Out and about, some soul searching and a new assignment...
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Some Photos From My Cosham Photowalk:
Roll up, roll up, carrry on reading for the ultimate guide to NOT buying a new Digital SLR!
That's right, you may be sitting there right now, about to pull the trigger on a new camera, but I'm here to save you, to say no, don't bother . Intrigued? Puzzled? Well I am, and I'm the one writing this post...
The first step in renouncing that burning desire to spend your hard earned cash is to truly believe that great photographs aren't about the camera that took them, therefore you need to accept that your current kit is good enough to take amazing photographs.
"I don't believe it!" You're shouting at the screen, surely a newer camera will take better photographs than an older one!
Ok, how about this, you're better off spending the money you were going to waste on a new SLR body on actually going on holiday to some great places. How about following in HCB's footsteps to Paris, or emulating Mr. Adams in Yosemite?
"Interesting, but wouldn't my photographs just look better of even those places with a shiny fresh camera with loads more megapixels?" you reply.
Well, no, they wouldn't - why don't you spend those greenbacks on a training course or workshop about photography. Get some quality tuition from one of your photographer heroes. Spending a couple of days with experts that can guide you onto a better path will save you years of struggling through books and magazines.
"But all those guys and gals on those courses have amazing kit, I'd feel intimidated with all that lens envy!" is your excuse.
Another misconception is that you really must have specialist gear to shoot specialist subjects. Ya gotta have 8 frames a second to do sports. Without a full frame sensor your low-light portraits will be flat and uninspiring. You can't do a professional job without a professional camera.
All untrue. Consider what you're using now. When your camera was new, was it considered great? Did people think it was a massive improvement on what went before, including film SLRs? Of course! It's still the same camera, if a little dustier and worn around the edges.
While we're on the subject, let's discuss the film argument. Compared to using a film SLR, even a pro one, your camera has so many advantages. It can shoot hundreds, if not thousands of photographs on the same memory card. You get instant feedback on your photograph, down to a in-depth histogram. You can shoot, edit, print and share your photos in a matter of minutes instead of hours or days. Yet those film SLR's have taken some of the greatest images in history. Kind of puts things in perspective, right?
"That's all well and good" You're thinking, "But I want to use the latest technology in my camera so I've got the best chance of taking a good photo, because sometimes I need all the help I can get. I've seen the latest cameras, the reviews look great and I can just about afford one, so I'm going to buy a new dSLR body."
Fair enough, I can see that all my logical arguments have failed, and that despite the evidence that your current dSLR is more than good enough, I need to appeal your more emotional side, the visual right-side of the brain. in other words, lets look at some pics.
Unless we want this post to go on for a lot longer than it should, you'll have to have a go at the first few examples, then look at the specific images from the camera you have and the camera body you want. What we're going to be doing is looking at full resolution images from that most excellent (but maybe a bit too thorough) website, dpreview.com.
The idea is that you'll download and examine lots of example images from your current camera and the one you're interested in so you can have a close look at them and see if there really is a big difference. I'll also include the link to the summary page for the review at dpreview.com. Lets get started.
Canon EOS 350d vs Canon 550d.
Ahem. My current camera is a rather long in the 350d / Rebel XT, but is the 550d / Rebel T2i that much better? Let's look at a load of sample images.
Here's the 350d sample images. (Will open in a new window.)
Here's the 550d sample images. (Will open in a new window.)
What do you think. Zoom in to have a good look (you may have to click the photos to go to 100%). Download the original photos at full resolution. Apart from one image being bigger than the other, is there a massive difference in the quality?
So now ask yourself - will upgrading the Canon 350d to the 550d really give you better looking photographs?
Canon EOS 600D To 5d Mk. III
Let's say that unlike myself you've got a newer dSLR but want to move up to one of the most eagerly anticipated cameras of the last five years.
Have a close look at as many of photographs as you can. Scroll around, examine the details, the tone and the colours. They all look great, but is one camera really that much better than the other?
Nikon D5100 To D4
A true heavy-weight versus a very capable amateur camera, but is one head and shoulders above the other?
It's Over To You
By now you've got the idea. Stop reading all the reviews. Just look at the sample photographs of the camera you're interested in over on dpreview, remembering to look at the sample photographs of your existing camera, and honestly ask yourself if there's really that much difference in the quality.
PS You could of course also just spend a fraction of that money on a nice little film camera...
PPS Actually, don't try to contact me for a while because the AF on my 350d seems a little dodgy so I've got my eye on a tasty 600d body on eBay...
Here's a question: Who do you take photos for?
It's all well and good following your vision, polishing your style, fine tuning your artistic statement, planning projects and getting out there and shooting, but what happens if nobody else is interested in the final result?
What happens if after all this studying and practice, when people look at your photo's, noone says "wow".
Is it possible to become too obsessed with the way we think about what photography should be, so that we loose that ability to create images that will impress other people?
You could say that it's the difference between the professional and the amateur or artist. The pro has the skill-set to deliver the goods that the clients want, albeit with a twist of their own style. The amateur discards this idea and captures their own vision of the world.
The danger for the Professional is that this requirement to meet the needs of others could lead to a disillusionment with photography, whereas the amateur or artist could become lost in their own artistic dead-end.
If the accepted answer for the Pro is to take on personal projects whenever possible to feed their artistic side, then surely it is a very good idea for the amateur or the artistic photographer to take on assignments where they're not pandering to their own needs, rather they occasionally should take photographs in a way that other people want.
Sure, you could be lucky and your artistic vision could align perfectly with what other people love, but you'll probably find that you'll have to work on it.
To go back to the original question, as a photographer who are your photos for, you or them? The answer must be both - if you truly want to develop as a professional, artist or amateur.
Being able to create photographs where the background is nice and soft, or where the whole scene is tack sharp, is one of the main reasons why we buy expensive dSLR's, or use film SLR's. To control the depth of field in a photograph is to control a large part of how the viewer feels about that image - so we all need to have at least some passing knowledge on how all this works.
As I explain in the video, there's some concepts that we can work on to adjust our depth of field (DOF).
1) Lens Aperture. The size of the aperture relates to your DOF. Use a large aperture, such as f/3.5 (small f number), to have only a small portion of your photo in focus. Use a tighter aperture, such as f/16 ( large f number) to have a lot of the photo nice and sharp. Focus about a third of the way into the scene and almost everything will be sharp.
2) Subject to background distance. Move your subject further away from the background, and it's more likely to be blurred.
3) Camera to subject distance. Get closer (and therefore focus closer) and you'll DOF will get smaller - and the reverse works too. If you want a bigger DOF try not to focus on things very close to the camera.
4) Lens choice, or focal length. If you use a longer lens, say your Telephoto Zoom at 100mm, it will appear that your DOF is smaller than if you used a wider lens, but stood closer (and had the same apparent framing or crop). What is happening is the longer lens effect is compressing the scene due to the fact that you've got to stand further away to get the same framing - the blurred background is being magnified, so the DOF looks smaller.
To put it a little simpler, to take flattering portraits with blurred backgrounds, use a longer lens such as your telephoto zoom. If you want to take landscapes where most of the scene is in focus, use your zoom lens at the wide-angle.
I hope that the video and this short article have been helpful - if you've got any questions (or corrections!) add them to the comments.