question comes down to not what camera body you buy, it comes down to what lenses. After all you will change camera bodies over and over again throughout your lifetime. And usually when you buy into a system you tend to stick with it. You could change over to another system frequently if your last name is Gates and your father is in the software business.

Camera bodies are the brains of a system; well, the one other than yours. Like yours and my brain they get smarter. But unlike us, cameras don’t just look at a scene and say “hey, I shot this last time at F11 and you know I probably should have used F32”. Well they don’t do that yet anyway. That is your input. The camera only knows how to calculate the scene before it in a certain way unless you tell it not to. What also makes the camera see a scene differently is the lens. Each lens sees every scene in its own way. That is why there are so many different lenses, so you the photographer can interpret the scene the way you want the viewer to see it, not how the camera wants to see it.

Although lenses are dumb, they cost a lot of money! They see a scene in one way. The only change is by the setting you make on that lens, but F22 or F11 or F2.8 is always going to require a certain amount of light at ISO X and an exposure of Y. That never changes. Lenses are dumb. But good lenses see that scene exactly the same way every time the same way and at the same settings. Always. It is what you can count on. It’s what they do and they may not do anything else, but they do that and they do it well.

Remember, the manufacturer is going to come out with the new and improved camera next year that is just so much smarter and can do so much for you that you just have to have the newest, best, most current camera out there! After all it’s the new and improved version, right? That is why the lenses are the most important investment you will make, because you only want to make it once.

To get you started on your journey, take a look at these two sites; http://dpreview.com/ and http://www.steves-digicams.com. These two sites have more information than I can swallow in one sitting. They both are independent and have great information about almost all cameras out there. You can do a Google search on ‘camera reviews’ and you will get 73,200,000 hits. These two are the first three for a reason.

That wraps up “What Camera should I get?”

Until next time, Happy Shooting!

What Camera should I get? Part III

Ah yes, the wonderful mystery of the megapixel. Cameras come in all sizes, and all amounts of megapixels. So how much do you need? Is ‘more’ better? Size does count, but not the way you think. If you are printing just the standard 4×6 inch (10×15 cm), almost all cameras will be fine; the standard is fast becoming about 5mp (megapixels). You can get up to 34mp for about $35,000 if you want it, but do you need it? Probably not. You can print up to an 8×10 inch photo with little or no pixel distortion (depending on the subject of the shot, maybe a little larger).

The question actually comes down to the size of the sensor, not how many megapixels. If you want to print larger than 8×10 you want to consider more pixels, but if you want to print sharper at any size you want to go with a bigger sensor.

Image Sensors

In this image you see two representations of sensors. One is for Point & Shoot cameras and the larger is to represent DSLRs.Now they even make what is called a full frame sensor. The full frame sensor is the same size as the old 35mm film negative. The point is that if you project an image on both of the sensors shown, you can imagine that it is going to be reproduced in better detail with a larger sensor simply because it captures more color information. The more information your camera has to work with the sharper the image. So it’s true! Bigger is better!

This is a very simple explanation and overview, but it gives you the idea, no matter what she tells you that size does matter!

In part IV of the series I will get deeper into DSLRs and what to consider when buying a ‘system’.

Until then, Happy Shooting!
“Magick” Michael

What Camera should I get? Part II

In my last post I wrote about the first three questions you needed to ask yourself when thinking about what camera to buy.

Cost or what can I afford.
Types of images or what am I going to photograph.
Convenience or how do I want the camera to work.

When looking at cost you have to first estimate how long you think you will have your camera. Back when I got my first camera, a Kodak Instamatic 104, everyone assumed the technology was so advanced that you could keep using it for 10 or more years. With today’s technology it seems like something new comes out every 6 months! Are you going to want the next greatest thing? Perhaps you are willing to buy “old” technology, you know something that came out last Holiday Season? (Even if you’re reading this in January)

If you are willing to get a camera that came out just 6 months ago, you can probably find a heck of a deal! With websites like www.amazon.com, www.ebay.com or even Fred’s local camera shop there are great deals everywhere.

Let’s think about what types of images you want to capture. If you are going to be taking pictures of your new puppy, do you want to have to change lenses? Chances are that you may not have time to switch lenses when the puppy is doing something that is just so cute (like peeing on your mother in-law’s new fur coat). However if you are going to be trying to photograph your nephew’s football game from the second level of the stadium you may need to have that reach of a strong telephoto lens. Also consider the differences between landscapes and portraits, or snapshots of the family reunion and street photography.

This leads us to convenience. If you want the puppy peeing, it may be best to have a camera that you can carry in your pocket, the standard point and shoot type camera. In many cases it is in one way, inconvenient to have to switch lenses. Then again, it’s more than inconvenient to miss that great play when your nephew wins the game for his team. With a little planning, switching lenses can be worth that little extra effort.

If after asking yourself these questions you have decided to go with the point and shoot type camera, it’s now just a matter of what features you want or need. If so, keep in mind the utmost important thing when it comes to all cameras: zoom.

In the point and shoot category manufacturers make cameras that have optical zoom and digital zoom. Digital zoom is the biggest marketing ploy there ever was, well other than the cube flashes for that Instamatic I mentioned earlier. Digital zoom is just the act of cropping an image. Cutting it down so that what you see is just the part of the image you wanted to ‘zoom’ in to. You can do the same thing in Photoshop or some other photo editing software. Always opt for optical zoom.

In the next part of our series: a brief overview of the all mighty megapixels and what you need to know about them.

Until then, Happy Shooting!

“Magick” Michael

What Camera should I get? Part I

As a professional photographer I am often approached by someone asking me, “What camera should I get?” or “I saw this camera on sale. Is it a good deal?” Well that depends on a lot of things. Certainly you aren’t going to buy a DSLR for an 8 year old! But then does the average 30 year old even want a DSLR or even a prosumer (one step below pro but above consumer) camera? To decide what camera is best for you, you need to ask yourself a few questions.

The very first question you want to ask is, “How much do I want to spend can I spend without my partner freaking out?” The amount you spend isn’t as important as it used to be. Cameras are coming down in price and yet adding features that didn’t even exist 15 years ago.

The next question is what types of images do you want to capture? It’s doubtful you are going to shoot a professional sporting event for the evening paper with a point and shoot. It’s not that it can’t be done, but it is much more likely the editor is going to want either more or better shots than you can get with a pocket camera.

The last of the big three questions is a matter of convenience. Well, actually, the question itself is convenience! Do you want to carry a bulkier, but more flexible, SLR and multiple lenses around with you or do you want something that fits in your pocket or purse? (If you say fits in my fanny pack, leave. Close this browser window and go watch the fashion channel. When you learn why that is a horrible thought, come back and finish reading.)

In future posts I will address each of these questions in greater depth. By the end of the series you will have a better understanding of what to look for in a camera and possibly even know what camera you want! While you’re waiting for the next post, check out my images on http://www.magickmichael.com. See if you can figure out which camera I used for each.

“Magick” Michael