D-SLR Photography Day 5

Thank you for joining us for another day in SLR photography. Today I am welcoming Valerie, from  Pie For Breakfast...An Approach Toward Life, who will share  her approach to Digital Photography.

When I first made the decision to move from film to digital, I was so excited that I could take one hundred shots and keep only the good ones. But after the newness wore off, I began to dislike the one thing that most point and shoot owners complain about - shutter lag.

I had a chance to shoot with a DSLR owned by a family member, and fell in love with it. No more shutter lag. So I started saving money to get my first DSLR. I purchased the Canon 20D (the current equivalent would be the Canon 60D, which retails for $1,000 US or £800 for the body only). Not having shutter lag was such an improvement. I must admit however, that I never learned to use the camera, and shot in automatic mode all the time. So for me, it was a essentially a point and shoot camera without shutter lag. My husband liked some of the SLR features, so I thought it was probably worth the cost.

In the digital camera world, technology is constantly changing, and cameras are getting better and better. After using the Canon 20D for five years, we decided to move up to the Canon 7D, which is the camera that I currently use. We saved our money and decided it would be our Christmas gift to each other. This camera currently retails for $1,700 US or £1,180 (body only). The features that attracted us to this camera are: a more accurate focusing system, more focus points, a quieter shutter (which is a good thing at recitals, weddings, etc.), a larger preview screen, faster continuous-shoot mode, a higher maximum ISO, and the fact that it also shoots video.

2010.05.04 Church of the Master-17 smaller

But this camera is not for everyone. If you are content to shoot in automatic mode (which is perfectly fine), you don’t need this camera. If you don’t have a good understanding of the exposure triangle, and if you don’t plan to shoot in manual mode, it’s probably not worth the extra money. My husband really wanted this camera, so I made the commitment to learn to become a better photographer

I am not a great photographer, but I am better than I used to be. I understand the camera and many of its settings (although I am still learning). I no longer shoot in automatic mode. I shoot in aperture priority, most of the time. Once you learn how ISO, shutter speed, and aperture work together (the exposure triangle), you only become better by practicing (taking lots of photos). That’s where I am right now.

2010.05.04 Church of the Master-10 smaller

The reason companies manufacture cameras in all price ranges is because photographers have varying skill levels, as well as budget restrictions. If you are considering upgrading to a DSLR, I suggest you first determine how much you want to spend. Right now the prices for DSLR cameras begin at around $500US/£370, and go up from there. Go online (I’ve suggested a few websites below), search for DSLR cameras, and then sort by price from lowest to highest. Take a look at the cameras in your price range. Compare features. Read reviews about them. You can also sort by top-rated or most popular. From what I know, Nikon and Canon are the leaders in the DSLR world. I prefer a Canon, but don’t think you can go wrong with either brand.

2011.04.17 Eryn @ 14-71 smaller

No matter what brand you decide on, I would suggest that you purchase a camera that fits your budget - then learn to use it. I hate to say this, and you probably don’t want to hear it, but you need to read your camera manual. Yes it’s boring and difficult to read, but why purchase a camera if you’re not going to learn to use it? Most camera manuals are available online now. I downloaded mine to my iPad. I went through my manual a little at a time. Then I practiced using the settings. It’s much easier to take in small segments.

Now for the bad news – the major DSLR brands (Canon, Nikon and Sony) are all manufactured in Japan. Since the county was hit by both an earthquake and tsunami, production and shipping have been disrupted, causing the prices to be inflated. I purchased the Canon 7D in November of 2010, and the price is now 25% higher, not to mention the fact that it’s almost impossible to find one in stock. Right now might not be the best time to purchase a DSLR camera, but while the brave people of Japan are getting their lives back, you have lots of time to research cameras and decide what works best for you. Once the companies are able to resume production, you will be ready to support them by purchasing their products.

A couple of bits of information about what I have shared:

• All prices quoted in $US are from B&H Photo located in New York. It is an excellent online store that typically has the lowest prices. Adorama also has comparable prices. 
 All prices in £ are from Jessops.   

• That being said, if you need personalized assistance, I can't stress enough how valuable it can be to establish a relationship with a good local camera store. Yes, you will probably end up paying more for your camera, but it will allow you to hold each camera and see what it does. The extra cost is for the advice, and sometimes that's worth paying for. 

• Even if you plan to go to a camera store for advice, you should still do some research on your own. I like to go HERE for camera reviews. 

