I’ve been asked many times by my clients, friends, etc. about what kind of camera I would suggest they buy for their everyday images–simple snapshots of their everyday lives. (Don’t worry I’m not going to suggest the kind pictured above:)!). Most of the time when people ask me this, they are considering purchasing one of the fancy DSLR cameras that are so popular in the consumer market now. It’s often with the misconception though, that a fancy camera is automatically going to give them fancy pictures. The truth is that a lot more goes into the making of an image than just the click of a shutter–if you’re only going to use one of those fancy DSLRs in the Automatic mode, in my opinion, you’re probably better off going with a simple point and shoot, and saving yourself some serious cash.
You see, once you put the fanciest DSLR into Auto mode, you’ve essentially turned it into a very large, very heavy, and very expensive point and shoot camera. Reasons you don’t want to do that:
1. Heavy is heavy, and the average person will get sick and tired of lugging around all that extra weight and bulk, all the room it takes up in your luggage or car, and how sore it can make your shoulders after a full day of carrying it–especially if you were getting the same results with a point and shoot camera that is a fraction of the size and weight.
2. You tend to baby things that are expensive–try not to take them out when you might set it down or leave it in the car and it could be stolen. Or to the pool or beach where it could get ruined by the water and/or sand. Either you’ll spend all your time during family outings worrying about your camera, or you’ll start worrying so much about how much that heavy piece of equipment cost you that you won’t want to lug it around at all…again, especially if you were getting the same results with a point and shoot.
Now, you might feel different about lugging the extra weight and bulk, and not let yourself fret over the cost if you can get better images with the fancy camera–if it can give you more control to do what you want and get creative. If you do want to learn how to use your camera in the manual mode, if you have any interest in learning the technical and creative aspects of photography, and you have the money to spare, then I definitely encourage you to get a DSLR. The creative freedom far exceeds a point and shoot and the things you can learn are endless. But you have to want to, and have the time to, learn about your camera. There are lots of books out there on basic photography concepts and skills, and lots can be found on the internet, but if you are looking for more personal and in depth training with your camera, I am now offering one on one and small group mentoring for the amateur photographer. You can see more details and pricing here.
Diana McCranie took this course with me recently, and even I was amazed at how much she improved just during our time together! She started out using the LCD screen to take all of her shots, not even knowing about looking through the viewfinder, in complete auto mode almost 100% of the time–to really grasping the concepts of shutter speed and aperture, and getting pretty darn good at exposure in the full manual mode. She took this image of me during our class:
I have only cropped the image and sharpened/sized it for web–no other editing. She knows she still has a lot to work on (it’s an ongoing process that takes a lot of time and effort), but I am so proud of how well she started doing in manual so quickly!
A little bit she had to say about taking the course with me:
“Memories are those precious moments that fulfill your life and you do not want to ever have to let go, I wanted to have my memories as photographs and that is exactly why I took the mentoring session with Sara, my SLR camera was being under-utilized because it was in auto mode most of the time but with the friendly and encouraging atmosphere that Sara brings in the session not only lets you absorb the insight and technical information about the camera and photography in general but also inspires you and challenges you, the critiques are very constructive and taught me to understand what works and doesn’t work for me”.
So, bottom line for me–if you want to learn how to use it, a DSLR is a great buy. But, if you’re only every going to shoot in full Auto mode, it’s probably not a wise use of your money. And yes, I completely avoided telling you which brand/model I would go with because it depends so much on your needs. I shoot Nikon, but just made that switch recently after years of shooting Canon. They both have their pros and cons…if you have specific questions you can always feel free to leave me a comment or send me a note!