What camera do you use?

“Your pictures are great!  What camera do you use?”

I think every photographer (probably in the history of ever) has had some variation of this said to them at some time. The people who say this mean well, I know, but in all honesty, the question drives most photographers crazy. Why? Because the photographer takes the photo, not the camera. I’ll give you an example.

I am always the family photographer and so I am consequently very rarely in any photographs at family events (a role I am happy to take on). Sometimes I will want a photo of myself and another family member and give my camera to someone else to take a picture. Nearly every single time I do this, the photo doesn’t turn out. It is blurry, unfocused, or the composition is completely off. Now, I’ve taught my immediate family the basics of taking a photo with my camera (my 12 year old brother and 16 year old sister are the best at it) and so I can trust them to take a decent photo, but that’s about it.

Here is the thing about photography: the camera is only as good as the photographer who wields it. Give someone who has no idea what they’re doing a $6K Nikon D4, and I guarantee you they will not be able to take a decent photo with it, yet someone who does know what they are doing can take amazing pictures with an iPhone.

One of the very first questions I received after starting this site and accompanying social media (follow me on facebook and instagram!) was the following: “What kind of camera and lens do you shoot with?”

Here is what I think everyone should know about cameras and lenses:

  1. Buy the best camera you can afford, but remember that the lens is way more important that the camera, so if the choice is between a cheaper camera & better lens vs. better camera & cheap lens, pick the first option.
  2. Don’t buy the kit. Most entry level and consumer DSLR cameras come with an 18-55mm “kit lens” but you don’t have to buy it. Buy the camera body only from Amazon, BHPhoto, or Adorama.
  3. Once you have your camera, I think there are two lenses that are crucial to starting out. A “walk around” everything lens like an 18-250mm and a 50mm (get the 1.4 if you can afford it, if not the 1.8 is great too).  Although the big names like Nikon and Canon make these lenses, 3rd parties like Sigma and Tamron make great options for Nikon and Canon cameras too. Read the reviews out there. Ken Rockwell does great/ honest reviews, but there are others out there.
  4. Nikon vs. Canon, it really doesn’t matter. Get the camera YOU feel comfortable with. Before you order your camera, go to one of those camera stores and play with the cameras. Hold them, take pictures with them, ask questions, and see your options. Sure, I’m biased. I am a Nikon girl who thinks the shutter on Canon cameras sounds like a toy, but don’t let my opinion sway you. Get what you want.
  5. Once you have your camera, learn it! There are manuals you can buy, classes you can take, and online tutorials you can watch that will help you learn everything you need to know about your camera.

The most important thing is that you get out there and take pictures if that is what you want to do. If all you have is your iPhone and you can’t afford anything else, so what?! Go and take amazing pictures with you iPhone. Study the elements of photography. Learn the basics about composition, lighting, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc. There is so much published online that can help you teach yourself the basics. From there, practice! Follow the blogs of photographers you love, join online photography forums (like this one), and never stop learning.


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