This was a comment, but since I get so many emails about photography and camera advice, I figured I’d make this a post, so people can refer back to this in the future. I plan to post more of these in the future, including photoshop tutorials (with photos to demonstrate), and also just fun projects. Hopefully, people will send me a few of their favorite shots from that week’s project, and I’ll post them here.
I cannot give advice when it comes to buying a new camera. I just don’t keep up with all the models or reviews unless I’m actually shopping for a camera. I can tell you this: I hated the white balance on the Nikon D70/D100 models. Made everything yellow. I suggest you check out the cameras you’re considering in person, at a store, then buy it online and pay no tax (and find a coupon for free shipping). I’d ask if it has auto-bracketing (both exposure and white balance bracketing)… you might not use this right away, but it’s HUGE when you’re ready to really learn more about photography. You don’t need a camera with night settings, or fireworks or an icon of a mountain. If you want that, buy a point and shoot. I could write all day about this (but it’s time for bed)… I will say, get ready to learn more. You have to. Otherwise, why buy an SLR? You are ready, and you can do it, even if you ease into it slowly. It’s a wonderful hobby you’ll always have. On that Hallmarkety note, maybe I should do some posts on my 101 notes from back when I was first learning about photography. It would make me happy to share what I learned in the past.
Here is what you need to know at first: learn what aperture is and what it does. Then learn about shutter speed and what it does. Then learn about exposure. Then metering. Search for these things online. You don’t have to memorize it, but at least spend a half hour understanding an overview of these things. It’s why you’d want an SLR, to play and customize and learn. To have the camera record exactly what you see, just as you see it that moment. Or to keep your subject crisp, but to add a motion blur to everything around them using a panning technique.
I use Nikons and just prefer them to Canon. But that’s probably just because Nikon is what I know and what I learned on. I began with an N80 (film) and learned all I did shooting color negatives (aka slide transparencies… those things you put in a slide projector) because when processed, they were less forgiving if you made a mistake, and they weren’t spit through a machine, so they were not color-corrected. So I was able to see the result of the smallest changes I made. So I could shoot the same image, modifying the aperture, let’s say, in each shot. Then I could look at each one and say, “Oh, I get it. That’s what it does.” Now you can do it digitally, and auto-bracket (which means you can set the camera to take 3 different photos, even though you press the button just once… and although the photo is the same, the settings are different, so you can compare them and see which exposure you like best) which is much, much cheaper than developing all that film. Though I do still love the silkiness of film. The photos seem more poetic, more buttery, when shot in film. How I love black and white, where you tell them to “push” the film a stop. Okay, getting too complicated on ya. So long story longer, I’d probably buy THE BODY ONLY and buy a good lens separately (buy just the body, then purchase a decent lens, not the crap it comes with). When I say “good lens” I mean a “fast lens.” So it would read something like 1:2.8
Sorry, this is getting complicated. I just know for me, what made a huge difference in all my photos was buying a good “fast” used lens. I bought two excellent (used) lenses with fixed focal lengths (you can read all about what the different lengths do to your actual photo). Here’s what I’ve got (and use):
I also currently use a Nikon D300 body.
Nikon af nikkor 35mm 1:2D (aka f/2D ) That means it’s a fixed 35 focal length (no zoom). So you see a lot of stuff in the picture, good for groups, for street photography, for capturing a scene, a photo journalistic feel, AND the lowest number aperture is an f 2 (I typically set portraits to f5.6 or lower… what this does? Keeps subject nice and crisp but blurs the stuff around them). A fast lens also allows you to shoot in low-light conditions without having to use a flash, allowing you a lot of great ambient light, to really capture the moment. Also, you can pop your flash and set to a slow shutter speed (30 or less)… this allows for more ambient light. See, photography can get complicated, but it’s so much fun. I just love it. Love learning from others, too.
85mm 1:1.8D af nikkor (This is a fixed 85mm lens, again, great for portraits. And the 1.8 aperture is awesome. No photo taken with this lens is ever bad. It’s a “D” lens, which means it has its own aperture ring to work with older cameras or with D movies in newer cameras).
Sigma ex fixed 105 1:2.8D macro (I like a 105mm lens because it’s a flattering focal lens, good for shooting fashion). Also, MACRO means you can photograph something small and make it seem larger than life… like the sprinkles on a cupcake can look like Mike and Ikes. Something like that.
Af nikkor ED 70-300 1:4-5.6 (zoom lens. Zoom just means several focal lengths… you can zoom in and out. Telephoto means it magnifies something in the distance. I use it a lot. It’s not the fastest of my lenses, but I rarely shoot with this lens inside. Though it’s fine inside! It’s great for shooting anything outdoors).
Sigma DC 18-50mm 1:2.8 EX D (If you get a Sigma lens, just make sure it’s made for a Nikon. This is considered a wide angle lens. Anything below 60 (from what I recall is considered wide angle, though a fish eye is an extreme wide angel giving a novelty effect). With WA lenses, you have to be careful what’s in the foreground of your composition, because it tends to make it seem larger than other things. Not flattering for a portrait, as the nose and forehead might make you look like Rocky (from that Cher movie about the mask kid). Now, everyone chime in and say how insensitive and horrible I am. Dear Lord.
Sigma 50mm 1:1.4 EX DG HSM