Captured MOMents- An SLR from Santa?

So, tell me, NOLA moms, what do YOU want for Christmas?

Based on my past experiences as a hobby photographer (and a mom), I’d venture to guess that at least some of y’all are hoping to get a fancy new camera from Santa.

With this post, I’m hoping to give you a little guidance into what you may want to consider when you’re picking out WHAT camera you really want. Here are a few tips and notes to help you pick the camera that is right for you.

PEOPLE make beautiful photos, not fancy, expensive cameras. What this means is that if you get the most expensive, elaborate DSLR camera that does not guarantee that you are going to get perfect images that look like they came from your favorite portrait photographer. Digital SLR (single lens reflex) cameras are designed for the photographer who wants to learn how to utilize the manual settings to capture the best image possible and for them to be creative with the camera and lens. If you plan on keeping your camera in automatic mode permanently, then a DSLR may not be for you.

If you really do want to learn the mechanics of photography and how to take photos on manual to maximize those creative options, then, a digital SLR is right for you. Digital SLR (single lens reflex) cameras have the ability to change your film speed, aperture, and shutter speed to suit your creative goals. They also provide the option of interchangeable lenses that are good for certain types of photography like portraiture, action, and long focal lengths for nature and landscapes. If you are interested in learning how to create beautiful portraits of your child or even maybe beautiful landscapes, then a SLR may be for you.

A SLR isn’t always necessary to get amazing images.

Before running to your favorite electronics store (or online resource) to buy your new SLR camera bundle, consider some of the higher-end compact cameras instead. Canon & Nikon both carry higher level compact cameras that offer all of the flexibility of an SLR without the need for interchangeable lenses that cost the same (or less) than an SLR body. Some examples are the Canon Powershot G15 ($499) or the Nikon P7700 ($499). These have the options to change aperture, ISO, and shutter speed and have the ability to create vivid, sharp images like an SLR without the added expenses of lenses, external flashes, etc. with an SLR.

Have your heart set on an SLR?

If you have your heart set on an SLR, don’t fret. There are many on the market to choose from. There are several brands that offer great starter SLR options for the mom who wants to start trying her hand at manual photography. Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax and Olympus all have great options for starter SLR’s that range in price from $500-$800 for the body or kit. I know, I know, the burning question you probably are thinking, though, is “Andie, what camera do YOU recommend?” – or the age old question I get all the time- “Canon or Nikon?”

This is my answer- go to the camera shop and try them all out in your hand. For a starter camera, I would maybe try the latest Canon Rebel (T4i) or the Nikon D5100. Try them both in your hands, do you like where the button placement is? Compare notes on the focus options, buttons, screen size, etc. Compare lens prices and whether they are affordable to you for what you may want. Do research on both. Take into consideration if anyone else in your family has one and if you could “share” lenses with them. There is a ton of information out there that can be overwhelming when it comes to buying your first camera. They are both great for learning the basics of photography and how to take a well-exposed photo…. and honestly, with the right lenses, one of these cameras can produce some dynamic images! (Also, I’m just giving Canon & Nikon options because they are the big two- the other brands are equally great!)

Consider buying BODY and separate lens and NOT the BUNDLE with the kit lens. 

Once you decide which model camera you really want, don’t be swayed to buy the “bundle” package special that comes with a kit lens. While the kit lenses that come with most starter cameras are acceptable, they don’t offer a lot of flexibility or the ability to be creative with your photography. To start out with, I would recommend investing in a 50mm f/1.8 normal lens. Both Canon & Nikon have affordable versions of this size lens, and it is a great lens to learn on. It is a “prime” lens, which means it is a lens that is a fixed focal length, and you will have to move yourself to zoom in & out to capture your image, but it offers the ability to create beautiful images with a beautifully blurred background, or “bokeh,” which is achieved with a shallow depth of field and shooting on a lower aperture. If you are more interested in shooting action types of images from far distances (for instance, your child playing soccer or baseball), you may want to consider a good zoom lens like a 24-105mm with an image stabilizer. Zoom lenses have a tendency to be pretty pricey, but offer a great range for shooting action shots.

Don’t forget the accessories! 

When you go to purchase your camera there are several other accessories that I recommend an investment in:

Camera Bag – I’m a big fan of messenger style camera bags, like those available from Crumpler. A “5 million dollar home” bag is the perfect size for a basic dSLR with lens attached and an extra lens along with your wallet, memory cards, etc. Lowepro is another great brand that makes high quality and comfortable camera bags as well.

Memory Cards – I always say “the more memory, the better” because there is nothing more frustrating than being in the middle of taking pictures, having a full card to switch out, only to have your child get out of the mood for photos that quickly. I always keep at least two memory cards on hand just in case. Also, there are “speeds” to memory cards – so if you get an “extreme”- that means it will store your images more quickly when you are taking lots of photos in short bursts with your SLR.

UV Filter – A UV filter is a MUST-HAVE for all of your lenses. It helps with lens flare and also prevents any smoggy looks in your photos. Plus, it’s a great way to help protect the glass of your lens!

A Great How-To BookUnderstanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson is a great book that explains how to obtain certain types of photos and will help you along in your new hobby.

Do you already have a digital SLR? Do you have any other tips, items, etc. you would recommend? Have more SLR questions? Please feel free to ask and I can do my best to help!



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