• You can rent cameras (and lenses). It's a great way to find out if you really like a camera prior to purchasing it. You can do a Google search for camera rentals in your area.

• A really good book to read if you want to learn more about exposure is Brian Peterson’s “Understanding Exposure”. It’s one of the most recommended photography books.

I've included a few photos that were recently taken .  Now that I've learned to use my camera properly, I almost never use the flash.  Not even indoors.  Not even in low light.  The first two photos were taken in the church where I work, with very poor lighting.  If you know how to adjust for exposure, it gives you so many options.  I'm excited not to have the bad things that sometimes happen when you use a flash.  The third photo is of my granddaughter taken outside in full sun.  I've learned that by turning your subject around, you can eventually find the perfect position to take photos outside without squinting and those nasty shadows under the nose and chin.  Of course you can't always spin your subject, but you, as the photographer, can move and that often helps.  Give it a try next time you're outside in full sun.

I appreciate Valerie’s honesty about her first D-SLR and that she shot in automatic mode. I imagine that is a strong temptation for some who don’t have the time to learn to use the camera features or lack the confidence to use them.  Thank you for sharing your motivation to learn and strategies to follow. 

I am wondering if there is anyone reading this post that needs to get motivated about learning their way around their camera and would like to give feedback. What are some of the things that hold you back?

Please come back tomorrow for Day 6 our final guest post.  Margie will be joining us from  Xnomads' Blog. I am looking forward to Margie’s post because she is going to look at what I want in a camera and explore if I actually need to move to a D-SLR or whether I should just upgrade t a better P&S. Please come back and see what she has to say.


Very good post. It is so true that reading the manual is a great way to learn your way around your camera. I especially like how she said to do it in small bits. I do that often - read one section and practice that new skill until it becomes second nature to me.
scrappysue said…
Enjoyed your article very much Valerie! And you are so right about needing to learn how to use your camera to its best advantage. However, don't do what I did, take your camera off auto before you really know what you are doing when its an "important event". Please don't ask me how I know this, LOL! Will be adding the exposure book to my wish list also!
Cheri said…
Really loving this series. It is motivating me to pull my DSLR back off the shelf, blow of the dust, and start practicing again.
Anonymous said…
Thank you, Valerie!!
Valerie S said…
I'm glad this article is helpful. Margie, you are so true.....learning to use your camera works best if read one section of your manual, then practice using it until it's very familiar to you. You won't get better unless you practice, practice, practice, so take lots of photos and experiment with your settings.
Shoshonee said…
I've used my camera forever but still do auto a lot more than I should. I guess I learn by watching better than reading so it's a little harder to read the manual. Not impossible tho so I guess I should make the time and pull it out!
Lorraine said…
It's convicted me to read the manual for my P&S! When I got it out of the box my atitude was,"how hard can it be" but maybe there is more to it!
Linda said…
Great post Valerie! I agree - read your manual! And learn how the 'exposure traingle' works! I learned about aperture and speed with an SLR film camera. I had to learn about ISO and white balance on this camera. Lorraine, I think you should host a 'how to use your camera' guest blog next!
Lorraine said…
Great idea but I think i'll leave the organization of that one to someone who knows what they are doing! : )
Helen Overton said…
I dream of having a D SLR, maybe one day, my point and shoot is so tempremental!
Anonymous said…
Another great post, Valerie - I love the church photo - it's very serene! We must all be on the same wave length as I would have recommended "Understanding Exposure" myself - had I not been worried my post was going to turn into a novel.

I particularly like his Water, tap and Bee analogy to explain the exposure triangle!

I was thinking about a weekly post on my blog continuing this theme onto getting the best out your camera - things like raw, exposure compensation, etc. I thought it might be fun to link it to a flickr gallery - so we can experiment and share with one small new thing at a time.

I'd be happy to do it collaboratively. It would be a shame to stop now that we've built up this momentum.
I follow Valerie's blog (we bonded over our common pup breed...and I can't believe she didn't include any photos of him!) and lately she and I have been discussing cameras. My first digital point & shoot just died and I took Val's advice about B&H for my new purchase. It's still a p&s but she's inspired me to read the manual (I admit I didn't with the last one) and master the new camera fully. Once I've done that I will be ready to move up. Thanks so much for the advice, Valerie. Wonderful guest post.
Lorraine said…
Thank you for visiting

Popular Posts