“I want to take better pictures. What camera should I buy? ” Corinne and I get this question a lot. In most debates over what camera is better, we have little experience and as a result have little to contribute to this discussion. However, we believe that for new photographers, this is the wrong question.
Let’s be very clear! Every modern digital camera has the ability to take stunning photographs. Every camera has its strengths and weaknesses and at a professional level there are some cameras better suited to certain types of photography (e.g., landscape versus wildlife photography). However, for new photographers, the make of camera matters very little.
So when we are asked, “what camera should I buy?” we turn the question around and ask “what camera are you using today?” Frequently, they will hold up their mobile phone, a point-and-shoot camera, or entry-level digital single lens reflex camera (DSLR). We then ask what they think is wrong with their current camera? Generally, we get a mumbled response that they aren’t getting the photographs they want and they believe the limitation is the camera.
Recently, in response I (Shawn) have been pulling out my mobile phone and showing a series of pictures. I get the typical response of “aren’t they lovely” and “I can see what you can do with a really good camera”. With the prey secure in my trap, I point out that all of the photographs they just looked at were taken with my mobile phone.
It’s only after that demonstration that I can address the real question, which is “what should I be doing to take better pictures? ” Frequently, I ask if they have looked at their camera manual, watched any YouTube videos, or taken any general photography classes? For most folks, self-learning from a manual or by trial-and-error is difficult. So, we suggest they take some instruction, either from a professional photographer in the area of photography they like, at a local community college, or from an online class.
Sometimes the problem is not with the camera that they use, but with fundamentals of setting up their shots. When photographing people, consider locations where the light is not harsh (e.g., under a shady tree) or where the shadows on their features are minimized. Eliminating or reducing the sky may prevent the subjects from becoming too underexposed in relation to the surroundings. For landscapes, a little effort to review the composition can make a huge difference. Moving to a better vantage point or stepping forward to “crop out” the distracting clutter may help. Compositions that include some interesting foreground components (e.g., wildflowers, beach driftwood, etc.) as well as the attractive vista can be more visually appealing.
In short, education and practice are the path to better photographs.
And after our conversation with the budding photographer, we frequently get the follow-up question, “Is Canon better than Nikon?” <Sigh>
[All images in this post were taken with an iPhone 6 in the Pacific Rim National Park, BC]