It could feel intimidating at first when discovering the world of digital photography, at least this was my case.
You are hit with many jargon words with no prior reference to what that could mean, and there are hundred of thousands of online site that you can learn photography from. Everyone has his own methodology for providing the information and guidance.
My purpose from writing this article, is to provide you with a Marco level and quick knowledge about photography gears, in order for you to be able to take a decision.
When I started photography, there were no digital camera at my time, it was in 1993, I was using point and shoot, 35mm film (For more information about 35mm read this Wikipedia article). Then I shifted to digital point and shoot camera then settled for a DSLR (Digital Single Lense Reflex) . For those who don’t know the difference: simply stated a DSLR have internally a mirror which will project the image to the camera view-finder, so you will see exactly what the final shot will look like. However, in a point-and-shoot camera there is no mirror, you will be looking through a digital screen showing you the composition.
Where to Start
So you would be saying where should I start. My own opinion depends on what do you like to photo shoot, putting it in other words, which type of photography are you interested in. If you wanna photo shoot portrait, well you can do it with the camera of your smart phone. At least you can start experimenting with it, as nowadays (at the time I’m writing this article in 2019) these cameras has a PRO feature where you can choose the aperture and shutter speed and you can play with the brightness.
(this is a link from Amazon for entry level DSLR I recommend to start with Nikon D3500 AF-P 18-55mm VR Lens DSLR Camera)
You can also experiment with the point-and-shoot cameras to explore the world of photography with limited budget.
The camera plays a crucial role in the quality of an image, believe me though the composition and lighting play a big role too. I would say camera is 40% and composition and lighting is 60%, again it depends on which type of photography you would like to go for. Sports photography requires higher shutter speed, thus you need more then a point-and-shoot camera.
I would like to clarify most of the terminology used in the Photography and will try to make it as simple as possible:
1. Camera Sensor,
I call it the digital film, this is where the image light is captured and digitally transformed into millions of pixels of colors. The quality of an image is highly dependent on the quality of a sensor.
There are Full frame sensors, which size cover the old camera film, that is 35mm in width (Image above)
and cropped sensor that have smaller size.
What is the main difference, there are many and I will not go in much detail as I want to keep it simple:
Simply stated the Full frame capture wider image then the cropped one, using the same lens, same focal length and shooting from exactly the same place.
Also, the full frame sensor have wider color range then the cropped sensor, however with the advancement of technology and digital photo editing this factor is fading.
The Full frame is more expensive then the cropped one.
Lenses for a full frame camera costs more then the ones for the cropped sensor camera.
In summary, if you are starting and even you have the budget to get a full frame, go with a cropped one and you will experiment by yourself.
2. Shutter and Shutter Speed
What is shown in the photo above , the shutter a component of the camera, is a like frame that opens and closes.
The Shutter opens and close at a certain speed, to let the light reach the sensor, thus capturing the photo.
The shutter speed is measured in seconds, and you will mostly see it under the form of fraction like 1/200 and 1/1000
(1/200 = 0.005s and 1/1000 = 0.001s and so on)
If the shutter speed is fast the light will enter for a little amount and if its speed is slower the light will enter for a longer period. Setting the Shutter speed to 1/1000s will allow less light than setting the speed at 1/200s
Mostly on moving object you can see a big difference, if you are shooting car racing, at a higher speed the car will look sharp and without motion, with lower shutter speed it will be blurry and wavy.
3. Aperture and f-stops
Simply stated the Aperture is how much the shutter is open.
It’s measured by what we call F-stops or (curved f)/N. The bigger the N the less light hits the sensor.
So take it a rule of thumb, if you want more brightness in your photo chose a lower N.
Like in the photo above an F/1.4 will let lots of light enters.
Choosing the Camera you need
There are hundred of articles on which camera to choose and the pros and cons cannot be covered in a single page, in my opinion all the cameras that are in the market these days (2019) can handle amateur to semi-professional photography, if you want to specialize then you can start digging into the details and chose the camera that will cover your needs.
There is a big discussion on the full-frame sensor and cropped one, as I have noted in the above section related to sensor, it all depends on if you are using the photography as your main profession, then a full frame would be reasonable.
As of the brand, the most dominant in the market are Canon and Nikon for the DSLR mainly, and point and shoot you has a range of choices. I’m focusing
Lenses for camera is what an eye is for our brain.
To make it simple, lenses comes in two type, the one that you can zoom with, and the one which are fixed (called prime) which comes predefined with a fixed focal-length.
Now no need to go into detail for the focal length, firstly it’s measured in mm (millimeters) and just take it as a rule of thumb the higher the number the closer the photo (amplified).
With Prime lenses you can’t “zoom in”. Zoom Lenses as the name indicate, you can zoom in and out
What id the different you will be asking, as I believe Prime lens tend to have much longevity as they have fixed components, and it has a higher aperture as very small f/n, thus the quality of image is better comparable to a zoom lenses for the expert eyes. Also, the price of the prime lenses tend to be higher than the zoom lenses.
Zoom lenses though are a good option for events, sports, wedding, and landscape photography as they offer flexibility by zooming in and out. Prime lenses, in my own opinion are mostly used for fixed subject photography like portraiture, food, etc…
Lighting and flashes
I have left the Lighting until the last section so it will stick in your mind.
Lighting is the most important factor; photos are light reflection onto the sensor or the legacy 35mm films.
So master your lighting and you will have outstanding photos.
In this article I will not develop the Lighting techniques used, it requires a dedicated article to detail the techniques and equipment to be used. Nevertheless, be aware in order to take breathtaking shots, for portrait and modeling, better use at least 2 sources of lights.
The best shots are taken with natural sunlight at the sun-set, go and experiment as much as you want.
There are thousands of articles on flashes, to make it easy you have:
1. Built-in and pop-up flashes
These are the most basic flashes and I usually use them to increase light exposure on a subject where the background is also bright. For example when taking portrait photo of a subject where the sun or bright light is behind, the flash will provide
These are the flashes that we attached to our camera, it has more functionality than built-in and pop-up flashes, and we can adjust their synchronization speed with the shutter speed to provide the perfect shot. Also, we can add accessories to these like light diffuser.
3. Standalone light and flash
You notice when you go to a studio you see there are kind of big of black box with white screen on a stand, usually tow and more. These are source of lights from multiple angle which makes the lighting round and soft.
There are hundrends of choices out there, my advise don’t spend hours and hours comparing if you are starting, just take a camer that cover the basics of photography, that is having a controllable shutter speed, an adjustable aperture, and where you can change lenses.
As everyone started, explore experiment and keep you camera with you, and with time you will notice you will become a professional photographer. When we are driven by passion nothing can stop you from growing.