Thursday, September 23, 2010


Are you ready to move up to a DSLR Camera?

If you already have a Point and Shoot Digital Camera and are getting the itch to move on up to a DSLR there are a few items I’ve listed below that you may want to master before getting into the very expensive world of lenses that go along with those puppies.

Hardly a week goes by without me running across folks toting thousands, (sometimes tens of thousands) of dollars worth of DSLRs and lenses. I shoot the breeze with them and look at their cameras and assume they’re Pros when I see $40,000 to $50,000 hanging off their camera strap. I envy them.

Then, when I get a closer look, I discover they are using their DSLRs just like a Point and Shooter. They have the damn things in AUTO Mode! They are just filthy rich, clueless, ignorant people who know nothing about cameras, film or digital. They should die and leave their cameras to me. Am I right?

Here's what you need to know before buying a DSLR:
1. Exposure: There are 3 things (Think Triangle) that affect the exposure of the photograph: Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO. You have to master them. Take a camera class, read a book, even read your camera manual, because if you’re not intimately familiar with how they all relate to each other, you are not ready to move up in the photographic world with a brand new DSLR.

2. Depth of Field (DOF): Aperture settings, the lens you’re using and the distance you are from your subject have a direct impact on how your photo turns out. Know how to make the background and foreground in sharp focus or background blurred and the subject sharp. Make sure you’ve mastered this before you buy a camera where you have to make decisions on which lens to use with it.

3. Camera Settings: Take your camera off the AUTO MODE setting and use Manual, or if it doesn’t allow that, use Aperture or Shutter Priority and shoot at different settings, changing ISO’s, Shutter speed and Aperture from the highest to lowest ranges. Know the camera’s capabilities and limitations.

4. Read the EXIF Data: What’s that? The information your camera’s computer stored on how you made the shot. If your camera software program doesn’t display it automatically, RIGHT CLICK on the photo and hit Properties when the photo is opened in a folder. The date, time, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, focal length, even whether you used manual or auto focus should appear. Study and this information for every shot you take. I do, and I’ve learned more from this data than any instructor, photography class, book or video could ever teach me. I look at every shot I make and ask myself how I could have done it better. Eventually, you photography will get better from your self critiques. You’ll remember!

5. Having thoroughly schooled yourself and mastered steps 1-4 above, you may decide, it’s high time you get yourself a DSLR; you’re ready to step up to a more professional model than what you already have. Congratulations and welcome to my world! Only you can do the research on Models and Lenses and decide what’s best for your style of photography and your size bank account. I can’t help you there.

My final words of caution: When you go to the camera store, “BEFORE BUYING A DSLR” talk to the salesclerk and tell him you don’t want the lens that comes with the camera. You want the lens you decided you need; not the kit lens that comes in the box with a brand new camera. Tell the clerk he can keep that piece of junk and give you a deal on a real lens. Kit lenses are OK, for people just buying cameras for Auto Mode, snap shooting or to give away as gifts but, they are NOT professional lenses.

Confused? Repeat steps 1-5 above until it all becomes clear or you really won’t be happy with a DSLR.  Holler at me over on Facebook anytime you have a suggestion for a new Photography Tip and I'll see what I can cook up for you.


Thomas Hammerlund said...

An interesting list, but I think this is better for someone who already has a DSLR. At least for me, I'm more of a hands-on learner.

RyukyuMike said...

Absolutely right about the hands-on learning. I'm just trying to give folks the information they need to know before a camera salesman gets his hands on their wallets. A DSLR won't take professional photos for an inexperienced photographer but, someone who knows and uses the right techniques can take professional photos with a Point and Shoot camera.