Black-capped Chickadee (my favorite bird)
Many of my friends, colleagues and acquaintances ask me about cameras and photography. While I'm no expert on such things, I appreciate the inquiry and will do my best to help.
What camera should I get? Short answer: I don't know. How much do you want to spend? What do you plan to photograph? Where? Do you want something small that fits in your purse or pocket or something fancy schmancy because you know the difference between shutter, aperture and ISO?
Keep in mind this bit of wisdom: If you take crappy pictures now, when you get a more expensive camera you will take more expensive crappy pictures. I paid a bit extra for my camera when I purchased my Nikon D5000 from National Camera and Video because they offer introductory classes for "free." I read the manual before I bought the camera and read it again before the class. Then I got Ken Rockwell's user guide for the D5000 and read it.
I learned most of my photography while using a fairly simple compact Sony DSC-W150 before I upgraded. I figured out that I mostly like the aloneness of being out in nature and want to find interesting shots of birds, animals, bugs and plants. For this, I needed a better zoom lens especially since I take daily shots at the TCAAP Wildlife Viewing Area. Most of the wildlife there is behind an eight foot barbed wire fence. I spent almost as much on the AF-S VR Zoom Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 IF-ED as I did on the D5000 body and kit lens because I need to reach out to my subjects. This lens fit my budget and got great reviews for lenses in this price range. Next on the list is a small prime and maybe a great macro/micro, if I win the lottery.
Fence Close Up (I love great DOF like this)
So here is my advice:
1. Figure out what you want to shoot and how much you want to spend.
2. Do research. Read pro reviews. Read customer feedback about your selections at Amazon, Adorama or B&H Photo. If you know what you are doing, Digital Camera Review provide very extensive and more complicated reviews. I also go to Crutchfield to read their technical descriptions and customer feedback. They are a great resource for everything electronic. My favoritest resource is Ken Rockwell. He does very thorough yet easy to understand reviews of everything and has lots of important tips for making better photographs. I learned a lot from him.
3. Once you buy a camera, READ THE MANUAL.
3a. Buy an extra battery and at least 2 memory cards. You will always run out of juice and a memory will always fail when bigfoot runs by or that ufo lands in front of you.
4. READ THE MANUAL again.
5. Stop using the "green" auto setting. It's embarrassing.
6. Turn off the stupid focus lock sound. Nobody needs to hear that your camera has now locked up on it's focus.
7. Read how other people use their cameras. Here are a couple sites I've read extensively in order to learn more about photography in general:
- Rick Sammon seems to be a Canon guy but has interesting tips for all photographers. He also writes a lot about the digital darkroom.
- Lisa Bettany at MostlyLisa is a pro photographer who blogs about what she is shooting. She also has lots of tips and some reviews.
- Digital Photography School has a massive collection of everything you want to know about shooting anything.
- If you don't like to read, there are lots of photography help videos at this site.
- The Digital Photo Experience is another great resource with contributions from lots of great pro photographers.
9. Get inspired. I often explore the most recent uploads on Flickr and the most interestingness area on their website. I recently found Flak Photo and go there for a more artsy take on photography.
More Grass Seed (should have had a spray bottle for better droplets)
All in all, it doesn't matter what anyone else says about your photos. Shoot what you like and you will like what you shoot and most importantly, have fun!