Despite the rise of the smart phone cameras seem to be popular these days. I’ve had loads of people over the last couple of years ask me for my thoughts or advice on what type of camera they should buy, for themselves or for a friend or family member.
Many people seem to think, as I did, that the purchase of a DSLR will have them producing landscapes like Chris Burkard, or that their friends will look like they’ve been photographed by Lara Jade. Conversely people seem to think, even in this age of Mirrorless, Bridge Cameras, and extremely powerful Point-and-Shoots that you must buy a DSLR to make great images.
If only it was that easy, and thank God its not that hard!
My advice for anyone who wants to buy a camera- think first of what it is you want to shoot. Next think of how much equipment and weight you are willing to lug around. Finally- buy something that lets you control ISO, Shutter Speed, and Aperture manually if you wish to do so, and something that allows you to shoot in RAW (more of which later). After that- almost any modern camera is miles ahead of what pros had only a few years ago. If you decide you want to upgrade later, then thats great. If not, then at least you havent invested a bunch of money in a camera shaped book end. If you do buy a camera or are gifted one, then spend your money wisely after that, photography is a hobby in which the lust for new gear is unending- and modern marketing is very clever in convincing us that we NEED that extra 10% of resolution, that extra 50 autofocus points, or that better low light capability.
My Camera is a Fujifilm XT1. It is not a DSLR- although it looks like one. It is neither Canon or Nikon (obviously). It is a mirrorless camera. It is a 4 year old model, and has recently been superceeded by not one but 2 more Fujifilm cameras. Its APSC- not Full Frame (I’m not getting into it- if you come to enjoy photography there will be a queue of people telling you which is better and why). It does not shoot 4K video. It is, in fact, considered to be part of the last generation. This is the last image I made with it:
The point I’m making here is that you don’t need the most up to date camera to make good art, and you don’t need to constantly upgrade your camera.
So What SHOULD you spend your money on?
- You do need equipment. depending on the type of photography you are interested in you will potentially need a tripod, maybe a set of filters, or a proper flash. If you want to photograph sports you will definitely need to invest in a pretty expensive FAST zoom lens. My advice is to buy good stuff, and buy it once- If you buy a €40 tripod I guarantee you’ll be buying another more expensive one later. If you simply cant afford to get the expensive stuff, then my advice is to research, research, research before you pull the trigger- there are bargains out there. Whatever it is that you do buy, dont buy it until your current equipment just doesn’t allow you to achieve what you want to. In the case of some of these items that point will come quickly if you…
- Spend money on education: Look out for classes in local camera clubs; Buy a book that explains the basics of photography (I highly recommend this one) ; Buy and read photography magazines; Watch YouTube videos; Invest in quality tutorials (This one was a revelation to me); Look at what great photographers are doing- social media provides an easy way to follow people like Elia Locardi, Chris Burkard, Lara Jade, Annie Liebovitz, Michael Shainblum, Zach Arias, Lindsey Adler, Ryan Dyar and many more; Get hooked up with great multimedia resources like Improve Photography, or FStoppers. There are so many different ways to learn these days that its reletively easy to find one that suits almost anyone.
- Bite the bullet- Buy Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. At around €10 per month for a subscription to both CC versions (constantly updated and revised) combined its a bargain. Don’t buy the hype on photoshop- in concert wih lightroom it is, once you’ve mastered it, the modern replacement for the old style darkroom. A novice photographer can always shoot in Jpeg and let the camera make decisions on colour/ contrast/ etc. for them. But sooner or later they will want to start making those decisions themselves. If your camera allows you to shoot in RAW, then the image you get will be just that. It will look boring and flat, but it will contain massive amounts of information, all waiting for you to start making decisions about which of that information you want people to see, and how you want them to see it. Lightroom is your way to make the basic global decisions, and photoshop is the way to make precise adjustments thereafter that will really get the very best out of your frame.
Most of all just get out there, shoot. Whether it be on your weekly hike, bringing a camera out to a day with friends, or catching cool lighting on your kids as they play in the park. Shoot as much as you can and really push the boundaries of what your camera can do, then not only will you kow what it is you can do, you’ll know what you can’t do, and you’ll be motivated to go about addressing that in the right way.
I try to use all of the advice above- you can see the results on my website: