Where to Start when Starting in Photography: 3 Cameras to Use

You’ve been bitten by the photography bug. Sure, just like anyone else you’ve got a camera on your phone, and have been known to snap a good selfie or two. But now; it something more.

You find yourself taking longer to get the right shot at a party, stopping midway through your day to snap a pretty vista – and you are making no friends by critiquing the lighting and framing of pics on your Facebook wall – it is now time to get serious about your photography love.

Yet, when you decide to make a start in the field it can quickly leave you uncertain. You know you want to snap pictures around where you live (and maybe around the globe in one of the world’s great citiesbut all the options on offer leaves you feeling overwhelmed. If this sounds like you may the following be as a useful guide for making a start in photography.

Start with your Smartphone

You’re excited and ready to go, you’re keen to get out in into the world and you’ve already told your local gallery they best make space in that Ansel Adams’ exhibition for some of your landscapes – so hearing the gear you already have can do the job well may be a bit of a surprise. Yet, if you’ve a smartphone that is reasonably new and/or with a good camera you can indeed make a start in photography.

The exact model or brand doesn’t matter – a popular one like a Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, or a Nexus can see you through the start of your photography. With common settings on the phone and the wide variety of apps available there is much you can learn from starting out on a smartphone. In turn, lest smartphone photography be seen merely as a first stop on a long journey, instead many professional photographers will whip out their mobile phones to take a cheeky snap now and then – so getting good with the handheld snaps are a must.


Concerning what to photograph with your smartphone – anything and everything! True, smartphones are generally best for use up close – so portraits and snaps of products and objects over landscapes and big crowd scenes – but if shooting a close up shot like a portrait or piece of fruit your smartphone should do a serviceable job.


‘I may be an orange but in the right lighting I COULD look like a mandarin.’


A entry-level DSLR


Beyond the smartphone an entry level DSLR is your next step. An entry-level DSLR is distinct from a regular DSLR as it usually offers a few less features – such as compability with a full range of lenses – but can be easier to use, and is typically sold at a more affordable price point.


While there are other cameras available in between a smartphone and DSLR in terms of price and features (more on this in a moment) a DSLR shall offer you a extensive and robust upgrade of features with a rich variety of possibilities for further modification. The exact model you buy can vary on your budget and where in the world you buy it, but a few guidelines are useful here.


1. Stick to a major brand for now


There shall be time as you go along in your photography career to go ahead and require that new or specialist DSLR that offers a particular feature no other cameras do right now. At the same time though, when just starting out it is ideal to first stand on the shoulders of giants; and that usually means either a Nikon or Canon


2. …but avoid the Nikon vs. Canon rivalry


Yes. Nikon and Canon have a huge rivarly. It is not quite as big as Puma vs Adidas but it is very real – and also by and large unimportant at the outset. This is especially so as an entry level DSLR from either of these two camera powerhouses are sure to start you off strong.


3. Stay with digital


Some may say start with a non-digital SLR, and there is a case for this. Not only can it offer a more basic introduction to single-lens reflex shooting – but on account of being unable to just shoot endlessly and digitally delete – can help hone the principles of a good photographer in making each shot count, and taking the time (even if it’s just a second or two) to try and get a better shot.


By contrast though, for a beginner just starting out the DSLR offers far greater advantage as you can see how your shots are coming out far quicker, you can easily upload them to a computer for safekeeping – and rather than needing to go get a new roll of film at the store every time while you quote a classic camera ad – you can just delete your shots that didn’t work and start anew.


A GoPro Hero 4 Black


Seeking a camera for use in between your smartphone and DSLR is usually a good move. Alongside having a backup to take with you when out for a big day of shooting pics, at times you’ll find your smartphone doesn’t quite deliver the features, whereas your DSLR is too big to be a useful. Enter the GoPro.

You see them around, you see them widely used – and the cool videos online may leave you tempted to pick up an extreme sport again even if the dangers of all sports are also real.

Film: What your uncle the accountant does on weekends.


The GoPros are great for filming on the move, getting good photos and videos as you do – and given their compact size and ease of operation whether via controls on the camera or via a connected smartphone app – make it easy to use with a variety of accessories such as selfie sticks that can deliver you amazing overhead shots of big events (something a heavy DSLR on a tripod would be unable to do well).

Concerning their quality, GoPros are usually at their best for wide angle, expansive, and landscape shots. They are not as well-suited for extreme closeups (such as photographing a brand label or words on a page). With this in mind, a veteran photographer reading this now may be asking ‘why is GoPro is getting a recommendation over another mid-level camera like a mirrorless SLR or even a good point-and-shoot?’

Ultimately it is a recommendation based upon the future of photography and the way it is changing. Though quality imagery shall always be the foremost priority of good photos, so too is it no understatement to say GoPros and similar handhelds have fundamentally changed the way modern photography is done given their portability and versatility of use.

Given this, and the growth set to occur over time of 4K (in which the top-end Hero 4 Black can film in) getting a GoPro over a conventional point-and-shoot (that could eventually be outpaced by a smartphone upgrade) appears to represent a better bet long term for a keen photographer starting out in the field. This all the more so as GoPro appears to have a few tricks up its sleeve for further innovation and new product launches.

Finally, the community around GoPro is really solid with features like Photo of the Day and an active Google+ page (sure not hugely popular compared to Facebook or Twitter but actually a favourite of many photographers) means the chance to engage, grow, and learn via its use is very real.

A word on cost…


Buying these three cameras all at once can be a pretty big investment. While odds are good if you’re reading this you’ve a smartphone – especially as statistics show more people use the web via mobile devices than the traditional desktop – exiting a store or making a buy online for a new phone and two new cameras will be over $500 new, likely $1000, and maybe even more.

If you’re Tony Stark, a Wall Street billionaire, OR someone well into their career with the disposable income to match your new interest these sums may not seem confronting. Yet, for a 15 year old guy or girl reading this article and looking to get a start in photography it can be.

So, if you are this demographic know this: good camera stores often have good deals on second hand models. While overall it may be best to save up for new gear, if really keen to make a start this is an option (just be sure you get a warranty and give back your best state to any dork buying a $20,000 rig who gives you a condescending smirk).


Nick Offerman

You may have a $20,000 camera but you’ll never have a mustache this good.  Image: nerdist.com


After the Shot: Editing


Right now getting good photos is likely your chief aim. Yet, once you’ve a pretty good picture in hand looking to do some basic editing is often worthwhile. This doesn’t mean drumming up fake pics and getting into a daily duke out with the gang over at Reddit Photoshopbattles right now; but instead just knowing how to make slight edits and alterations such as cropping a pic, improving its lighting, and addressing other minor imperfections that can detract from an otherwise great pic.


There is a broad selection of software out there and one like Adobe Photoshop is industry-standard and around just $10 a month to give you a fantastic program to edit with. If just starting out though -and maybe not quite ready to jump in the deep end of photography editing -using the basic photo editor your computer already has or using a free one like Gimp or Google’s Nik Collection can be wise.


Where to next?


Just the same as you’ve perhaps found yourself frustrated by the quality of shots you’ve been getting of landscapes with your smartphone – and so now headed into the DSLR territory – so too shall you find over time an upgrade to your current gear may be necessary.


When that occurs, looking at a professional model DSLR can be worthwile, with all the wide variety of lenses, tripods and other cool gear on offer to compliment your snaps. A final word on this though: get a good bag! It does not need to be bulletproof, but something that’ll keep your gear secure long term is essential.


Ed Kennedy is a journalist, ghostwriter, and web developer from Melbourne, Australia. Contact Ed via enquiries@edkennedy.co on Skype or LinkedIn.

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