Photography 101 | Product Guide

Now that you’ve improved your photographic skills and knowledge, I bet you’ve commented, or rather pleaded to your spouse that you now need new equipment.   “But honey, I really neeeeed a new camera….”

I know you’ve said it; don’t try to deny it.  The reason I know so well, is ’cause I’ve used the same tactics on my own hubby.  😉

I hope this final lesson in the Photography 101 series helps you narrow your search and purchase the perfect lens for just what you’re needing.

Cameras.

While I have always used Canon, I cant specifically speak about Nikon.  I have played around with some Nikon cameras before and truly liked what I saw, but I honestly don’t know the techie stuff about the Nikon brand itself.

I do know that I liked the Nikon focusing better than the Canon and wish Canon’s focusing sensors were better.  On the other hand, I’ve heard other pro photogs say they love the Nikon body better, but that the Canon lenses are better than Nikon.

So there you go.  Clear as mud.

I do suggest before you buy your camera to do some research on your own to determine which will work better for you.  There are several forums and camera review sites that list more detailed information on each brand.

I also recommend an SLR camera.  If you’ve followed these lessons and truly want to become proficient in your photography skill, an SLR is the only way to go.  You’re just so limited to what a point and shoot can do.

This is a pretty cool website I found that reviews pretty much any brand and model out there.  You’ll also need to consider which lenses you want before you purchase your body so you can make sure that both are compatible with each other.

My final thought about your camera is don’t buy the kit.  The lens that comes with the body is usually low end and slow.  Consider buying the body only and using that extra saved money on a good lens instead.

Lenses.

There is also debate between prime lens users and zoom users.  Prime lenses are fixed, professional lenses with a faster aperture.  Zooms obviously do just that (zoom) and the apertures are usually not quite as fast as you can go with prime.  Some photogs will also argue that zooms are not as sharp as primes.  I use both.

It is important to consider what your needs are and the style of pictures you’re wanting to take.  Are you wanting a general all-purpose type of lens?  Are you wanting to take daytime and nighttime pictures?  Are you wanting to take sports pictures?  That’s just a few of the questions to consider when buying your lens.

These are the lenses I use so I thought I’d address each one.  (I’ve added buying links to each one, but don’t feel like you should purchase from AmazonCalagaz in Mobile is great and B&H Photo online is good, too.

50mm 1.8 This is an inexpensive, fixed lens.  It’s great starter lens and all purpose lens to use and the fast aperture allows you to take good low light shots, too.  Just keep in mind that because it’s a fixed lens, you’re not going to get the distance that you’re probably used to having.

50mm 1.4 A more expensive, but step above the 50 1.8 lens.  This lens also feels abit heavier and better made than the 1.8.  This lens stays on my camera most all the time.  I love it’s buttery images and how I can take next-to-no-light-at-all images and they still be tack sharp.

85mm 1.8 This is another good all purpose, faster lens.  While you can obviously get closer than the 50mm, it’s difficult to use indoors in a smaller room.  The faster aperture allows you to go low light and it’s imagery is also sharp.  Clark uses this lens 100% during our wedding events.  I love how he can catch fun moments from a distance and different angle that I’m not necessarily aware of or can’t see.

100mm 2.8 macro I love, love, love this lens.  When my 50mm is not on my camera, this one is.  It’s also a fixed lens with a nice aperture of 2.8.  I use this one for a lot of portrait work because I love the compression and bokeh it produces.  It’s also a good lens to use when you’re just not as a close to the action as you’d like to be or when you’re intentionally staying out of the way, but still want to grab those unobtrusive shots.  The macro is an added bonus.  Love it!

16-35mm 2.8L This is my wide angle lens.  With it’s faster aperture, I can still use it for those low light, wide angle ceremony shots and also for the getting dressed pictures in a small room.

17-55mm 2.8 I also love this wide angle lens.  I love it because I can shoot both wide and also zoom in abit closer on the 55mm end.  The downfall to this lens is that it’s just not as sharp as using the other prime lenses.  Another thought is if I’m going to shoot on the 55mm end, I might as well go with my 50mm 1.4 prime lens for the faster aperture and sharper imagery.

There you have it.  It’s really not a full arsenal compared to others, but it’s worked for me for many years.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I do have my own wish list but for now, why try to fix something that’s not broken.  😉

Now, how do I keep up with all this stuff?

For transporting and storage I use this Lowepro Rolling Bag.  It provides lots of storage on the inside and out and having the long pull handle and wheels is a must…’cause when it’s full, it probably weighs close to 50 pounds!

In this bag, I have all my camera bodies and lenses, a separate bag of camera and AAA batteries, pocket wizards, 3-4 strobes, a video light, flash diffusers, a light stand and umbrella (yes, all within this bag) and pockets full of cords, cards, a screwdriver and black tape, velcro tabs, mini-flashlight, super glue, business cards and lots of other miscellaneous products.  I’m prepared, okay?  Don’t hate.

During an event or shoot, I carry my lenses in the shootsac.  Trust me, I’ve tried lots of camera bags and the shootsac suits my needs perfectly.  Because I like to keep things simple when I’m working, I only carry one camera (on my person-yes, I have backups) and the shootsac fits nice and snug around my body even when it’s full.

Now…let’s pause for this commercial break…

I don’t want to be the worm in the apple, but I feel I have to impose this thought upon you: professional equipment does not a professional photographer make. Repeat.  It’s not the equipment; it’s the knowledge and skill of the person operating the equipment.  Just because you have a “good camera” doesn’t make you qualified to take professional portraits.  I’ve heard so many times someone say, “my cousin just bought this really nice camera, so she is going to take our wedding photos for us” or someone else say, “I want to take pictures just as good as you do, so which camera should I buy?”……ACK….re-read the above statement.  Please, please do not let someone sucker you in to (nor volunteer) taking their once-in-a-lifetime, may-never-get-another-chance professional portraits for them if you are not a professional.  It’s happened to me when I was first starting out (and I thought I knew what I was doing) and it was a nightmare. I’m still embarrassed to think about it.  It has taken me years worth of learning, reading and studying, along with sheer trial and error (and terror) to acquire the knowledge and skill I have now. All of the Photography 101 information I’ve shared with you has simply been for your own personal benefit.  Otay?  Still friends?  😉

Okay…I’m stepping down from my soapbox now…proceed with your regularly scheduled programming…

Just because this is the last lesson in the Photography 101 Series, don’t thing that I won’t be posting!  I have other series plans in mind and will start those very soon, as well as lots of other things in between.

Happy Monday and happy shooting!

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