Simply, no, you do not need to get a “better” camera, you need a better technique first.
I’ve been into digital photography since 2010, but prior to that, I have been the designated family photographer when my dad got tired of doing it himself. We got Kodak, Olympus, and such, film cameras that auto-focuses and the like, since he can’t lend me his Canon AE-1 Program SLR for I was much too young to really understand how to manually shoot and that in film. However, that taught me the basics of photography, and what I feel is important, that is recognizing the moments and compositing/framing it.
When I finally got my own DSLR, and that is the Nikon D5000, I made sure to understand the features that it has, and of course, take advantage of those said features; learn to shoot in M-A-S-P modes; learn how and when to shoot in full manual focus when time permits or stick to auto focus as to not miss the moment; learn how to make use of lighting (since at that time I only had a pop up flash); experimented with different genres; learn how to post process RAW files; of course, still trying to learn how to frame and compose; and one thing that others take for granted, that is how to properly hold the camera – an important simple technique that can help increase the shot’s sharpness especially if the shutter speed is a tad slower.
I then outgrew the pop up flash, then got a Yong Nuo YN465 flash, so I can learn how to use a speedlight on shoe; directly pointing at the subject, bouncing it off the ceiling, etc. After some time, I then got me the Yong Nuo RF-602 flash trigger to learn how to control an off shoe flash.
And to this point, it was just my Nikon D5000, the kit lens, and the Yong Nuo YN465. I had dreams of getting “better” camera bodies, but definitely better glass. However I knew, the most important way to improve my shots is to continue to practice and improve my technique first.
In fact, I keep blaming myself if a shot isn’t as good as I’d hoped for, thinking it must be my settings, my technique, my lack of vigilance, to make the shot better. It was never my gear… And I still do blame myself to this day if I have shots that isn’t as good as I’d hoped for, and I’ve since upgraded my DSLR body.
We all started somewhere, and this is where I started.
I thought of making this post, because since I started digital photography in 2010, through the years, I have gained a notoriety among my friends, family, colleagues, etc., that I am the go-to-guy for photography related things.
They knew I was passionate about photography as I am with my other hobbies like computers, other tech, gaming, anime/manga, Formula 1etc. And much like anyone else, once you are passionate about something, you learn the craft either by enrolling in university or you can easily be self taught by reading/watching a lot of references, and I am the latter… more self taught than anything. It gets easier to be self taught, too, if you are really passionate about it… (plus not being graded helps as well… wink wink)
But being the go-to-guy, I get loads of questions as to what gear they should get. Of course, it depends on their uses, their budget, and finally, their level of skill at that moment. If they are the type that just like taking quick photos for travel, dining, or other such things, not worrying about post processing or such; not a lot of extra cash to really spend a lot on interchangeable lens cameras; and just really starting out, I will advise them of a gear that is appropriate for them.
However, there are those that really want to get into the hobby and art of photography that feel that they immediately need to get an EXPENSIVE camera, because, of course, they think it will help them get great photos. Surely, a great camera will help you get great shots to an extent, but I still feel that you have to start somewhere and learn the proper technique first.
I also do not recommend the most expensive gear right away to beginners, because what if this was just a spurt of the moment or a fad of a hobby for them? They get the most expensive gear, then somewhere down the line, they realize they aren’t into it after all.
Whenever I get into a new hobby, I always know that I need to get a good enough item in respect to my new hobby; not too expensive, but at the same time not too cheap; not too feature filled, yet not so featureless… Goldilocks is what I was after.
And of course, that is what I usually tell anyone that asks me what camera to get, start with a mid-level camera, be it a DSLR, MILC, MFT, whatever… be it Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fujifilm, Olympus, etc…
Then after getting the camera body, with most likely a kit lens, I will say, get out of your comfort zone, read the frickin’ manual, get to know the features, learn compositing/framing, proper hand holding of camera, post processing, and of course, don’t be afraid of using AUTO FOCUS; they are still under the impression that if they use auto focus, they aren’t “pros”… I mean… photography isn’t our profession… we really aren’t pros in the first place. Another thing is, most pros do use AUTO FOCUS. Think of a wedding, if one person shoots in completely manual, at wide open, thus having shallower depth of field, most likely you will have out of focus shots. Same thing for me, if I shot Formula 1 cars, which F1 is my favorite sport, in Singapore 2017 and Japan 2018, at full manual focus, I will not get any keeper at all (I can stop the aperture down, etc, to get most of them in focus, but yeah, you get the idea).
I will also tell them to learn to use the Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Program modes. Along with the manual focusing, they feel that shooting completely manual mode them “pro”. Truth be told, I see friends posting photos in their social pages that are really not the sharpest of shots, awful framing, overly done post processing (too much clarity and texture; too much vignetting; too much saturation; and my pet peeve since I love black and white, a very BLAND black and white photo).
Granted I do shoot manual mode and manual focus if the situation calls for it. But I make damn sure my technique and skill that I have honed thru the years help me get a sharp shot and proper exposure.
Then they all go blaming their gear if their shot isn’t good or as they imagined.
So, in short, get a camera that isn’t going to hurt your wallet, but just enough features to help you learn and progress in the art of digital photography. Stick with your gear and don’t go thinking you need the most expensive gear to help you get better shots if your technique isn’t there to begin with. Hone you skills; hone you technique; have a feel for the moments and compose them; learn how to use ambient light, the lack thereof, and how to use your popup flash; have instincts as to what settings your camera needs to have for a certain situation…
Then when you outgrow some of you gear, like the pop up flash, then that is the prime time to upgrade! If you have outgrown the kit lens, then buy a new lens! Then when you feel that lens is now limiting your range, get another lens to pair with it! Until you have gotten the lenses you dreamed of (and in my case, I collected flashes along with lenses), and you feel that your camera can no longer help you grow creatively and and your craft, that is when you start thinking about getting a new camera body (preferably the same system as your previous camera, so you can still use the previous lenses, flashes, etc).
Just remember, we all started somewhere… This way you can also appreciate where you started and how far you’ve come. This way you can appreciate your brand new camera when the time comes and appreciate the differences from your previous camera. This way you have the confidence and skill to go beyond where you are now and learn new techniques and make new memories with your new gear.
We all started somewhere.
And with that…
Til next time!! PEACE!
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