How to Pick the Right Camera for You
For a long time, my DSLR sat on a shelf above my desk collecting dust. It's happened to me many times before. I take up a new interest or hobby and become really passionate about it. Then my investment suddenly stops, and I need to step away for a while, a week, a month, even a year sometimes. I quickly burn out of inspiration. As I'm becoming older, I am finding new ways to keep that passion alive. That's how I was with knitting; I've technically been knitting for three years, but it was only this past November that I actually made anything, when we started selling our hand knit baby bonnets. Now I can't seem to stop, even though I take little breaks here and there. Well, my camera became a victim of the non-inspirational-hobbies-pile. I didn't mean for it to be. I take photos every day, but with my iPhone. I thought that when Tad was born, I would enjoy taking photos of him. Before I had him, I spent a lot of time experimenting with photography and, first, taking a good friend's senior photos and then quickly clients' photos. When Tad came along, I hated all of the photos I took of him with my DSLR. My iPhone was easily accessible, ready at all times, not a pain to click through settings, and I could edit and post on the spot.
About a week ago, I picked up the DSLR again. My Canon EOS Rebel T5i. I had gotten it the Christmas before Tad was born. Before that, I shot on a Nikon D90, a present we had originally gotten for my mom when I was still in grade school. She wanted a better camera to capture action shots when I was in dance competitions. I used that baby for eight long years, my first camera, the first one I ever experimented with.
I picked up my Canon, and I started shooting, soon reacquainting myself with the body, lens, settings, and my outlook on the world through the viewfinder. I captured the shot above of an acquaintance's cat and was brought back to one I had shot a few years earlier (see below). It was a new fondness. I also quickly realized that the reason I didn't like the DSLR much anymore was because it took too much time to edit in Photoshop, but we can talk about that on another day.
The crispness of the photos were enough to get me to want to continue, to reach a new creative point with my DSLR. So if you are like me and are stuck in the ease of using your phone's camera, don't worry. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it all begins with finding the right camera!
So, you want to buy a DSLR of your own, or you just don't seem to understand the one you already have? I can give you my two cents on the matter. I am not a camera expert, just an enthusiast, so I'm probably not going to use the correct terminology or perhaps even actually know what I'm talking about, but I can tell you what I know to get you started!
Experiment. There are several different brands of camera out there on the market. The two most popular are undoubtedly Nikon and Canon. For the longest time, I was a Nikon person, only Nikon. I had only Nikon point-and-shoot digital cameras as a preteen. When I was in high school, I had a friend who shot only with Canon, and we had many arguments over which camera took better photos. In my experience, I am glad that I had him to experiment with. The photos from my Nikon D90 often seemed colorless and fuzzy when zoomed in. His photos were very crisp, detailed, and brightly colored. I'm still not sure if this was operator error or camera error, but either way, I feel like I take those crisp, colorful photos with my Canon now. So make sure you experiment! This is essential if you want to find a camera that you actually enjoy. These babies aren't cheap, generally being $1000 or more, especially if you add lenses. Find a friend or walk into Best Buy and play with each model on display.
Decide. You've experimented, but now you are having trouble deciding. Before I purchased my Canon, I went to Best Buy and experimented. I wanted to venture away from the Nikon as it was displeasing to my creative taste. While there, the sales clerk that helped us convinced me that I should purchase the Sony A6000. He had been a recreational photographer for many years and had just recently purchased the new Sony camera. It was a DSLR with the light weight of a point-and-shoot. It had the most incredible features including handsfree self portraits, a feature to upload photos directly to your phone through bluetooth, and did I mention that it was lightweight? Like, super light. The perfect weight for a new mom who didn't want to lug a professional camera along with her. It also had these incredible steel lenses, also super light and tiny. I was sold. BUT, I didn't experiment enough. When I opened it on Christmas morning, it malfunctioned and broke within an hour. Upon reading reviews, I discovered this was really common for the camera and ended up returning it and purchasing my trusty Canon.
Experiment. Again. Like I said above, sometimes the camera you just spent $1500+ dollars on is not what you were expecting. This is okay! Just make sure you discover if you do or don't like it before the time limit to return it runs out. When you do find a camera that you like, learn as much as you can about it! Reading the manual seems daunting, I even cringe at the thought. Some of the best things I've learned about my camera came from the internet. Pinterest is a great resource when it comes to tips on figuring out your DSLR's setting. Here is my photography tips board on my personal Pinterest account. If you can, take a class at a community college! Last summer I joined an advanced learning class that lasted about two weeks and didn't learn much more than I had already discovered myself. However, I did learn a lot about shutter speed and aperture that I was struggling to understand when just reading about it.
Pick a lens... or two. Most DSLRs come with a standard lens when you purchase the body. These lenses generally allow you get the most you can out of your camera, with the ability to zoom in fairly close for portraits and macro photography and also pan out for landscape, action, and large group photos. They are typically not the highest quality, but they get the job done, and can pump out some pretty gorgeous photographs. If you are looking to upgrade your lenses, this is a great resource to get started. In my opinion, I believe that you need a great prime lens, 50 mm, which means the lens does not zoom. This is a great way to exercise your movement as a photographer, forcing you to find different angles and distances instead of taking the same photograph over and over again, with different lengths. Some other great options would be an 85 mm lens, which allows you capture really sharp and up close photos, completely blurring the background (amazing for detailed portraits!!) or an extreme wide angle lens for landscape and interior decor. Both of the portraits below were taken with an 85 mm lens.
Get Comfortable. You have learned what you need to know to take a good photograph and have successfully picked your camera baby! Now it's time to practice your guts out. It helps to be comfortable, though! My biggest issue right now is finding the confidence to carry my DSLR with me everywhere, whether it's around my neck or in a bag. I don't own a camera bag or a strap other than the one the camera came with. It's so bulky, but it needs to be protected, and an ugly, utility-driven bag just isn't going to cut it. Here are a couple of bags and straps I have found that are stylish and more comfortable! One Two Three Four
I hope this post helped you! Please let me know if you have any questions or comments on your own experiences using a DSLR. I would love to know if you feel you are more satisfied using your phone vs. your real camera. Ha! All photos above were taken with my Nikon and Canon over the years.