As a photographer, you always have the urge to buy new equipment thinking it will bring you better results. This might be true, but only up to a certain point, because if you don’t have the knowledge you can’t make the most out of your equipment. I started out with a basic manual camera, the film camera from Nikon, the Nikkormat. It was a work horse and it had a manual light meter and I knew I had to learn the metering system quickly and learn what happened if I didn’t get the meter in the middle, as well as how to correct for backlight, front lighting, etc. I got pretty good at it, and I knew that the only thing left to do now was to add some equipment to my knowledge.
But, here is what is interesting: if you found a photographer that was a good film photographer, that learned how to work their manual camera well, and learned how the metering system worked and how to manipulate the f-stop to get the desired depth of field, and how to use the shutter speeds to their advantage….. and give them a camera today, they would out shoot most any of us now, because they know what it takes to make a camera work to their advantage.
I’m going to give you some tips and tricks on how to take better photos and overcome the obstacle of not having the latest equipment.
The most important thing you can do is to read. Many people skip this step and think that only by practicing will they improve. It is true that you have to practice, but unless you study the theory first there is no way of practicing in an efficient way.
For example, if you read an article about shutter speed and aperture it’s easier the understand the mechanism and then apply it, than trying to figure it out all by yourself.
You just bought your first camera and you are stuck with the first “kit” lens. You know you can learn from that kit lens a lot of things. That lens at 55mm can take portraits just fine, and you can learn to take a lot of people pictures with zoom lens at that millimeter. And the wide angle part of that lens is not too bad to take some pretty good scenery photos. It is not a perfect lens, but, you can learn so much with doing that lens. I figure you should be able to shoot anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 photos before you have learned everything you need before you need to buy another lens.
I have had a major blog and instruction on how to purchase your first camera. You have friends who own a Nikon, a Canon, a Sony, an Olympus, blah, blah, blah. I am going to tell you now, that you should not listen to any of them. You need to find out for yourself which one works for you. And that involves a bit doing number 1 again. Read about the different cameras first. And then go to a real camera store. Walmart and Target are not real camera stores. The people behind those counters don’t know anything about cameras. Go to a real camera store that has knowledgeable camera sales people. And then beware of the salesperson who tries to sell you a specific camera before you get your questions answered. HE MAKES MONEY ON SELLING YOU A SPECIFIC BRAND. You need to get several cameras in your hand and feel them, and see which one feels the best to you. The one that feels the best, and moves with you the best, and the buttons and dials seem to be in the right place for you, is the camera that you should buy. Personally, I have owned every brand. I needed to be non-biased and have found good in all brands. They are all good, and I think I could like any one. So, it is a matter of trying one on for size, and see how they feel to you, and study what the critics are saying about the different cameras.
Next, I’m going to present some arguments on why better equipment doesn’t necessarily make you a better photographer and on why knowledge can help you overcome your equipment struggles.
Buying new equipment is always tempting, but you have to learn how to make the best of what you already have. The best thing you can do as an amateur is buying an entry-level camera and a prime lens. Stick with it and see if you can come up with a new vision every time you go out to take photos.
At first, I didn’t know how to use manual mode. But do you think buying a better camera is going to help with that? No is the answer, you have to read and understand how the relationship between ISO, shutter speed and aperture affect everything in a photo.
After learning that no picture is the same and the settings are going to change every time, you have to do a lot of trial and error. If you practice enough you can achieve great things. After learning how to use your equipment you have to learn how to process your pictures because it makes a big difference as well.
The next thing you have to know is that light makes the difference in every picture, you have to learn how to manipulate and control the light. Once you know how light works you are going to love your equipment.
With your entry level camera you can maybe shoot in low light to ISO 1600 and then your photos will start having something called “digital noise” happen to the picture. With the more expensive cameras today, I have seen some of the newer cameras shoot as high as ISO 10,000 ISO and hardly any noise to the picture at all:
I have seen two problems with the entry level cameras that you will have that you won’t have with the more expensive cameras. 1- The autofocus on the more expensive cameras is much faster and more responsive on them than on the entry level cameras. And 2- the motor drive in conjunction with the autofocus is much faster and it can keep up with the action photography. I have never seen a good sports photographer use an entry level camera to take their better sports photos.
So in summary, equipment is just a tool. It doesn’t help you to shape your vision and buying the latest gear as a beginner is not the best choice you can make. When you find that you have difficulty expressing your vision with your current equipment, then you can start thinking about upgrading.